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October 2017 training recap

October 2017 training recap

Hard to believe we’re staring down the final couple months of 2017, but alas, here we are. It always seems to happen this way, doesn’t it?

Post-pacing at SRM in August, I ran and “raced” (more workout-during-a-race than actual race racing) a bunch in September before rolling into the thick of CIM. Included in September’s mix, as I mentioned in last month’s recap, was my husband having surgery and my eldest’s teacher unexpectedly quitting less than a month into the school-year, so suffice it to say that there was a fair bit of “life stress” saturating, well, just about everything in September and into October.

how funny is this? my friend Becky ran the Portland (OR) Marathon in October, and apparently co-pacer Simon and I made the SRM promo materials for the 2018 race. #modelz (PC: Becky)

Fortunately, life seemed to calm ever-so-slightly in October — my husband continued to recover from surgery, and my eldest got a new permanent teacher as of about 10 days ago (praise the lord) — so I’ve kinda begun to feel like that once-super-distant light at the end of the tunnel was beginning to flicker a little more prominently, even with all the other seemingly-countless stuff — good stuff, not complaining! — on my plate right now. I don’t like being busy for the sake of being busy, but I appreciate knowing that I’m using my talents and my resources in meaningful ways. I’m happy to say that I think I’m doing that/have been doing that so far this school-year, better than I have in the past, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. It’s gratifying.

Anyway, the proverbial light came at a pretty fantastic time, too, because October began CIM training in earnest. Granted, I have felt tired as hell throughout most of September and October, but with everything going on, I’d honestly be more concerned if I weren’t tired; that’s just part of the marathon training game. It’s a constant battle of how much fatigue can you handle before breaking.

not a great picture, but the view at the track on a Saturday morning isn’t a bad one

October wasn’t going to include much racing in the first place, save for maybe a couple XC races and a half marathon up in Humboldt, but nothing materialized. Ultimately, my coach and I decided to forego the XC in favor of getting in some proper long runs for CIM training, and the horrible fires up in Napa and Santa Rosa basically made running Humboldt unwise: not because the fires were affecting that part of the state but because of the potential resource drain, since there were talks that some emergency personnel from Humboldt were heading over to the fires to assist. Plus, logistically speaking, the PA USATF folks took it off the racing docket last minute anyway, so even if folks did go run it — and some did — they wouldn’t be accruing any points or money for their teams. It was going to be a 5-hour drive from SJ, and one wherein none of my female teammates were participating (and only a couple guys), so I just decided to eat the registration costs and bag it. I’m definitely looking forward to racing this in the future though because I’ve heard it’s a really awesome and pretty course.

not from the Humboldt half course, but also not a bad view, either


also not a shabby view for a long run (Baylands at Alviso)

Arguably the best thing for my running in October was participating in Hoka One One’s Women Who Fly long-weekend retreat, getaway, adventure thing — I’m still at a loss of words to describe it — and it was seriously pretty game-changing. I’ve been working on recapping the weekend, but I’m already at a point where I know that anything I try to say to describe it will be fairly sub-par: a pretty frustrating problem for a writer who’s committed to finding just the right words, all the time, but from a “human experience” point of view, I’ll admit that it’s a cool problem to have. The Cliff’s Notes version is that it was an incredible weekend and one that helped me shift my views on my running or, more broadly, on myself. I got so stupidly lucky in being selected to participate in this opportunity, and being able to participate in the company of such badass, genuine, and impressive women left me feeling just super invigorated. It was challenging to leave “the Hoka house” when everything was said and done, and I still don’t quite know how to describe the experience. More to come about the Hoka weekend soon (I hope). 

trying not to eat shit in Romero Canyon (SB) (PC: Maggie)


at Lucky Penny in SB with the Women Who Fly, including Steph Bruce and a handful of awesome Hoka staff. So excited to watch Steph blaze at NYC this weekend!


with the Women Who Fly (swoon!)


I give my eldest flack for not looking where she’s going when she’s riding; wonder whom she gets it from…

Otherwise, October was a pretty solid month of running. I finished with just under 230 miles for the month (227.5, says Garmin), with a fair bit of what I’m calling “put hair on your chest” workouts in prep for CIM in December. Admittedly, my confidence was wavering a bit in my ability to execute on prescribed paces in workouts — and I’ve definitely had workouts that didn’t go over as beautifully as I would have liked — but I think I’ve been doing this stuff long enough to know that that’s pretty normal and that trusting in the magical (and scientific) process that is marathon training is key. Day at a time, mile at a time — patience, grasshopper.

’tis the season for many a stroller flat; beware the “little fuckers” that are EVERYWHERE. these things spell imminent death for stroller tires.


Reading: I read American Fire while the wildfires were burning in earnest in Santa Rosa — which made me feel weirdly dirty — but the book was really interesting. I don’t know anything about arson or arsonists, so it was really eye-opening to read the backstory to a series of arsons in Virginia a few years back. This shit’s weird as hell. I won’t spoil it.

Listening: Nothing new in podcasts and really, not much new in music, either. My family and I remain totally enamored with Bad Lip Reading, and at any given time, you’re all but assured to hear “Morning Dew” or “Carl Poppa” around here. Pretty sure my six year-old knows the lyrics to both, and even the little one asks for Carl Poppa.

Enjoying: 25 hours in Las Vegas for my sister’s birthday! She had never been before, so for her birthday, she and her husband, plus a bunch of my BIL’s cousins, and one of my sister’s co-workers, and I all met up in Vegas for a quick overnight trip. It was a blast! I don’t gamble, nor do I drink, but just being with my sis — even for a short period of time — made it all worth it. I felt pretty guilty when I got home because my husband had had a rough go with the kids and wasn’t feeling well — the shitty thing about recovery is that it seems like it’s very unpredictable and recursive, very one step forward, five steps backward —  but I’m glad they were all ok for the 25 hours I was gone.

sister sister

Writing: a ton last month. It’s completely random, but I’ve been ghostwriting on a bunch of running websites for a guy in Denmark (told you it was random!) for the past year-plus, and I had more writings opps in October than I’ve ever had before, which was pretty great; unfortunately, it just means the “fun writing” wasn’t as present as usual. I did a few quick pieces/was featured for/on other sites though, like (featured here) or the Berkeley half marathon blog (here, here, or here). By the way, if you want to run Berkeley this year, ERIN or ERIN5k will save you a little cash.

Loving: Halloween with a six year-old and a two year-old. We had a fun time. It’s so funny how different their experiences are than mine growing up; most of the time for Halloween, we had to wear costumes under our winter coats because it was freezing and snowing outside by the end of October. 

the silly face is always a winner

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!  

2017 Santa Cruz (CA) Cross Country (XC) Challenge – Race Report

2017 Santa Cruz (CA) Cross Country (XC) Challenge – Race Report

As runners, we are so extremely lucky to have such enormous latitude with our activity of choice: distances that are short or long, paces that are fast or pedestrian, mostly running with a little walking, mostly walking with a little running … the sky’s really the limit. All this variety, then, and consequently, all the opportunities for learning, growth, and feedback — the stuff that is the dreams of HR departments and self-improvement lovers everywhere — we can really use to our advantage to become better, stronger, and wiser runners and racers. If you’re constantly training and racing marathons and begin to feel like you’re not growing as a runner, change it up and go for the short stuff. If you’re on the shorter side all the time, challenge yourself with the long. If you’re only accustomed to the pavement, go blow your mind, and hit the trails. See what I’m talking about? Possibilities, people! So many possibilities! There’s never any reason to get bored in this sport. 

You can safely assume that this long-winded preface was my internal banter in advance of my first cross-country (XC) race — ever — last Saturday morning down in Santa Cruz, in the hills above the UCSC campus. I never ran XC in middle school or high school, and in the years since moving to SJ and being on the Wolfpack team, XC was never really on my radar or seemingly logistically feasible with small kid(s) in the mix. This year, I’ve fortunately been able to spend more time racing many of the races on the USATF PA circuit with my team — shoutout to my wonderful husband for making that happen — and last weekend kicked-off the XC season. I’ve spent since the end of July recovering from racing the SF Marathon, getting fresh to pace at the Santa Rosa Marathon, and getting ready to dive into CIM training, and the Santa Cruz XC Challenge — a 4 mile race comprised of 2 2-mile loops — conveniently fit into the mix. I did literally no research about the course, although I remembered that Janet said it was hard and hilly, and just paid the $20 registration fee and told myself that you only have a first time at something one time, so go enjoy it. There were no butterflies, no pre-race nerves to speak of, no nothing; both the beginning and end of my race plan was to show up. I like variety in my running and racing, and XC was going to give me that variety last weekend.

Wolfpack fielded a full men’s and women’s open team, and I quickly learned that apparently, XC segregates its runners between men, women, and masters men. Mindblowing! (Backstory: if you look at the stats for these PA races, you’ll notice that at some of them — including the Santa Cruz race — there may only be ~30 open men racers and a good 100+ masters men. Combine that with probably another ~100 +/- women, open and masters together, and consider that when you’re running on trail systems, you have less available path to work with, and it makes sense that XC races are staged like they are. Logistically speaking, that’s a LOT of bodies in NOT a lot of carved-out-for-human-travailing space. For our PA races, the overwhelming majority of the time, the women race first, followed by the masters men, and then the open men). My other women teammates and I got down to the race about 90 or so minutes ahead of the gun and ran the course as a warm-up, noting where the steep and/or long ascents were and feeling the forgiving descents (and for me at least, noticing where it’d behoove me to be especially careful of my footing to avoid eating shit mid-race). It’s redundant to say and basically commonsense knowledge, but god is California ever beautiful. It is such a fantastic place to run.

a little race warm-up walk to the starting area, situated just a touch higher than where we parked


a little blurry because I was walking, but a decent idea of the scenery


warming up with the team! see me? (PC: Melissa)

With very little fanfare, the other women and I piled in and lined up as close to the front as we could reasonably get — remember, there’s no chip time, so if you start far back, you’re essentially needlessly penalizing yourself — and we were off. We began climbing literally within the first 200 meters or so of the race, and much of the climbing on the course occurred within the first (and subsequently, third) mile. Some ascents were quick and steep, and others were long and gradual. Sprinkled within that first mile were also some quick little descents — just enough to give your legs a wee bit of recovery and turnover before beginning to grind again — before starting the slower churn up the hill right before the mile 1/mile 3 marker. Fortunately, the trail was completely runnable, and the terrain was fairly straightforward and non-technical. Going into my first XC race blind, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think that the footing would be as accommodating as road races, but I also didn’t necessarily think that it’d be so super technical that it’d necessitate “power hiking” instead of running. I’d describe it as somewhere in the middle. Parts were packed and firm, and other parts of the course, particularly in that first mile/third mile had tons of loose rocks, soft dirt that felt like sand, and rooty terrain. In mile 2/mile 4, there were periodically exposed tree roots, some of which were under the cover of fallen leaves, so if nothing else, you definitely couldn’t space out; you absolutely had to pay attention to where your feet were heading with basically every foot strike.

TFW you’re racing your first XC race and suddenly, you spot a teammate in a tree, snapping pics! somewhere in mi 1 or 3, I think (PC: Melissa)

After the first mile/third mile, mile 2/mile 4 were the respites that my legs needed to recover from the climbing-while-trying-to-run-fast effort, a novel concept!, and a chance for me to work on turnover, make up “lost” time, and either carry the momentum forward to complete loop 2 or to propel me to a strong finish. It was hard not to laugh when I’d catch splits from my watch mid-race because both times, miles 1 and 3 had me in the 7:2x or 7:5x range, while miles 2 and 4 had me in the 6:5x or 6:3x range mere minutes later. In that way, it seems that XC resembles its cousin, trail running, since the terrain and relative ascent/descent largely dictate the pace each mile. I knew my mile 3 was a little slower than my first mile, so I wanted to finish as strongly as I could, all while trying to avoid a horrendous positive split. Marathon tendencies die hard. While miles 1 and 3 were in a more open/open-ish part of the woods in the hills, miles 2 and 4 enveloped us under a canopy of tall and old redwoods, and it was as gorgeous and wonderful and perfect as it sounds. For probably the first time since my earliest running races, at this race, I didn’t wear any sort of hat or sunglasses to shield myself from the elements. Though a little humid (relative to northern California standards), the weather was perfect. My, how lucky we runners are to do what we get to do in the environs wherein we get to do it.

dem trees! in mile 2/mile 4 (PC: Melissa)


rounding a corner and beginning to start either the second loop or nearing the finish (PC: Isaac)


hair for dayz (PC: Isaac)

From what I’ve gleaned, part of the beauty of team-scored cross country is that time matters less than finishing place. The ever-talented and lovely and seriously, so sweet Impalas were abundant at this race, and I had been leapfrogging with many of them throughout the event. Right before the finish line, I heard Coach Lisa and some of my male teammates implore me to go outkick some of the runners ahead of me right before the line, that that was what I was good at doing (huh? sure! whatever you say!), and while I knew that it likely wouldn’t move our team’s score up significantly, I’m always down for a quick game of tag. Low 5 average for a few paces, I can do that!  

I finished my first XC race with that familiar feeling of god, wow, that was hard! But damn, that was fun! When do I get to do this again?! and the momentary thrill of a finish line surge. I immediately shared in lots of hugs, high fives, and good job!s, and connected with my teammates before the guys toed the line and before I took off on a long cooldown with most of my female teammates plus many of the Impalas. We cheered on the masters men as they began their race (though we, Wolfpack, didn’t have any on the line that day), and later, the open men. Cheering for my teammates, folks for whom I generally wouldn’t be able to cheer (because they’d be so far ahead of me in the same race), was a nice perk. Truly, Saturday’s race was such a low-key but genuinely enjoyable and inspiring morning of running and racing, and I’m so glad that I had such a positive experience at my first go of this type of running. What a fantastic way to begin a weekend, an XC season, and a marathon training cycle.

Saturday’s lady racers plus our spectator gang. (Kim, Melissa, Lisa, Robyn, Ashley, Claire, Mona, and Sam). Swoon! (PC: @runwolfpack IG)



our women’s team for Saturday: Coach Lisa, Ashley, Robyn, and Claire. (PC: Melissa)


classic Erin face, ha. I have no idea what I’m doing. (PC: Robyn)