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2017 USATF PA Clarksburg Country Run half marathon race report – Clarksburg, CA

2017 USATF PA Clarksburg Country Run half marathon race report – Clarksburg, CA

One of the remaining road races on the 2017 PA USATF circuit was the Clarksburg Country Run Half Marathon, a good two+ hour drive from San Jose, and not coincidentally, its timing aligned pretty perfectly with CIM training (three weeks out). My plan was to run the half and use it as some sort of assessment tool in advance of CIM, but life — as it often does — had other plans.

I’ll save the details for another time, but coming into Clarksburg, I felt like I had a lot on my plate and was carrying a lot of bodily stress, for lack of a better term. I’m not injured, nor am I dying, but I had some less-than-desirable results come back from my annual physical that subsequently have created an onslaught of additional follow-up tests. It’s probably nothing, but I’m letting the medical professionals make that diagnosis, not me. It’s scary and a little unnerving, but I’m trying to not get too far ahead of myself.

More than anything, I’ve felt pretty knackered during this marathon training cycle, so my goals and expectations for Clarksburg were minimal. My Clarksburg goal was to get in a solid, supported long run and just to do the best I could on the day. Oh, and historically speaking, half marathons in the thick of marathon training are torturous for me. More often than not, my GI goes to shit (literally); I’m sufficiently whipped from training that I can’t do much better than GMP, if I’m lucky; or some other stupid variable pops up that throws things awry. Since moving to California nearly four years ago, I can think of two half marathons that I’ve run where more things went well than wrong. Half marathons are like a wicked Achilles for me.

Come race morning, I carpooled up north with Lisa (who wasn’t running, as she had just totally rocked NYC the week before) and three of my other teammates, Oscar, Jeff, and Greg. I’d be the only female Wolfpack harrier racing that day, and those guys, plus Tony, Ray, and Mark, would comprise a full male team for us. I overslept my alarm but had luckily woken up with just enough time to get ready — I had just hosted a sleepover for 10 of my first-grade Daisies the night before, so it’s no surprise I slept so deeply Saturday night — and once we got to Clarksburg, it was like we were in a different era: think super small town USA. In one block, I think we passed the town’s elementary school, post office, library, middle school, and high school. 

The race featured other distances as well — a 20 miler (which many people training for CIM, who weren’t racing the half, often do), a kids’ run, and a 5k and 10k. It was a “California crisp” morning — maybe about 40 degrees when we got there to warm-up — and the temps were what you dream of during the hot summer months: a little cool just to be milling around outside but just perfect for running and racing. My teammates and I easily got our bibs, and before too long, Lisa and I set out for a 2 mile warm-up, where we talked strategy, goals, the course, and the like. Running into Jess and Chris — both doing 20 — was a nice bonus.

shamelessly stolen from Chris’ IG. friend, you’ve got something on your face!

As the “Country Run” part of its name suggests, Clarksburg really is a run through the flat countrysides; that’s an accurate race title if there ever were one. There’s not much on either side of the roads you run, save for a winery, a farm, or an open field. The half’s topography was fairly pancake flat, and the course itself was pretty straightforward with just a couple OABs. Each distance started at different times, too, which was a smart way to alleviate potential congestion. As I was finishing my cool-down, I ran into Robin, who was there with a slew of her Impala teammates, all doing the half that morning in prep for CIM. It was wonderful to see her (always is) and to talk about what we wanted to do that day, how we were feeling about our CIM training, and to otherwise talk shop for a bit. Before too long, we were off.

My initial plan was to conservatively begin around 7:15s/7:20s for the first 4 or so miles and then begin to cut down and get closer to HM pace, somewhere in the low 7s or 6:50s. I felt pretty well the first three or four miles and was hitting the prescribed paces fairly well — and chatting with the other Impalas and other runners around me — but as early as mile five, I could tell that things were going to head south; I just knew. Feeling pretty poorly that early in a half marathon kinda (really) sucks, so instead of wallowing, I switched my watchface to show the time of day and decided to run purely on feel for the remainder of the race. Truth be told, when I’m training — and often even during races — I rarely look at my watch (and infrequently see my splits), but I had convinced myself that symbolically (and literally) switching my focus would help me stay out of my head for the next eight miles. I could choose to be pissy and wallow in I can’t hold 7:teens, much less drop down to 7-flats or 6:50s for the next 8 miles, or I could flip my perspective and focus on running as evenly and smoothly as possible, despite feeling pretty sub-par. The rest of the race became less a pity party and more of a game.

LOL at thinking I had managed to sidestep my way out of the team pic mid-run. This was around 3 or 4, IIRC. (PC: Impala Racing IG)

 

somewhere in the first 5 miles, I think. (PC: Lisa)

 

Clarksburg treated us to a beautiful, autumn morning, and the few times I saw my teammates on the OABs, I felt totally inspired by their energy and effort. Somewhere on course, as we changed directions, it felt like we began running into wind tunnel — no doubt exacerbated by my already not feeling great — and I tried to hang near other (taller) runners, again more for the mental game than anything else. By about mile 8 or so, Robin caught up to me, and we had a good time bemoaning the state of our races going less than desirably and running’s general mercurial nature. Together we cheered for our teammates as we approached them on the OABs, and I tried to hang with her as long as possible. By about mile 9, though, my good ol’ stomach was sending me an SOS, so I began to hang back in search of a safe place to drop trou. Like I said, HMs seem to wreak havoc on my GI — and no doubt, being at a sleepover the night/day before and eating stuff outside my usual food repertoire, and being off my colitis medicine for a week-plus because of the aforementioned health issues all didn’t help my case much — but luckily, I was able to quickly get in and out of a porta-potty around mile 10 or 11 and only lose about 70 seconds in the process. I am nothing if not efficient.

somewhere before mile 8; that’s Robin right behind me. (PC: Lisa)

 

smiling and trying to enjoy the ride. even when it doesn’t feel great, we can always smile because we get — not have — to do this stuff. (PC: Lisa)

It’s pretty disappointing to be so close to the finish line (relatively speaking) and have to stop, but when it comes down to either shitting myself or losing time (in a race where nothing is on the line but my pride), I, uh, yeah. I’m gonna spare myself that indignity if I can help it. The good news is that while I still felt pretty knackered, I felt a lot better (understandably!), so I tried to finish the last two miles as strongly as I could and tried to pick people off until the very end. I hadn’t been clock-watching at all the whole race, but I figured that I’d be pretty close to a 1:40 and wanted to try to sneak in under that. Mission accomplished: 1:39:11.

It’s hard not to be disappointed when shit happens (literally, figuratively, whatevs) in races, but it’s part of the game. Every day isn’t going to yield a PR, life-changing performance, and expecting otherwise will set you up to be enormously saddened (or angered) more often than not. I ran a slow-for-me half marathon, but FFS, I still just ran a half marathon for the fun of it, not because anyone was forcing me to, or because it was going to pay my mortgage, or anything like that. I did it because I could, because I wanted to help my team, and because it’s fun, even when it’s not. I’m grateful to be able to do this stuff at all, and I don’t lose sight of that. Sometimes running/racing is great. Other times, it sucks. It’s part of the process. 

with Lisa, captain awesome. fitting that I’m standing near my friends, the outdoor toilets.

By the time everything was said and done, it was a 17-mile day (2 warm-up, 2 cool-down) and a fun morning with my teammates. It was awesome to have Lisa out biking and cheering for us and to celebrate my teammates’ performances, including Greg, who had run his first half ever. The race gave a big post-race spread (none of which appealed to me, unfortunately; it takes me a while to warm-up to food after racing or hard efforts), and soon enough, we were on the road again back to the Bay Area.

the harriers at Clarksburg. L-R that’s Greg, Oscar, Lisa, Tony, and Ray (PC: Wolfpack Running Club IG)

If you’re in the market for a flat and fast half, Clarksburg is an excellent option. The aid stations are about every two miles and are well-supported, and if you’re in the throes of CIM training, the timing of the race really couldn’t be better. Alternatively, if you want longer (20) or shorter distances (5k, 10k, kids’ race), the race can help you out there, too. It doesn’t offer much in the way of crowds or scenery — you’re running through a pretty rural area — but if you enjoy quiet, distraction-free running, it’d be an excellent match. My race wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but I still had a good experience and would recommend it.

And with that, we inch ever-closer to 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.