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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 she.is.beautiful (Santa Cruz) ‘baby mama’ 10k race report

2017 she.is.beautiful (Santa Cruz) ‘baby mama’ 10k race report

Sunday was the seventh annual she.is.beautiful 5k and 10k down in Santa Cruz, and it was my third consecutive year running one of the “baby mama” stroller divisions. In 2015, I ran the 5k pregnant while pushing A; in 2016, I ran the 10k while pushing G, and last weekend, I returned to the 10k again with G, 12 months older (and 12 months heavier). When I ran the 10k in ‘16, I was a week removed from my spring almost-PR marathon and obviously had an entire marathon training season’s worth of volume, speed, and endurance in my legs. This year, as I’ve belabored in earlier posts, I’ve opted to spend my spring doing shorter stuff before getting into marathon mode for SF. Going into the SIB 10k on Sunday, then, I was most interested in seeing how much (if any) time I could take off from my ‘16 race, given my change in focus from last spring compared to this spring. Call it an “experiment,” if you will.

I’ve written before about my general distaste for women’s races, but I think it’s worth mentioning again, even if just momentarily. What sets SIB apart from other races in its “class” is just that: the classiness with which SIB treats its runners. My experiences and observations with/of many other women’s races is that the races treat women (the very people to whom they are marketing their race!) as some sort of diminutive, non-sweating, pedestal-sitting object whose physical strength is secondary — a far and distant second — to basically anyone or everything else, including a “hunky” male who will literally reward women for their race day efforts. “Hunky,” shirtless firefighter putting race day “bling” around a woman’s neck, anyone? C’mmoooooon. I guess some women find that … rewarding? perhaps? but I tend to swing toward the “this is ridiculous and condescending” route. I think this line of thinking, that women somehow can’t work or race hard, get gritty, or get “race day ugly,” for lack of a better phrase, simply because they are women is so problematic it’s sickening. I have absolutely no patience for races, running brands, or bullshit marketing companies out there who continue to propagate the anachronistic idea that women are incapable of working really, really hard. I mean, FFS. It’s 2017. And, for the record, this isn’t about the tutus or the pink that usually accompany women’s races; obviously, you can race damn well while wearing a tutu or pink. Wear what makes you happy and comfortable (and chafe-free, obvs). Hell, go for a princess dress! That’d be amazing!  The assumptions about female runners that typically underpin and accompany women’s races are what really get under my skin.   

SIB, in contrast, is all about the empowering, self-love, talk-to-yourself-how-you’d-talk-to-your-best-friend vibe and doesn’t at all propagate any of the aforementioned vom-inducing nonsense. It caps at 6k runners between the 5k and 10k races (and accompanying stroller races). I have no idea for sure, but I imagine that SIB is many participants’ first race ever (how cool is that?!), with many folks running or walking the race as a family affair with their kids. It’s a race, no doubt, so there is definitely the endorphins and adrenaline aspect, but there’s also this inexplicable but damn near tangible vibe that I get every time I run this race. The race is pretty solid; the company, the atmosphere it produces, is top-notch. It’s a race weekend that I look forward to each year because I’m giving myself the opportunity to run as hard as I possibly can (while pushing a daughter of mine) but also because it leaves me buzzing with feelings of gratitude, appreciation, joy, and love for days afterward. It’s just good for the soul, I guess. Trite but true.

On race day, a gaggle of my Wolfpack teammates and I met up at a teammate’s (Jen) house in Santa Cruz and ran 2 miles and change over to the new starting area (the third new starting area in as many years). Meg and I (and the babes) got to catch up, and we quickly found Paula and her littlest in the starting area as well. Lots of pics, smiles, fist-bumps, and reassurances to the starter that yes I know we have strollers but no, really, we should be lining up here up front later, and it was go time.

warming up near the boardwalk with Meg and our daughters. (PC: Lisa)

 

with Meg, her baby (K), and G at the starting line. thanks for the free race pics, SIB! this pic makes my heart sing.

I don’t do 10ks very often (read: ever), but I thought I’d take a leap of faith by starting out fast (and getting out of the throng quickly) and just holding on for as long as possible, hoping that a fast start would mitigate the challenge of the last mile or so, at least a little. I knew it’d be tough to hold the tempo pace that I’d usually try for (solo) while pushing my baby, but I thought I’d at least give it a go. Other than the new starting area, the course was about the same as I remembered: a lovely jaunt through a neighborhood, some nice ocean running along West Cliff, and for the 10k runners, a bit through Natural Bridges state park before heading homeward. The 5k and 10k runners shared the course until after the mile 2 marker, and I loved giving some shoutouts to the lead runners (my teammates!) as they were beginning their “back” portions of their run. Seeing Dave and Paula’s family at mile 2 was also a nice perk.

I always wear sunglasses, and I always bun my hair up when I run. For some reason, I did neither at this race. I love G’s little hand! hello to my teammate, Kim, behind me!

 

what up, FitFam6 family! (PC: Dave)

 

hollering for my teammate, Julie, who’s about to go on to cinch 2nd in the 5k . That little pink tattoo is from SIB: “she fiercely believed in herself, and that made all the difference.” Such good stuff and applicable for every athlete (pronoun change notwithstanding). (PC: Dave)

 

tangent hugging and onward to another neighborhood before Natural Bridges (PC: Dave)

 

Unlike last year, G was awake for the entirety of the run, death-gripping my Hoka waterbottle I got for being on Team Hoka for the race (and getting the bottle back from her wasn’t a battle I was interested in pursuing), and eagerly yelling BALLOO! BALLOO! whenever we passed by balloon arches at each mile marker. Hey, now I can say that I’ve used a sippy cup for my in-race hydration needs! We jammed to Mother Goose Club, strange race day tunes to be sure (and only mildly embarassing as I passed other runners and walkers; sorry for the soundtrack, friends!), and at the 10k turnaround before Natural Bridges, teammate Lisa said that G had a huge WEEE LIFE IS SO FUN! grin plastered across her face. #score

Mentally, I told myself that this should feel like a very hard and hilly tempo run since, in general, stroller running (to me) often feels like I’m running uphill, due to the resistance of the stroller plus the weight. During the race, I tried to focus on turnover as much as I could and perhaps even got a bit too overzealous with this, as my foot kept clipping my back left tire, and I’m lucky I didn’t trip or otherwise wipe out. I cheered for all my buddies when I saw them on my “back” portion of the course, entering into NB, and I braced myself for the final mile or so.

Things get really hairy about 1-1.5 miles out from the finish, right where the 5k and 10k runners merge back together. Every year that I’ve run this race, particularly the 10k, things get dicey with faster runners trying to navigate around slower-moving 5k runners and walkers. Add to the mix 5k stroller runners and walkers, or any other 10k stroller runner, on a street that’s already not that wide to begin with (and whose other side is filled with 5k and 10k runners/walkers still on their “out” portions), and it’s messy, if not also a bit unsafe. Even with volunteers or cones demarcating on which part of the road slower runners/walkers should be for their “back” portions — as the race did this year — it’s still somewhat of a free-for-all. I tried every yell I could think of, like “on your left!,” “on your right!,” “stroller back!,” “10k runner coming through!,” and only had limited success. Another (non-stroller) 10k Arete team runner and I worked together over the last mile and change, taking turns yelling and alerting the other runners so no one clipped ankles, tripped, or wiped out, and as far as I’m concerned, I should have called this Arete runner Moses because she was veritably parting a sea of people whom I’d otherwise not have been able to do by myself (or as effortlessly, anyway). Wow, was that teamwork ever appreciated. Thanks, girl.

Hoka sponsored a contest within the race over the last half mile on the course, urging participants to finish their races as fast as they possibly could, but there wasn’t a chance in hell that I could even try on that section simply because the road was too thick with participants. Ultimately, I slowed down a little, down to my slowest mile of the day, but I didn’t take out any runners with my front wheel, so I am calling this late-in-the-race-frustration a success. It’s a tough thing to navigate, though; I really don’t know how the race can accommodate so many runners, on not a wide space, in the final stretch of the race, and manage to get slower runners and walkers over from the faster finishers. I regularly cheer for other racers even when I’m racing, and I genuinely believe that a participant’s race experience is meaningful and valuable, whether she’s the first across the line, the last, or somewhere in between. I don’t want to come off as some Queen B who’s yelling at people to move; really, I just want everyone to have a safe and fun experience. It’s hard to do that when you’re coming in hot at the end of the race and have to zig-zag through a narrow space and push a bigass stroller in front of you and dodge what seems like a sea of humanity.

Ultimately, I beat my 2016 time by almost exactly 2 whole minutes (Garmin). Last year, my watch measured the course right at 6 miles (6.01, to be exact), and on this year’s course, I had 6.13 — not a huge deal, since it’s not USATF certified — but it just means my 41:54 pace average is anywhere between a 6:44-6:51. No big. Just good for reference. I was thrilled to see so many of my Wolfpack teammates and friends right at the finish line (and as they all crossed it), and we spent the rest of the morning goofing around at the awards ceremony, catching up, and brunching. My time put me 1st in the baby mama 10k division, making me three-peat a first place finish in a stroller division since 2015, and for my efforts, I won a pretty sweet bumbleride baby stroller. Stroller running is really tough, but it’s also a fantastic way for me to spend time with my kids, and though they will likely not remember a lot of this as they age, I will always have these experiences (and photographs of the event) to share with them. I can totally get behind that. If they decide to run when they get older, that’d be great, but ultimately I just want them to grow up knowing and seeing firsthand that taking care of your body and mind by leading an active lifestyle is important, worthwhile, and really, a lot of fun.  

with the lovely Paula and her son, as well as Meg and her daughter again. (PC: Dave)

 

pre- and post-race with many (but not all) of my teammates who raced, trained, and medical volunteered. love! (PC: Lisa/Wolfpack Running Club)

 

so many teammates! so many friends! G says “no more pictures!” I am obviously trying to wrangle more teammates! …

 

(mission success!). running is so.serious with us. More teammates and friends shot. G is about to break down (ah, toddler life); she was mad at me for taking her off a stage because she wanted to dance. 🙂

 

feeling awkward but hey, look at that sweet ride! at the aptly-named Lighthouse Point. (PC: Dave)

If you’re local, put SIB on your calendar; if you’re in southern CA, look up their race in Santa Barbara in the autumn. (And get on their email list so you can register for SC cheap in December!). I think it’d be a blast to either get my daughters to train for this run in the future or maybe get my Daisies to come down and run it or volunteer at it next year. So many options! Ultimately, while the SIB swag was great, the reward for winning so generous, and the gratification that comes with putting forth a strong effort on race day exhilarating, without a doubt, I keep coming back to this race because I get so much from the experience and the vibe. It’s just all so very, very good.