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2017: the annual report

2017: the annual report

At the start of 2017, I was about 16 months postpartum and fresh off November marathon and half marathon PRs, records that had taken a good three years (and getting pregnant again) before finally falling. For the first time in a long time, I decided to forego a spring marathon in the interest of doing short stuff. In essence, for the better part of the last decade, I had convinced myself that I was/am more of a marathoner than anything, that the discomfort from running 26.2 as fast as I could was more bearable than doing the same for 13.1, 6.2, or god forbid 3.1.

The stories we tell ourselves, or hey, let’s call a spade a spade and qualify it for what it is — the limitations we impose on ourselves — seem to have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies. For years, I had all but purposely shied away from racing, much less training for, short distances because I was convinced that those distances just weren’t in my wheelhouse because anytime I did them, it just wasn’t enjoyable. Racing any of the PA races with my team was never an option simply because I never felt I was fast enough to do anything productive, lest I forget that I was always training for a marathon and always told myself that I “wasn’t in half, 5k, 10k, or (insert any other non-marathon-distance) shape.”

At any rate, I don’t know why I had decided that a spring 2017 marathon would be an unwise route for me to take — if memory serves, the only time in recent history when I haven’t done a spring marathon was in the throes of pregnancy — but in doing so, it left me with a gap to fill. I felt I was far enough along postpartum to begin pressing things a bit more earnestly, so going after the shorter and arguably harder non-marathon distances seemed to make a lot of sense at the time. Something unbelievable happened, too: I actually enjoyed non-marathon races. It wasn’t until after halfway through the year that I’d get back into the marathon, and it was in that opposing world where I spent most of my time training for the second part of the year.

When I talk about 2017, I can rattle off lots of statistics:

  • 2,501 miles run (not a distance PR, but just shy of the 2,56x from 2014);
  • several PRs (5k twice, 10k twice, 5 mile, marathon, XC races);
  • winning a couple races (SIB baby mama 10k, Hearts and Soles 10k, East Bay 510k);
  • running new-to-me distances/races (XC);
  • and having several non-racing or non-mileage-focused experiences that were still very meaningful (pacing SRM; spectating at BSIM, IM Santa Rosa, and my eldest’s first tri; participating in a Hoka Women Who Fly weekend; the tons and tons of stroller runs; and bike-stroller run-ride commutes with my kids).

I’ll be the first to admit that all that stuff matters to me, but when I think about my 2017, the connective thread between all of it is the community in which this sport enables me to immerse myself. It’s the community that made taking the plunge to do different stuff — stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise be so keen to do — more feasible, a welcome change of both literal and metaphorical pace. There was a time in my life when I’d sign up for a race; show up and do the thing; and then go home, both when I lived in Chicago and since moving to the Bay Area.

My 2017 was basically the polar opposite.

It’s the community in this sport — and the so many people with whom I got to spend time, train, and race alongside — that just makes me cheshire like a damn fool when I think about my running in 2017. Sure, notching personal bests (and working my ass off to get myself to a place where I can do that) is important and enjoyable, but the people, man. The people are where it’s at in this sport. 

Rather than belabor every lowlight and highlight of the 2500 miles from 2017, I think the more appropriate way to adequately express what I’m talking about — why this community thing meant so much to me in 2017 — is to show you.

A lot of my 2017 running, usually about 25-30 miles a week, looked like this, with A on her bike and G in the stroller. Run- and ride-commuting to school 4x a week was one of A’s best ideas in kindergarten.
big group training runs were the bread and butter of many weekend morning runs for me in the first part of the year. (shamelessly screenshot from Strava)


having Chicago training partner John in town for a day, even if it meant running 10+ miles in the pouring rain, was definitely memorable. We trained together for Boston back in the day through a pretty rough Chicago winter, so it was like old times.


the first PA race in 2017, my first 5k in forever, the first race of the year, and destroying a five-year-old PR by chasing after my teammates (Sam here) was a fantastic way to start the year, even if it meant running a bizarre course. (PC: CT) is one event I look forward to each year, and for the third consecutive year, I ran pushing one of my girls in the ‘baby mama’ division. I love this pic because you can see me mid-holler for my teammate, Julie, who’s about to go on to cinch 2nd in the 5k. (PC: Dave)


SIB is a guaranteed positive-vibes meet-up with lots of friends who inspire me daily: here, with Paula and her youngest son, as well as Meg and her daughter. (PC: Dave)


inspiration abounds at SIB, and the feel-good vibes from this race last for weeks for me. Incredibly, these pictures don’t even feature all of the Wolfpack racers from that morning. I love pregnant Janet in these pictures. (PC: Lisa/Wolfpack)


It had been many years since I had last raced an open 10k, and I was so happy to see a familiar Wolfpack face, Greg, at the Heart and Soles race (on yet another bizarre race course).


From within the first half mile, maybe quarter mile, at the Stow Lake Stampede 5k, you can see that I’m already trying to work alongside my teammates Sam and Claire. It’s pack running at its finest. (PC: Wolfpack Running Club)


going down to Big Sur is always a treat, and it was a lot of fun to be with Meredith as we watched Austin (visiting from PDX) finish his marathon and to see Robin (not pictured) and her team finish their relay.


I didn’t spend much time on trails in 2017, but when I was there, it was even better than I remembered. The views are always worth the work, and as with most things in life, the work is always more enjoyable when shared amongst friends.


And speaking of friends, sharing Monument Peak with Connie, Meg, and Char was so sweet. (Miss you, Char! Move back!) It was very cool to share with them such a special (and beautiful) place. This was from our first foray up.


Getting comfortable with the discomfort of the shorter stuff took several trials, but chasing friends and teammates (yet again) made it work: this time at the Marin Memorial 10k, and yet again, chasing Sam was to my benefit. (PC: Tamalpa RC)


an upside to running an inaugural half where I grew up, when I was visiting family in Ohio: my sister showed up with G and her youngest kiddo to cheer late in the race, and I ran into a friend from high school mid-race, seeing him for the first time since we graduated 10+ years ago, hence the mid-scream face here. It was a disastrous race for me, but not all running memories are about the times we post. (PC: Ben)


sharing a local race with my sister when I was in OH was awesome; she ran the 2 mile race with her BIL, while I ran the 5 and raced against a bunch of high schoolers, having a blast in the process. I can think of two times (ever) in my life wherein we’ve run together/at the same event. MOAR plz


one of my fav weekends each year is SF Marathon weekend, in part because I love the race and because I honestly just love doing the ambassador gig. It’s always so much fun to connect with runners who travel from all over the world to come race in SF, and race weekend is one of the only times I see many of my SMA buddies.


running into so many other local runners at TSFM makes the race so memorable each year, whether they’re also racing it or pacing it, as Sunny was here. (PC: Sunny)


after running with Chai and Saurabh so much during the first part of the year, during their IM Santa Rosa/my SF training, it was very cool to be able to spectate for their marathon at IM SR (and to see Saurabh cross the finish line). perhaps unsurprisingly, Strava told me they were my two biggest training partners in 2017.


I never ran XC in high school, but I’ve heard from so many people how fun it is. I finally got to experience that in 2017, and in doing so, I learned that XC (here, in Santa Cruz) is an entirely different beast. XC racing is hard AF! …but man is it enjoyable. the camaraderie is fantastic. the scenery? yea, also tolerable.


it was nice to finally be able to pace a race (for the first time in ’17 and maybe for the first time since giving birth in ’15? maybe?) and to return to the Santa Rosa Marathon to do so. being able to support others in their goals is deeply gratifying, and cheering on friends (Anil, Connie, and Meg here) in their big unicorn pursuits was just the coolest.


the SRM was a great day for my friends, and I was so happy to have such unfettered, front-row access to witness it all. I still find it hilarious that somehow the best, the only, nice group pic we got post-race –wherein we were celebrating Connie’s first sub-3 and 2nd F OA, Meg’s solid race, and everyone else’s experiences — is in front of the honey buckets. (PC: Connie’s husband)


I was/am so proud of her. Doing a tri was initially her idea, but the running was hard (and not enjoyable) for her. She dug deep and post-finish was greeted with her own little cheering section. She inspires me more than she’ll ever know or understand.


The one and only time I’ve ever bought a race reg off Groupon — and idiotically, it was for a half marathon very shortly after pacing at SRM and on a “the Bay Area is broiling” type of summer day. It made for a lackluster race, but the post-race shenanigans with so many teammates and friends (and finally getting to meet Angela and Jen) made the otherwise ‘eh’ experience completely positive.


This pic from the Golden Gate Park XC open reminds me that every starting line — whether it’s at the beginning of a race or at the beginning of a regular ol’ training run — is full of promise and opportunity. You’re never alone. (PC: Craig)


Taking a momentary break from PA races to periodically do a local race — here, Represent Running’s East Bay 510k — was a good way to connect with other (non-PA) runners and to promote our team. Lisa was lead bike for both the 5k and 10k, Andy ran and won the 5k, and Ida and I ran the 10k (and I got to break tape for the first time ever, which was unexpected and admittedly pretty cool!). I unfortunately hadn’t been able to do a single Represent Running race all year, so I was so glad to make the trek up to Emeryville to support a race organization that I appreciate.


Finally getting to do a RR race (the East Bay 510k) also meant that I could finally see many of my RR social media ambassador buddies whom I otherwise rarely see, like Christina and Brian. Between these guys and my WRC teammates, it made for a really fun race morning.


I hit the jackpot when Janet moved back to SJ and to (basically) my neighborhood. Early morning training runs became immensely more enjoyable (and much more documented!). (PC: Janet)


Winning a spot on Hoka’s Women Who Fly weekend was kinda otherworldly — I thought it was a scam! — and the entire trip remains somewhat of an enigma to me. The QT that I got to share with these other WWF recipients, in the backdrop of beautiful Santa Barbara, was indescribable.


Even when racing blew — and it did sometimes (here, at the Clarksburg HM) — in 2017 I made it a point to remember that there was always reason to smile and be grateful. Even if shit just sucks, simply being able to do this stuff is a gift. (PC: Impala Racing IG)


The last XC race of the season — Champs at Golden Gate Park, though on a different course than the GGP Open — was the beginning of the end of my ’17 racing exploits. Even during the height of all the nonsense surrounding my liver at the end of the year, when I was seriously questioning just about everything, I wanted to show up for my team and be there for them. (PC: WRC)


I started working under Lisa for CIM, and she challenged my running in ways that I couldn’t have done on my own. Celebrating with her and Oscar (whom she also coached) post-CIM, where we both posted PRs and ran strong races, was yet another reminder to me of how lucky I am to have found such a such a fantastic sport filled with such gracious and genuinely lovely people.

I’m not completely sure what I’m chasing after in 2018, at least not yet. I’m inclined to focus my year in much the same way as I did in 2017, by doing the shorter stuff in the first half and the marathon (SF, CIM) in the second half, but we’ll see.

What I do know is that I’ll be in good company again this year, and that in and of itself is pretty damn exciting.

Consider this your standing invitation to join in the fun anytime. 

(And if you’re looking for the complete 2017 racing index, here it is: Reach for a Star 5k; baby mama 10k, pushing G; Heart & Soles 10k; Stow Lake Stampede 5k; Marin Memorial 10k; Matchstick HM; North Canton YMCA 5 miler; The SF Marathon; Santa Cruz XC Challenge; pacing 3:33 at the Santa Rosa Marathon; Race to the End of Summer HM; Golden Gate Park XC Open; East Bay 510k (10k); Clarksburg HM; XC Champs; CIM).

training lately and spring racing plans

training lately and spring racing plans

For the first time in a long time, I’m voluntarily not training for a spring marathon. After I PRed Two Cities in November and then the Berkeley half a few weeks thereafter,  I didn’t think to myself well ho hum gee let’s just not do anything in the first part of 2017. Instead, I just figured that in time, I’d figure something out and would enjoy running for running’s sake. Intuitive training or utter indecision, I’m not really sure, but it has seemed like the right choice so far.

In lieu of racing a spring marathon, I’ve instead decided to take a big leap of faith and try to race the short stuff with Wolfpack this spring on the PA circuit. Wolfpack is a USATF-registered running club, and the PA (Pacific Association) circuit is basically a series of races throughout the Bay Area and beyond — some as far afield as Redding or Sacramento — that other USATF-registered run clubs run and try to accrue points. My impression is that you can think of it as going to a track invitational, where a bunch of different school teams are competing against each other and are trying to accumulate as many points as possible to win the meet, except that our “meets” are various races (that are open to everyone, btw) and that we accrue points over an entire season before deciding the winner rankings. The other difference is that the teams aren’t school-based; I think they’re based either in geography (Wolfpack out of the south bay, Impalas out of SF (I think)) or companies (Strava). Spring is road racing, and autumn is cross-country, and I’ve never done either with the team, so I’m pretty excited for it. There are some incredibly fast women and men on my team — who also happen to be pretty fantastic human beings — so I’m looking forward to the season and to seeing folks more regularly.

The race distances in the spring and early summer include everything from a 1-miler all the way up to a half-marathon, and some of the distances we’ll be racing I haven’t actually raced in veritable eons (hello, 10 miles and 10k). It should be fun and challenging in a sadistic, why-do-I-do-this-to-myself sort of way. We all find strange things that bring us joy, right? Whatever floats (rocks, shakes, makes you feel like you’re going to get thrown overboard) your boat, I suppose.  

In the meantime, running has been going really well, and for once in my life, I’m revelling in not really having a tight plan at the moment. I finished January with about 235 miles in the bank — just shy of my highest-volume month in 2016, when I was in the thick of training for Modesto — and I’ve been feeling fantastic. For me, in this proverbial “season of life” with the young kiddos at home, that’s a respectable volume. I think all but one week this year has been 50+ miles, which is somewhat mind-boggling because a) I peaked at 50+ training for Two Cities last fall, and I did that volume for precisely one week; b) when I did it in the fall, I felt great but definitely felt more fatigued; and c) it was with much greater intentionality during marathon training than what I’m doing now. It’s funny. I didn’t really plan for the year to start out this way, but I’ll gladly (read: enthusiastically) take it.

Not going to lie, I love that this is my view for a lot of my miles right now.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the statistics about the miles, speed, elevation, or whatever else, but it’s all ultimately futile if the miles aren’t healthy or if you’re digging yourself into the ground. So far, happily, that hasn’t been the case. It doesn’t make for great blog reading — everything is wonderful! yay, running! yay, life! yay, yay, yay! — but eh. That’s alright. All of the miles I’ve posted this year have been healthy and fun, and I really can’t ask for much more than that. More often than not, the miles are easy or easier — my favorite paces — though I’ve thrown in one tempo run nearly every week (I’m up to a whopping 4 miles there; I believe in the slow build for speed and intensity) for some variety and to teach my legs how to go again. Tempo stuff is what I usually find to be the most challenging, if for no other reason than I get into my own head and self-sabotage, but it’s a work in progress.

I don’t ever dare say that this stuff is easy, but it seems like things are clicking, and it makes me excited for this spring and training for the SF full in July. We’ll get there when we get there. If you want to call this period “base building,” that is probably an accurate statement. I’ll call it “getting ready to get gritty.” I think grittiness is an apt attribute that one should aspire to cultivate for racing, so that’s what I’m going with here. 

Other random stuff not related to running:

Reading: I think it was way back in November, but I finally finished The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Within the past week, I just finished Timothy Caulfield’s Is Gwenyth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?; Thomas Friedman’s Thank You For Being Late; and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. Though they were all different in tone and topic, they were all really excellent. I’ve just started reading Daniel Lieberman’s The Story of the Human Body and Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist.

Listening to: Matt Mira and Doree Shafrir’s Eggscellent Adventure podcast that chronicles their trials and tribulations with IVF. Holy shit, that stuff is tough. Even if you’ve never used IVF, you probably know someone who has, even if that person/persons hasn’t said much about it. It’s really informative and entertaining — they have a great dynamic together — and man, I am so rooting for them.

Calling: my representative, nearly every damn day. I feel like I’m on a first-name basis with at least one of his aides. (Hey, Judith. What up, girl). If you’re dissatisfied, do something about it. Wallowing or brooding are counterproductive. #resist #shepersisted

Comprehending: the fact that the little one weaned off breastfeeding. She’s 18 months, the same age that her sister stopped, so while I predicted it’d be around this time, it’s still emotionally kinda tough (but also kinda not, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but whatevs. Fucking hormones).  

Appreciating: the rain. Winter was my favorite season when I lived in the midwest, and it’s my favorite season here, too. Blasphemy, I know. Bring on that precipitation and those perfect 40-degree mornings.

Anticipating: my parents’ arrival at the end of this week!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Next up: Redding 10 miler with Wolfpack (first PA race!) and then the 408k (an 8k) in San Jose (which, if you want to run, REPRESENTEG will net you a discount, woot).