I’d heard promising things, and indeed the Oakland Running Festival proved to be a super fun and well-organized event. Didn’t hurt that it was a gorgeous, sunny day in the East Bay and that my personal 13.1 experience went by in a happy, pain-free blur.
My strategy was as such:
2 Days before:
- Run 5 miles too fast. Ice shins.
- Plan to avoid alcohol but drink a couple of glasses of wine anyway.
- Launder a variety of racing clothes.
- Forget to ice shins.
- BAGEL. BREAD. PASTA.
- Choose racing clothes from the dryer on a whim. Get frustrated when I can’t find my preferred flipbelt. Wear the purple one instead.
- Pack one hell of a post-race survival kit complete with a huge bottle of water, hooded sweatshirt, moccasins, face wipes, and most importantly, a hairbrush (it’s always a complete rat’s nest after long runs).
- Chow down on a big bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee.
- Remember fuel at the last minute! Cut up a random amount of dates and stuff them into a ziplock.
- Plan on taking BART to the start line but get a ride across the bridge from my very generous boyfriend instead. (Thanks John!)
- Catch up with my friend Cori before the race! Definitely puts me at ease and get me in the mood to run. (Thanks Cori!)
Ok, down to business. I decide to start off with the 2:00 pacer and if feeling great after mile 10, pull ahead slightly for my sub-2. I told myself I wouldn’t be shy about falling back if it felt like too much. I was determined to PR this event but not at the expense of blowing it at Big Sur in April (ie, overdoing it and getting injured. Shins, remember?).
Traffic jam. Felt easy, and it was my slowest mile at 9:25.
Tune into my breathing and I know that I have things under control. Around mile 4 I check the average pace on my Nike + Watch to reveal 8:54/mile. Oh boy, oh boy. I get a little excited but remind myself to keep focus. Plenty of time for things to fall apart. I almost forget to eat my dates but when I literally bump into a woman chomping on an energy bar, I remember to nosh. I chat with this same person a bit about the race and it’s a nice break. Thanks for the 3 minute friendship, lady. Then I space out and miss a water stop. Zoinks.
I find myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the pacer, Ben. I’m starting to get the zoomies, but concerned that it’s too soon to forge ahead on my own. I attempt to move aside and slow down, but I can’t find a graceful way to do this. That awkwardness settles it. I let go of the group and just get comfortable, and somewhere in these miles I lose them completely. Oddly, the second set of dates taste sort of gross and I don’t enjoying eating them. I usually look forward to little snacks on the run, even if it’s just GU.
I was unsure of how I’d feel running with the pacers, but I was really glad that I did. I found it helpful and entertaining in those opening miles, and would happily consider employing this strategy again.
The plan was to hit the surge button at mile 11 (go to 11 at 11, get it?), but once again the zoomies take over early. I’m pushing it and these miles feel tough (but part of me is already celebrating). About half a mile to the finish line, as I’m really feeling the pain of a hard effort, I pull up next to a guy who asks me if this is my first half. “No, but it’s my first time under 2!” He gives me a congrats and encourages me to finish strong, and the whole interaction gives me a little boost. Thanks guy.
Official time — 01:55:28
The finish area at Snow Park is totally awesome. I find John and Darwin easily and we hang out on the space blanket under the shade of a big tree. I drink my 21st Amendment Sneak Attack. I watch Cori cross the finish line smiling with a new PR. I enjoy the sunshine and the breeze across Lake Merritt, and the happy feeling of having exceeded my goals. 🙂
I loved the vibe of this race – low key attitude with the amenities of a bigger event. I hope I am able to participate again next year!
Hope you racers out there had a great weekend!