training diary – half marathon prep week 2!

Here’s a recap of last week’s progress on the road to my first half marathon in 18 months OMG.

Monday 4/17: 3.3 miles easy (9’31 avg pace)

Tuesday 4/18: superslow strength training

Wednesday 4/19: 5.2 miles easy (9’20 avg pace)

Thursday 4/20: 3 miles easy  (9’07” avg pace)

Friday 4/21: 4 miles w/ fartlek – 2x 5 minutes fast w/ 3-4 min rest (9’17” avg pace) Getting back into speedwork is fun and although I’m off starting pretty conservative with these loose fartlek workouts, overall it feels challenging but doable. I’m so disorganized with these though. This current week my plan is just to do a few strides, uhhh, maybe. And after that I have no clue. Tempos?

Saturday 4/22: 8.6 LSD (9’34” avg pace)  Some lovely morning miles before heading out for a quick overnight at Van Damme State Park in Little River!

Sunday 4/23: Rest in Mendocino 🙂

Mendocino

rest day inspo

Total Weekly Mileage: 24.1
Another 24 mile week. Since my body seems to be cooperating, and because my mental state remains upbeat, I will increase this weekly volume by a few miles in a couple of weeks. But first, a small cutback in preparation for my first race of the year on Sunday, a 5k in Marin County. I’m a little nervous given that I have not done any short & fast distance stuff since last freaking June, and that pain train is no joke (my 5k strategy is usually start fast and try to hold on… uh… ouch?). However, I look forward to having a better read on my fitness level. At first I thought my strategy could be to keep splits at about 7:30/mile, which is not quite my PR but pretty darn close, but I’m beginning to suspect that this plan may well fall apart. First, there’s the matter of an ominous “little elevation change,” according to the website course description and second, it looks like it could be a warm, sunny day. So plan B might be to try and come in under 24:00, which would still be a really solid way to start out a racing season and a positive step towards a half marathon PR. Either way it will be interesting and helpful to set a better baseline for current training and goal paces.

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“I Took the Long Way” (LA Marathon 2016 race recap)

Runnin’ – The Heartless Bastards

Well I’m finally getting to the recount of my experience at the Los Angeles marathon. And imma gonna keep it semi brief-like. These days I’m just covering all kinds of ground with respect to working, resting, experiencing life and having fun, running a very small amount, and keeping my eyes forward towards Spring!

On to the business at hand.

LAM_Before

To me, this is a perfect marathon “Before” picture. What a hot fucking mess I was 4 hours later.

 

The majority of the race went really well for me and I spent most of the time cautiously optimistic that sub-4 was in the bag. Side note – one of the amazing things I’m observing is how much my tolerance for pain has, with practice, improved in this sort of weird, out of body kind of way. My legs were crazy hurty ouchie ouch for well over 2+ hours, but my body and mind have learned to accept this as a rule. “Look, if you want to go fast, this is the way it works,” says brain. “Don’t worry, something else will distract you soon enough.” And body says, “You a little mean, but okay. We know you’ll give us pizza later.”

Dumb internal monologues aside, things got a bit more interesting at Mile 19 so that’s where I’ll start. Here’s the LA Marathon elevation profile:

LosAngelesMarathon_2011_e

So at Mile 19, I slowly started to fade. This was the warmest part of the course, although temps didn’t climb as high as was predicted. And was prepared for the gradual incline here so I told myself to just keep steady until things flattened out.

At about mile 21 the 4 hour pacer, who I’d passed back at 15 or 16, caught up. I stuck with the group for a while, and they got me through one of my toughest miles. But by the next mile marker, I found that I couldn’t hang on. Watched them slip away, feeling a little disappointed but actually pretty zen about what was happening. I resigned myself to the likelihood of a 4:01…4:02 finish. I’d already mentally prepared for this possibility during the previous week while looking over the weather forecasts. I trudged along and made it through miles 23 and 24 at 9’31 and 9’43.

Then two things happened. First, we began a descent to the oceanfront finish line that would result in 200 feet of elevation loss. And second but just as crucial… MARINE LAYER. Hallelujah.

I started to feel a little bit stronger and some confused marathon math told me that I still might be able to squeak in under 4. However, as my brain was trying to convince my body that my dragging pace had reached the dreaded point of no return, I heard a spectator cheer me on. It was one of those “looking good” type comments. But after she said this to me I swear I heard her comment, in a lower voice to her companion,  “Wow, she looks really fresh..” Whether or not I imagined this, whether or not she was actually talking about me at all – this moment brought back my race. I felt a burst of momentum and knew that I would reach my sub-4 goal. I had a great, balls to the walls 25th and 26th mile, 8’42 and 8’21. I ran terrible tangents and got to do 26.5 miles that day, running 8’17 for that last half mile. With the finish line in sight, I found the 4 hour pacer and tapped him on the shoulder. “I caught you!” I said excitedly. He congratulated me and told me to kick it hard and sprint to the finish and I ran and ran and ran.

It was fucking great.

LAM_Finish

Hurts. So. Good?

Official Finish: 3:57:59

Finally, a few takeaways on the overall experience:

LA Marathon Pluses:

  • Pre-race at Dodger Stadium. A completely genius organizational move – an empty baseball stadium means shelter and real bathrooms! A 4:30am shuttle from Santa Monica was super easy.
  • Scenic course
  • Fun spectators and crowd support (yes! the 5 mile chili dog station is real)
  • Downhill finish
  • Lovely, large medal

LA Marathon Minuses:

  • Not necessarily a minus but should be noted that is NOT a flat course. For whatever reason, be it the event marketing, or because I assume anything outside the Bay Area is flat, I wasn’t expecting to encounter these kinds of rollers. The hills are fairly gentle, but I didn’t find this to be a particularly easy course, which brings me to…
  • Miles 20-23 are boring, uphill, and hot. If you’re really hitting a wall this section can be fairly demoralizing.
  • Finish area was not great. I had to walk for ages to get to the family reunion area. Ouch ouch ouch. And bag check retrieval after the race was absolutely awful! It took me a half hour to get my gear and I was painfully cold the entire time. They should have provided heat sheets before the UPS trucks but I guess they weren’t expecting the chilliness.

Up next… Rocking a summer halves and preparing for the fall marathon. Yes. That One.

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

Pema Chödrön.

OMG and WTF: It’s marathon week already. Oh how terrible I was at blogging my training, but for the last few months I’ve been trying to just lay low, keep my head down, and grind it out (with a smile, of course). I missed a few runs especially during a couple of stepback weeks in December, but overall I put in a lot of quality work. Several fast-finish long runs and race pace workouts. Logged my highest mileage weeks ever with no injuries. Perfectly executed a 10 mile race in week 15, finishing comfortably with a gun time of 1:24:10 (8:25 m/m). Up until a few days ago everything seemed pretty much on track for a sub-3:55 attempt, about an 8:55 average pace.

KB_LongRUN_BayBridge

Flashback to almost 3 weeks ago… the final 20 miler. I was a bit tired but held pretty strong until the end!

The city of Los Angeles, however, begs to differ.

la-g-la-marathon-temperatures-20160210

source: LA Times

As a lady from the land of year-round 55-65 degree weather, running in the heat is not something that I’m used to and the idea of a marathon in these conditions makes me pretty nervous. On top of this, recently I’ve discovered that this course is actually kind of hilly. Uh, how did I miss this?

LosAngelesMarathon_2011_e

Looks a wee lumpy, non? In my mind this race was all downhill. They certainly market it this way. “Net downhill” can be deceiving.  

Oy. Anyway, with my last training run completed this morning, my goals now are twofold:

1 – Focus on what I can control. This week, I’ve been drinking water, electrolytes, and $10 beet juice like a woman possessed. I’ve been researching and planning the best ways to survive the heat, and optimize performance as much as possible: First, I’m considering my clothing and, heavens to betsy, I may choose to go sans-singlet if I can muster the courage to feel oh so naked in only a sports bra. Usually I rely on course aid stations for hydration, but for this race I’ll be carrying a handheld and stocking Nuun tablets in the zippered pocket. For fuel I’ll bring along the extra salty Margarita Shot Bloks. Finally, I’m discovering strategies to keep my body as cool as possible: Run through as many open fire hydrants and misting stations as possible. Dump water on my head at aid stations. Bring frozen hand towels to the start, and grab ice and cold towels along the way. Apparently, the organizers have promised such things, hopefully they’ll deliver. This being the third straight year of high temps, this isn’t their first rodeo.

2 – Be Realistic, Stay Positive. Sub -4 was my original goal, and in this heat it would be an amazing achievement for me. That said, sub-4:10 would be an achievement. A PR (under 4:19) would be an achievement. But the reality is that with these intense conditions I might not realize any of these goals, on which my heart was so initially set. At this moment I’m trying to see the bigger picture. Training for this marathon has resulted in real step forward in my running fitness and I believe a fruitful year of racing lies ahead. I’ve learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses, and have new ideas about how to maximize my potential in the future. On Sunday I will run my first marathon in almost two years, and I’m excited to experience this fun and scenic urban course in a city that I really like and have history with. These last 5 months represent a huge step towards getting faster, setting new goals, and having more fun on my running journey. End pollyanna rose colored glasses rant.

In 2015, Ryan Hall suggested the following mantra to those running in the record-high temps at LAM:

“It’s a beautiful day and I’m doing what I love.”

Ok then, here we go.

 

 

“Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” (Detroit Half Marathon Race Recap)

William S. Burroughs

Let me start at the end, because this is the part I’m excited about:

Surprise PR in Detroit!

lemon_out

It was only at about Mile 12 or so that I realized it might be possible. So in those last precious minutes I moved my little feetsies as fast as they could carry me, and was rewarded with some heinous ugly-face finish photos and more than a minute shaved from my previous personal best. But I wouldn’t be sure for another few hours. Upon crossing the finish line I grabbed my phone and with hands petrified by a burning cold wind texted my brother, who was waiting with my family beyond the chute.  

texting billy

I still had to wait an eternity for the results to appear online. Oh the torture! Modern technology… you’re the god-damndest woman I ever saw…

Detroit_race_results

Them’s some good negative splits, huh? Suck It, San Francisco 2nd Half!!!**

**Speaking of SFM, I feel like kind of an asshole for not recapping my shitty race, but it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want. Anyway, I’m not really sure about how things went down that day because I decided to be all minimalist and cool and didn’t wear a watch. I know some people find this liberating but I will NEVER go naked again. But in fact, the race results indicate that I was running a 9:23 pace at mile 4 so in order to achieve a 2:00 finish I must have sped up at some point after that – only to crumble into a walking, cursing and give up machine between miles 10-13.**

Ok back to Detroit.

Going into this, I really tried to keep my expectations mild in terms of performance. I hoped that I could do and feel better than I did in San Francisco last July, and time-wise I decided I’d be very satisfied to come in under 1:55. I’d completed all my training runs and encountered no stinkers. I didn’t feel the general fatigue that I had over the summer. Still, I was trying to be realistic since it was only 5 stupid weeks of consistent training. I wasn’t sure of my baseline fitness. I hadn’t done any speedwork. My weekly mileage was fairly low.

So here’s the recap. Bottom line: If you have the opportunity to run Detroit I highly recommend it. In truth, the race was my sad-sack back-up plan after not making it into Chicago via the lottery. But it turned out to be absolutely the special sauce I needed (i.e. – a half marathon in brisk weather). The course was diverse and flat and fun. The international thing adds some interest. Good crowd support. An overlooked city that is interesting to tour on foot.

Mile 1–2: Downtown 8:57 / 8:36

Dressing for this run was a real head scratcher up to race morning. What does one wear for a 32 degree start? I’ve become accustomed to our new post-apocolypse San Francisco weather: 70 and sunny with 80% humidity. So I knew I’d be cold at the start but I couldn’t predict how I’d feel when I warmed up a couple miles later.

I arrived dark and early and was pleased to discover that the lobbies of the surrounding office buildings were open and runners were naturally congregating inside. AND using the public restrooms. Major bonus! I started the race feeling more human than popsicle.

The plan called on Pacer Mike to lead me through with the 3:55 full / 1:57 Half group (The race offers pacers for every BQ standard. Pretty cool). Mike was a super nice guy and seemed to really know the race. However, I fell back almost immediately upon starting and had trouble catching up. The sun hadn’t risen and the field was pretty crowded. Were they going out fast? Am I too slow? Is this cold getting to me? Eventually I pushed these worries aside and ran a steady pace and kept an eye on Mike’s bobbing signage.

Mile 3: The Bridge 9:11

Crossing the Ambassador bridge into Canada was indeed lovely, but as dawn approached it was still pretty dark out there, so I didn’t much luxuriate in the view as I was still concentrating hard to prevent face planting. Then, once we hit the crest of the bridge, there was some confusion as a wheelchair careened down the hill. Move to the left. No, on the right. Sharp whistles from the bike marshals and shouting from runners behind. Some of this back and forth occurred later in the race too. I wonder if organizers hadn’t given the handicapped division enough of a head start?

Mile 4–6: Canada 8:38 / 8:36 / 8:21

Now in Canada, we were treated to a view of the city skyline along the Detroit river. It was a very pleasant stretch. But inside my head, my “go-with-the-flow” attitude splintered just a bit. Pacer Mike still ahead, I wondered if I’d lag forever, crashing and burning as I had in SF. There was still a lot of time to go…

Mile 7: The Tunnel 8:25

Race recaps describe the underwater tunnel back into the US as something of a hot, sweaty, overrated claustrophobia-inducing hell. Well, maybe not so dramatic, but it seemed that plenty of racers find it uncomfortable at best. This tunnel, however, was my personal super power-up happy time place. The novelty distracted me from my negativity, and the one mile was just enough as not to be tedious. Being down there with a bunch of runners felt kind of intimate and special. I started feeling speedier and more confident, finally catching up to the pacer. Hallelujah.

Mile 8–Finish: Back in the USA 8:25 / 8:52 / 8:23 / 8:11 / 8:27 / 8:09 / 6:48 (last .22 miles)

Out of the tunnel, I passed the Mike’s pace team. Thanks Mike! At mile 9 I saw my family and got a little boost. Mile 10 I started picking it up and felt the ol’ IT band protest. So I consciously eased back a little during mile 12, falling in with the 3:55 (1:55 half) pacer. The IT Band remained grumpy but didn’t worsen and I was able to push through. Realizing I might be in PR range, I picked it back up for the 13th mile and went out hard for finish!

Official Finish Time: 1:52:35

Detroit_Marathon_Medal_2015

Yay!

So I led this post with a little fib. PRs are rad but here’s the thing that really makes me happy: after a year of the blahs I’m starting to feel ready to go again. Even though I did only 5 real weeks of preparation for this race, the plan was smart and helped build my confidence and overall mojo. I think that taking the easy runs easy and practicing strong finishes really helped.

I’ve got one more race on tap in December and hoping to be in shape for a big year in 2016… To be Continued…

“There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi.

Well here is the post in which I introduce my prospective strategy for training for the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers International Half Marathon in 5 stinkin’ weeks!

Between determining details of the mileage and rest and cross training in the weeks ahead, through my research I’ve come across some global notes which may prove to be just as important for making it to and through the BIG DAY:

**Let go of expectations**

At least with respect to time. 2015 was supposed to be the year of the big PRs — but this ship has long since sailed. No matter. New goals include:

In Training

  • barring injury or illness, complete the planned training runs (i mean for god’s sake it’s just 5 weeks…).
  • that said, don’t take things so seriously.
  • that also said, every run has a purpose.

During the Race

  • enjoy the tour of the city and crossing the Canadian border.
  • overall: just have fun.

After the Race

  • after the race: eat pizza and beer (preferably a local one)
  • be grateful to spend time with my mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law, and others.

**Long runs are the foundation**

A repeated mantra in many half-marathon and marathon plans regardless of the length: laser focus on diligently hammering out that Saturday LSD. Of course, every run should mean something, but they’re the gravy.

**Practice finishing EVERY SINGLE RUN strong**

Failure to do this was, in my assessment, the single biggest contributor to my mini-meltdown at the San Francisco half marathon in July. It’s not that a positive mental attitude would have led to a better performance necessarily, but perhaps the last 3 miles would have been less grueling and mentally exhausting. Too often I allowed myself to wallow in tiredness and waning enthusiasm — during workouts but especially in last miles. But — I thought, at least I’m completing the prescribed mileage. At least I’m getting it DONE. It’s no mystery why on race day my brain just hit a moment where it was like — STOP. NOW. The ensuing internal bargaining and self-pity made the experience mildly excruciating and I am not interested in a repeat. Which brings me to…

**Stay positive — or at least, recognize negative patterns in thinking**

One thing that they stress in mindfulness meditation is that when thoughts arise, to make a soft mental note like: thinking. Or even more specific like: judging. These labels are simply a recognition of the occurrence, without trying to change or analyze anything. I think that my recent indifference to running and training has centered on, quite simply, a negative attitude towards it. Trying to think positive thoughts is one way to do this, but in other ways trying to force it can almost feed the negativity in a perverse way.  So if I can’t be positive, I can at least recognize negative thinking, laziness, excuses… without judging them … and then go out and complete the exercise anyway.

Onto the goods, now. Completed on scratch paper in highlighter and ballpoint pen over lunch at the office — here is my custom, handy-dandy, 5-weeks-out, shit-kickin’ half marathon training plan:

5 week half marathon training planWell for now that’s the best I got. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain. Or snow. Or Tornado.
Question time! Have you ever run a race with minimal preparation? What was your experience? Any advice?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow…” (Santa Rosa Marathon Race Recap)

“…The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein. My original goal for the half distance at the Santa Rosa Marathon last Sunday was an 8’30” pace. But with just a single 10 mile run and inconsistent weekly mileage over … Continue reading

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” (Bad Bass Loch Chabot 10k Race Recap)

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Plagued by car trouble and a faulty alarm, my friend Ari and I were nearly no-shows at Brazen Racing’s Bad Bass Lake Chabot in Castro Valley last weekend. Luckily, the event was small enough that even arriving … Continue reading

Training Diary 6.22.14 — Speed Phase Week Four & See Jane Run Race Week!

Kathryn and the Bad Luck Mondays. A good band name, right? Like Iggy’s Stooges, Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, Richard Hell’s Voidoids, the Mondays surround me with their music: the cold cough of a struggling Volkswagen against a midnight ocean drone. The 8-inch blade of a Wustof slipping off a new sponge like a record player needle. Is it Mercury’s retrograde? Or maybe a the result of a summer workday, the worst one of all.

Anyway, poetry aside, I have 3 loose stitches and a mess of gauze interfering with the use of my right hand. So blogging was a little delayed this week. This also means that this coming Saturday I will need to bow out of Jason Crandell’s yoga workshop at Yoga Flow that I registered for ages ago. Sad times. But downward facing dog is a no-go until these fuckers come out on July 3.

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At least last week (minus the car issue) was productive (spoiler — I PR’ed the 5k! BOOM!)

Monday — Vinyasa Yoga / 60 minutes

Tuesday — Strength Training  It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned how much I hate doing this. Thank god it’s only 20 minutes and that I get a shoulder massage right after. Gaaahhh why does strength training have to be so important?

Wednesday — Tempo Run / 5 miles / 8’43” pace  After last week’s debacle, I made sure to come up with a decent plan. I needed a good workout, and I needed to finish encouraged. No more sad sack tempo face. Mile 1 warmup (8’26” – a bit fast obviously), mile 2 -3 tempo pace (8’29”/8’22”), mile 4 cooldown (9’38”), mile 5 strides/fartleks (8’32”). Challenging but not over the top, although I think as I become more comfortable with these kinds of runs the top speeds need to increase and/or roll out more progressively. But look at this steady pacing! A major improvement from last week, I’m ashamed to say that I even had a little bit of fun. I’ll crack you yet, devil run!

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Thursday — Rest

Friday — Easy Run / 3.7 miles / 9’00” pace

Saturday — Yoga from Hell / 90 minutes  Well not really yoga from Hell, but class was more intense than expected, and left me slightly worried that lingering soreness would impact Sunday’s race. BUT I had that great buzzy post-shavasana glow as I left the studio — always the sign of a great class.

Sunday — Race! See Jane Run San Francisco / 3.1 miles / 7’27” pace  Crushed my sub-25 goal with a 23:07 finish time! Yay for speedwork! Hell, yay for tempo runs! Yay for beginner-friendly women’s races that allow me to place first in my age group! Stay tuned for the recap in a few days…

Training Diary 6.1.14 — Speedwork Week One

New to the blog this week are training diaries. I enjoy reading others’ and figure a weekly report would be a nice compliment to my own training efforts. No fun quote titles, we’ll save those for the regular posts. 🙂

The superstitious say that on day 1 of any month, an immediate utterance of “rabbit, rabbit” should keep you lucky. Unfortunately the first thing I said yesterday was “Oh, shit.” I swore I’d commit to CIM before the next price increase thus woke up with a start, certain that the last magic day had been May 31, a lazy Saturday of blustery NorCal beach walks and dog baths and 4 hours of True Detective (McConaughey. Gaah!), and not signing up for marathons.

Turns out — June 1 was the $125 cutoff! Still lucky! If, that is, lucky means officially registered for a third 26.2 mile adventure. Boom!

Last week marked the first of a series of training blocks as described in this post.

Monday — Long Run / 6.5 or 7 miles / 10:20-10:30 pace. Sunday’s LSD didn’t happen, so thankfully the long weekend saved me. Sadly, it wasn’t a great experience. I was feeling sad and kept getting mild asthma attacks. I would have given this run a big “F – U” sooner had I not promised to meet up with my friend Ari, who just about killed me with a steep climb up to Buena Vista Park at mile 4. Thanks buddy. I forgot to re-start my watch at one point (after one of the aforementioned asthma spells), so I’m not sure how far we actually went.

6 mile Buena Vista Run

Tuesday — SuperSlow Strength Training. I do a very specific type of weekly exercise with large Nautilus-type machines and a friendly but sadistic trainer (sorry David). Right now I’m focusing on adductor, leg press, behind-the-neck press, chest press, pulldown, and lower back machines.

Wednesday — My First Track Intervals! 4×400 / 3.4 miles / 8’24” pace. I woke my ass up at 5:45am to schlep over to Kezar and run my very first formalized track workout. My schedule called for 5 repeats but I’d decided earlier in the week to do 4 and see how I felt the following day. This being my first time out there and all. But damn it if I didn’t feel like such a badass!

Thursday — Tempo run / 3.1 miles / 9’17” pace. Maybe a little slow and a little short, but the idea this week was to push but also to feel out these new, unfamiliar workouts. All in all a nice quick morning run around the neighborhood.

Friday — Rest. I thought about run commuting home after work, but I didn’t even bring my gear to the office. Work and the early morning runs left me pretty worn out. My brand-new UP24 activity tracker revealed a sleep average of about 6 and half hours a night. Now I know a lot of very talented people who can function on less, but this is bad news for me — a ticket straight to injury land with a detour through grumpy town . Indeed by 4pm that day I couldn’t see straight, I was that tired.

Saturday — Rest. Usually yoga day, or I was going to make up the missed Friday run, but I did some hardcore relaxing instead. In retrospect it was nice to have a whole day free from commitments, but I could have used the yoga.

Sunday — Long Run / 8 miles / 10:00 pace. A glorious long run along the Embarcadero that more than made up for the suck-fest on Monday.

Woefully, not a single stinking second of yoga. Whaddya know? My body feels no bueno, stiffer than usual — it was at times iffy during yesterday’s 8 miler. It’s amazing how much healthier I feel when I practice regularly, so I’m on my way to class tonight! Yoga Mayu’s 6 week boot camp begins late June, although I still haven’t pulled the trigger. Otherwise, this coming week’s schedule looks a lot like what’s above. Minus a rest day, and in new Oiselle flyte shorts. Ooh la la!

“The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” (Bay to Breakers Race Recap)

William Blake.

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I registered for my first Bay to Breakers last year. Traditionally, I kept my distance from the shenanigans. I don’t mean to be a party pooper — it’s just not my scene. I’m more of a quietly-get-drunk-in-a-sad-piano-lounge kind of gal than a topless-jelloshot-guzzler.

This is why at the 2013 race I was rather shocked at the relative mellowness of the event. That May morning was beautiful and bright, one of those shiny San Francisco days. An uncongested B Corral, silent pajamaed spectotors, the familiar eerie quiet of an early-morning Golden Gate Park jog…the shuttle back downtown was a piece of cake and I was home by 10am. Mostly uneventful save for the stark naked middle-aged dudes beside me for the first half mile or so (talk about motivation to pick up the pace). But it was Bay to Breakers, after all.

Suffice to say that things were different this year.

I arrived at the start line with no pacing plan and itchy feet. Earlier in the week I’d been organizing my schedule for the remainder of 2014, so the combination of this obsessiveness coupled with the excitement of the tortilla toss, helicopters, great weather, and the fired up runners beside me had me ready to go. My fellow racers and I seemed a little cozier than last year — and in fact, according to my results, 28,253 runners finished, compared with 22,268 in 2013. After a 25 minute delay, I crossed the starting mat and decided to aim for a 9:00 pace. Not too fast, not too slow — a clip that would reward me with a decent course PR.

The first two miles were absolute mayhem. Costumed drunks, screaming and wandering Howard Street, runners smashing into one another trying to find a clear path. I had to slow to a walk once or twice because the crowds were that thick. But once we left downtown, the celebrations kept (mostly) to the sidelines up the hill. Parties were starting. Jello shots offered, sidewalk barbeques lit. But Hayes Street is no joke, and I kept mentally focused by segmenting the challenge into 5 steep inclines to push through, breathlessly cresting the hill in five and a half minutes.

After the panhandle (whose elevation chart always surprises me — I really feel that incline even though it only nets about 60 ft), it’s a speedy downhill to the ocean finish. On training runs, I make sure to stay conservative, but I love bombing down this hill at Bay to Breakers. A good looking twenty-something wearing a giraffe costume pulled up next to me and said something like, “This downhill is great, isn’t it?” “It sure is,” I replied, “But ice your knees after!” Sure enough, the race gave me some crippling shin splints last year. But it feels like flying and it’s worth it. Giraffe man smiled and passed me by.

After a speedy final mile, I sprinted to the finish just behind the pink gorilla.

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Ape Hashbury and I moving through the chute.

Ape Hashbury and I just moments after finishing. I’m apparently shocked by something in the distance…

Finish Time: 01:05:38

Here are splits from the 2013 race compared to 2014.

Miles 1-3 in 2014 (above) & 2013 (below)

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Miles 4-7 in 2014 (above) & 2013 (below)

I pushed it harder this year effort-wise, still, another race where it’s obvious how much I’ve grown in the past year. Last year’s marathon training really changed how I run. I’m looking forward to my summer of speedwork with the hope of improving even further!

Although the expected insanity of Bay to Breakers is a little beyond me, I do love the course and the energy. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t run it every year that I can! Also – the medal is awesome. Very impressive, especially given the fact that there were none at all last year. Even Darwin was impressed.

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