March 25, 2019

My Oakland Running Festival Ridonculousness

Last week I had a good tempo run that convinced me I should be able to shoot for a 2:20ish half marathon.

This morning, despite generally not being an appreciator of gratitude memes, Neely Spence Gracey, posted one on twitter that really resonated with how I was feeling about yesterday's Oakland Marathon.

Oh, right.  Instead of looking at it as a thing to be laughed at (which isn't a terrible perspective), I can also view it with gratitude, which is a much better perspective.

My goals had been:

A goal: 2:20 or better (10:40/mile)
B goal: sub 11 min/mile
C goal: improve against my last half marathon (sub 11:55/mile)
D goal: finish healthy

I pretty much decided to let the A goal go before the start.  I met up with Jen, and she'd said she was going to try to run 11/mile, so I decided that pace with the potential of having a friend to chat with was a much better goal than 10:40 with the pace group.  Unfortunately, I had to stop in the first mile to take off my long sleeve shirt (that I should have taken off before the start) and I fell behind Jen, never making up the loss and only continuing to fall further behind.

Early on, it was clear that this race was something new for me. I wasn't breathing very hard at all during most of the race except a few uphills, but my legs were just too dead to go any faster, most specifically, my hip flexors felt like they were at the end of a marathon instead of the beginning of a half marathon.

Free photos -- at the Crucible
I ended up walking through the aid stations, and just keeping whatever pace I could manage, which by mile 8 was 12:04/mile.  I got through miles 9 and 10 with a few walk breaks, letting my average pace decrease to 12:20/mile, assuming that I'd be able to pick it up at the end.

And, then, a guy in an orange shirt who had been in front of me stutter stepped off the course, between two parked cars and onto the sidewalk.  His hands went to his knees and then he kind of leaned against an electric pole.  As I ran by, I asked, "Are you okay?" expecting him to look up and waive me on.

Instead, he moaned, "Nooo.." and then coughed and gagged.  I asked if he wanted medical attention and he said yes.  So, I ran as fast as I could (turns out, according to my garmin I could run at a 6:45 pace when I think I'm unable to muster up anything better than a 12 minute mile) for 200 meters or so, and asked the course volunteer to call the paramedics.  People behind me came up waiving at the volunteer, yelling that there was a sick puking dude, all asking her to call, and it was chaotic for a minute or so while we assured them that she was on it.

The starting chute is very narrow, so the 11 minute/mile 
folks didn't cross the line 'til 2+ minutes after the gun
A nurse came up and told me I should go back to my "friend" and stay with him and make sure he sat upright instead of standing or laying down until the paramedics came.  I explained that I didn't know him, and the nurse looked pained as if he didn't want to go back, but someone really should, so I just said something along the lines of, "it's fine, I'm having a terrible race anyways, I'll go sit with him."  So, that's what I did.  And I guess it was a good idea because someone tried to be helpful and give the heaving, retching dude (dude thought it was probably dehydration) a Cliff shot with no water, and he kind of groggily took it and looked at it like he was pondering the existence of the Universe, but that he just might take it.  So, I thanked them but explained that it was probably a choking hazard and also may not sit well given the nausea -- as some people can't keep those things down without any medical issues. Dude just let it fall from his hand.  Eventually, the paramedics came and dude was more coherent, so I left, run-walking a bit until my Garmin beeped to let me know it was going into power-save mode because I'd accidentally stopped it when I thought I'd restarted it as I got back on the course. (In hindsight, this race stop was all about paying it forward from my Market Street Angel.)

My hips had really tightened up due to the stop.  The sun was out.  And I was supremely unmotivated.  But the course is pretty remote, so there was nothing I could really do except finish.  I ran-walked my way through the last 2.9 miles at an average pace of 14:14 and gave myself silly goals to pass the time, like, "See that run-walker up ahead, let's pass them."  And, "Run to that power-up sign, tap it, and keep running until you are far enough away that you don't feel bad walking."  Eventually, I started to feel much better and my running in the last 2 miles was back under 12 minutes/mile, which meant I was passing people consistently.  The final 2 goals I set for myself were pretty funny:

First, there was a landshark who'd passed while I was helping the dude.  He was ahead of me but quite visible and he was walking more and more as time passed.  It was probably 70F+ at this point, and I was hot in my tank top and shorts. I assume he was very, very hot.  I decided I would run to him, get a selfie, and then run until the finish.

Thanks, Landshark!

Then, there were the East Bay Beer Runners handing out shots of beer.  "I've never had beer during a run," I thought.  So I stopped for that, too, telling myself that unless the beer made me loopy I had to run the rest of the way to the finish.  Surprisingly, the beer wasn't gross at all.  It was kind of refreshing, actually (although not as refreshing as the on-course Gatorade Endurance Lemon Lime).  And then, I just ran to the finish and laughed at the 2:55 on the clock.  Final result: 2:52:53 chip time (13:11/mile).  My garmin has a total time of 2:46:15, but that includes some of the time helping the dude, and doesn't include some of the time on the actual course, so who knows what my actual average running/on-course pace was.  

And now, thanks to Neely, here's my gratitude take instead of my disappointed take.  First, I love this race -- it has such a great vibe.  I love the city of Oakland and I love the chance to visit and see how it's changed every year.  I love that doing this race gives me an opportunity to eat delicious noodles with my college roommate the night before the race.

Marufuku Ramen -- so delicious!
I have a new PR -- 2:52 is now my on-course-medical-assistance-landshark-beer PR.

And *of course* I got to catch up with Jen and enjoy post-race brunch with a friend, which is always one of my favorite things in the world.

PC: Jen
I was *super* sore and exhausted after this race.  I pretty much slept on the drive back and didn't move off the couch once home until bedtime.  In hindsight, it was probably a blessing that I let my time goals go, because I don't think I was supposed to run fast (for me) yesterday.  Perhaps running a race pace (and the last 2 miles faster 10K) 7 days out from a half marathon, *and* running a 9:05/mile 12-minute cooper test in the wind 4 days out was not the right way to prepare my legs for this half marathon.  My legs were sore for 2 days from the cooper test, and I don't think you are supposed to feel like that 3 and 2 days before a half marathon.

With all of that, I'm going to reframe and just call this a reasonable super-easy long run in my pursuit of a 5K decade PR.  I never really struggled cardiovascularly, which was quite pleasant, and tells me that I'm much more cardiovascularly fit than at other times in the past when I've had to push it to keep my pace below 12 minutes/mile at the end of a half.

My target race is now the Run Rocklin 5K on April 7, where I'm very hopeful I can better my decade PR.  My big goal is sub 29.  Wish me luck.

March 17, 2019

San Jose Shamrock Run, Lead-up and 1st Year Race Report

I was looking forward to a nice mellow week.  We were home and had no plans.

Woke in time for the sunrise on race day.
While work was fairly busy in terms of leftover obligations from Montana, I knew from the past that it would be a good catch-up week because, like Burning Man, a non-trivial subset of my clients attend SXSW and while they are there, they aren't focused on work that needs my attention.  Also, two of my busiest clients hinted that they would be taking the week to enjoy the snow and go skiing with their families, so I knew they wouldn't be scheduling calls or pushing me too hard.

Ground turkey, ancini di pepe, garden greens, straciatella style soup -- 
race tested and approved, like Asian noodle soup, this is a good pre-race meal.

I took advantage of the flexibility and managed my first 30+ mileage week of the year (30.65).  Notable workouts included:

1. A 3 miler with just my phone's stopwatch (Garmin was dead), averaging 10:55/mile -- close enough to what I wanted to run in today's 10K "race" that I was pleased.

2. A long run with just my phone's stopwatch (Garmin may be needing a replacement...) for 9.87 miles at 12:15/mile.  The goal had been 12 miles, but at the 2 hour mark, unfueled and starting to battle nausea, I called it and opted to walk to the nearest restaurant for food.

3. A day before the race mini-track-workout of 3.07 miles total, with a half mile jog to the track for some short quality work of 1 mile at 5K pace; 4X 200 RI/200 targeting sub 8 min/mile.  I have to say, this workout surprised me -- I felt great.  I was trying to thread the needle between getting in some quality and not destroying my legs before the race, and I think I did a good job of it.  Have I mentioned I love having a track a 1/2 mile from the house?

4. And, of course, there was my first running of, and the organizer's first hosting of, today's 10K race.

The planned for course was a 10K consisting of 5K on the roads of San Jose plus a nice out and back along the Guadalupe River Trail.  While California is celebrating that it is completely out of drought for the first time in 7 years, the trail we were supposed to run on is currently flooded. I have to hand it to Represent Running -- they took it in stride, and made last minute changes to keep the race going, including large on-course routing signs directing us through a modified course (essentially twice the urban 5K) to avoid the flood.

There were a *few* turns...
There's a 2:20 pace group at the Oakland Running Festival, so, I've been flirting with trying to hang with them as my A goal.  With that in mind, my goal for today's "race" was to run a good race-effort tempo to confirm that I wasn't insane with this plan.  I decided to keep all my miles sub 10:40, and ratchet down the pace towards the end, if possible.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how I executed:

Did I really run this 1-wk out pre-race tempo 10K run faster than the raced Kaiser 10K a month ago?
Probably not... (The course was *probably* short. My Garmin thought so, too.)
The finish of this race had two annoying things.  First?  A false finish.  When you turn the last corner and you see the arch?  That is not your finish.  If you are me and you push towards it as if you are done, you will be disappointed.  Instead, you need to keep running until you see this:

Pre-race photo of the *actual* finish

Second?  I'm almost certain the course was short.  My Garmin had it at 5.94 miles, which, even accounting for GPS errors in the tall building corridors and overpasses is still quite short (4.2%). Given all of the turns on the course, I'd actually expect to register a *long* course as I definitely couldn't run the tangents on the first loop with all of the people of varying paces around me.  Also, I just don't think I made the effort necessary to run a 1:01:37 10K today.

Start and finish by the picturesque San Pedro Square

But, honestly, those are my only two complaints. It was a well-run race.  The second issue is probably entirely due to the last minute re-routing and they did a good job making the most of the mess they had.  Given the flooding and the obligation to re-route within the previously permitted closed roads, a slight deviation is completely understandable.

Of the many pluses, the weather was a perfect (for me) cool start in the high 40s and the finish was comfortable, but never felt warm, even in the direct sun in the last mile.

The Schwag comes in *all* the greens!
The shirt was thin and high-quality (although the colors were somewhat questionable due to the St. Patrick's theme).  The post race food/drink seemed good (water, goldfish, gummy bears, kind bars) plus there's a Guiness coupon, but I didn't use it, so I'm not sure what kind of drink it was for.

A free race photo -- never the most flattering, but proof that it happened.
They even had free photos.  Of course, free photos are usually taken from the ground (not expensive overhangs), which is not exactly the most flattering angle.  But, they are free, and well-focused, so that's a bonus.
Same weekend, same chin, very different angle.
Overall, I was very happy with my race today, not the least because I met up with Angela before and after, and while we failed to get a photo, we did catch up over delicious post-race huevos rancheros.  Any time I get post-race brunch and catch-up with a friend, it just feels like a perfectly accomplished day.

March 11, 2019

Progress at home, and in Montana

Lone Mountain Peak, Big Sky Montana
Two weeks ago, I put in a nice running buildup week for the Oakland Running Festival half marathon.  Only 21.52 miles total on my feet, but it included a hilly hike with a friend, some decent shorter faster intervals (always good to see 7 in the minutes place on my pace), and, finally, a 9.4 mile long run.  Also, I dragged myself back to the yoga studio, putting me on track for a yoga session at the studio an average of every 2.5 weeks so far this year.

I have enjoyed returning to a more regular yoga practice, so in addition to my 2019 running and protein source goals, I think I'll add a goal of 20 yoga studio sessions to the list (4 down, 16 to go).

After the week of positive running momentum, I hopped on a plane and headed to Montana for our annual ski week with E's family.

It was the *COLDEST* ski trip I've ever taken.
Highs in the single digits.
Most of the ski towns where we stay don't have good gyms and running in the snow is not usually an option.  So, instead of running, I try to fit in whatever workouts other than skiing make sense and take it as a down week.

I grew up skiing from age 4 - 13.  My gymnastics coach demanded that I stop when I was 13 because if I was going to get injured from something, he wanted it to be gymnastics (I'm sort of joking, but not really).  It wasn't too hard to comply since I didn't really have much time to ski between school, coaching, practice, and competitions.

After I quit gymnastics, I tried snowboarding in college and quickly reverted to being a skier, as it was clear I'd have to spend a few painful seasons boarding before I became even remotely close to as good of a boarder as I was a skier.  I did a few college ski trips (including one memorable one where I was the *only* person in a car full of boarding bros who knew how to put on snow chains) and then I stopped skiing once the college ski club was not part of my life.

Yellowstone National Park in the Winter is very beautiful

Fast forward several years, and I'm dating E.  It turns out, E's family does a week long ski trip every year and they invite me along.  Ever since then, with very few exceptions, I've returned to being a skier, if only for one week, once a year.  It's been a great source of fun and joy in my life.  But, I've definitely got a healthy respect for the dangers of the sport and I'm much less aggressive than I was when I was 13 (when I was the best I'll ever have been).

Last year, in Telluride, I didn't get in much running due to having just dislocated my shoulder the weekend before we went.  I also didn't ski (due to the shoulder as well).  So, it was a very low-key week on the workout side of things.  
42 minutes of speedwork/recovery on a treadmill at 7,500 ft 
results in *much* less distance than at sea level
This year, I was on the fence about whether I would ski or not.  My fear was that if I were to fall, it was likely I'd dislocate again and potentially injure the structure of my shoulder.  In its current incarnation, I do not need surgery.  If the frequency of dislocation increases, I will.

The medical recommendations I've gotten are to push out surgery as long as I can (with shoulder strengthening work and avoiding activities that cause problems) in hopes that I can have one more reconstruction and not have to go down the multiple surgeries route.

I'd also forgotten that I didn't really have the freedom not to work the whole week, so between my injury fears and professional obligations, I settled on a tentative plan of 1 full day of skiing, 1 day in Yellowstone, and the rest of the days working and fitting in whatever I could.
Petrified trees soaked up the minerals from the geothermal features.
Hard to date, but probably at least 1,000 years old.
Big Sky, Montana is beautiful!  But, boy was it cold.  According to the lifties, Bozeman set records for the coldest temperatures in March since 1955 while we were there.

I had such a good time skiing on Tuesday (remembering that I'm actually a pretty decent skier, and as long as I ski conservatively, I'm unlikely to fall) that I moved my work obligations around and rented gear for a second day on Friday.  Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great, so I settled for a half day and didn't go back out after lunch.

All told, I managed 2 treadmill workouts, 2 days of skiing, one shoulder strength session, 1 core/strap stretching session (to keep the peace with my traitorous left leg) and a short run at target half marathon pace on Sunday after we returned.  The week at elevation probably did some good for my fitness as well.  As expected, time with family from the South and in Montana means I had 6 servings of red meat in 8 days instead of the annual average target of less than 2 per week.  There will be lots of running and vegetarian/fish meals in the last 2 weeks before the Oakland Half Marathon.