"We run when we're scared, we run when we're ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time." Christopher McDougall (Born to Run)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting Back in the Saddle Post-Pregnancy

Last night I went running for the first time in months and it felt absolutely amazing.  My daughter Madison was born just under seven weeks ago on October 12.   I continued running for the few months of my pregnancy but stopped running in the fifth month.  Instead, I used the elliptical machine and continued with long hikes for the duration of my pregnancy.  I also continued doing an abbreviated weight lifting routine during my entire pregnancy (mainly biceps, triceps, and quads).   However, in the first four weeks after Madison was born, I barely got any exercise other than short neighborhood walks.     And as we all know, pregnancy destroys your ab muscles so I have a lot of work to do to regain my core strength.

As a person who has exercised regularly since I was in grade school, it was a strange feeling to have to start from scratch with a workout routine.  After Madison was born I first started with short walks around the neighborhood, then I gradually took longer and longer walks.  Next, I started hiking again and this past weekend I went on a 2 hour hike while also carrying Madison in the carrier (she is about 11-12 pounds now).  Last night I finally went on my first run!!!  I tend to really watch the clock when running on a treadmill so I chose to run outside.  I stuck to neighborhood streets and stayed close to my house in the event I got a half mile away and felt like death.  To my surprise, running felt a lot better than I expected.  I just ran two miles to start.  My hips ached, my knees were a little sore, and my pace was excruciatingly slow compared to a year ago, but my breathing was not that labored and when I finished the run I felt like I could have kept going.  
The Goal and the Plan:
When I got pregnant I immediately set a running goal for after the arrival of Madison.  My goal was, and still remains, to run the half marathon in the Oakland Running Festival on March 24, 2013.  I put together a 16 week training plan to ensure I meet my target.  Below is a summary of the current plan:

                  Long Run 
Week 1:     4 miles  
Week 2:     4 miles
Week 3:     5 miles
Week 4:     5 miles
Week 5:     6 miles
Week 6:     6 miles
Week 7:     7 miles
Week 8:     7 miles
Week 9:     8 miles
Week 10:   8 miles
Week 11:  10 miles
Week 12:   8  miles
Week 13:  12 miles
Week 14:  No Long Run - Ski Trip to Utah
Week 15:  10 miles
Week 16:   8 miles
Week 17:   Half Marathon!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oakland Running Festival Releases 2012 Routes

Recently the Oakland Running Festival issued a press release concerning changes to the 2012 course route, found here

The start/finish line will be moved to Snow Park and the Festival’s 5K race will take place on the same day as its other running events on Sunday, March 25th.  Snow Park is a really nice City park that sits at the corner of 19th and Harrison and is directly to the west of Lake Merritt, and often goes unused (except for the most recent use by the Occupy Oakland movement). 

Other than the move of the start/finish line, the course remains basically the same.  Part of the reason for the move to Snow Park is that the event has experienced a 43% increase in runner registrations compared to this date last year, and Frank Ogawa Plaza would not be large enough to accomodate the planned increase in the number of race participants.

Here are links to the 2012 course maps.
- Full Marathon Course Map
- Half Marathon Course Map

Regarding registration, both of the early registration deadlines have passed.  Currently, the remaining deadlines are March 16 and registration at the Expo (most expensive).

                           March 16 / Expo
Marathon:               $ 110 / 130
4-Person Relay:    $ 250 / 270
Half Marathon:       $ 90 / 110
5K Race:                 $ 40 / 50
Fun Run:                 $ 15 / 15

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fighting the Urge to Compare

The Urge to Compare
Last night I went to the gym to log a few miles on the treadmill.  I usually stretch for a few minutes while standing on the treadmill before I get going.  Last night, as I was stretching a tall, thin, young woman got on the treadmill to the left of mine and started running.  By the sound of her feet thumping against the rubber tread, I could tell she was going at a good clip.  Per usual, I took a peek at her treadmill monitor to see how fast she was going and saw she was close to a 7:30 minute mile (m/m).  Most of the time the people on the treadmills are running a 10 or 11+ m/m, which of course makes me feel great since I usually run around an 8:45 or 9 m/m, but this chick was haulin' berries!  I was instantly impressed, but also instantly thinking that I needed to pick up the pace. 

I set out to do a short 3 mile run.  I started out at around a 8:55 m/m pace, and then incorporated .25 to .5 mile intervals at 8:20 m/m, and in the end added some 8:00 m/m intervals.  While running, I looked over at Wonder Woman and saw that she was now running a 7:20 m/m, making me feel even slower.  Luckily, at some point a woman got on the treadmill to my right and was running somewhere around a 10:30-11:00 minute mile, which made me feel slightly less worthless.  All-in-all, Wonder Woman actually motivated me to both run a little faster and avoid taking any walking breaks, which was a good result.  But that is not always the case.

I'd like to say this was the first time that I actively compared my speed to others at the gym, but that would be a bald-faced lie.  I often look over at the other treadmill monitors to gage whether in the stupid hypothetical treadmill race in my head, I would be winning or losing.  Thus, the inspiration for this posting on fighting the urge to compare. . . .

I don't know what it is about how I was raised, or whether it is some biological instinct within me that I cannot control, but I am constantly making comparisons in my head.  This often causes me to be overly competitive in stupid arenas, such as the treadmill example or in a game of Monopoly or Scrabble.  Yes, I am fully aware of how ridiculous it is, so much so that I thought it might be funny to write about. 

Frequency and Popularity of Making Comparisons
Sometimes making a comparison is normal, even required, such as comparing car models prior to a new purchase or comparing the success rates of one new drug against another in a drug trial.  But often the urge to make comparisons can have negative repercussions.  For example, often we compare ourselves to others as a means of proving why we are better or worse off or substantiating something we did or failed to do.  In the treadmill example, I felt worse when confronted by a faster runner and better when confronted by a slower runner.  The media, in particular, constantly draws comparisons of people in an almost obsessive fashion at times.  In fact, after every single Hollywood award ceremony, television shows, magazines, and websites are devoted, for some brief period, entirely to deciding who was the best and worst dressed.   In the current pre-election cycle for the 2012 presidential election, we constantly hear superficial and substantive comparisons of the various political candidates.

In the past year, I've thought a lot about the positive and negative implications of making comparisons in the context of running, both personally and with others.  In many instances comparisons motivate us to train harder and run faster, but in other situations it can be self-destructive or even frighten people away from running entirely.

When Running Comparisons Are Harmful
I've heard countless stories from a host of different people about how they cannot run, or could never run a 10K, half-marathon, or marathon.  Two years ago, I myself said on a number of occasions that I couldn't picture running a half marathon.  And only a year or so ago I said that I couldn't see myself running a marathon.  On both occasions, I placed these limitations on myself because I compared myself to all the people I knew who had run a half-marathon or a marathon and determined that I wasn't the type of person that could run a marathon.  As I learned, that comparison was complete horse-shit.  Last year I ran three half-marathons and this past September I finished my first full marathon.  When I meet people who tell me how they couldn't possibly run a specified distance, I like to tell this story.  Lesson: Avoid using comparisons as a means of placing unnecessary limitations on yourself.

When Running Comparisons Are Helpful
In a race you are given a rank according to your overall finish times among all runners and those in your age group.  Race ranks can provide motivation to a lot of people (myself included) by providing runners with a goal such as finishing in the top of an age group, or perhaps just trying not to be the last finisher.  Race results can also provide feelings of self-satisfaction, especially for rock star runners like Wonder Woman on the treadmill, or for those lucky SOBs that find themselves in a group of slow runners in a particular race.  I recently got lucky and placed third in my age-group.  I was, unabashedly, super excited upon learning this news.

But, race ranks do not provide a runner with an evaluation of his or her objectively based performance, and for this reason can be disappointing in that they fail to recognize each individual runner's personal achievement.  As an example: even though you cut 5 minutes off your time for a set distance, your race rank could go down if the runners in the second race are generally faster than those from the first race.  Luckily, the concept of a "PR" in running is given a great deal of attention--at least in running magazines--offering runners a means of gaging their own improvement without making any comparisons to others.  Thus, where you cut 5 minutes off your time, but your race rank is in the toilet, you still have bragging rights for setting a new PR.  Advice:  Use comparisons when they motivate you, but avoid comparisons that undervalue your personal achievements. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recent Races: Mt. Diablo Trail Adventure 10K Race and New Year's Eve 10K Race

During the past three months since the Half Moon Bay marathon I have been taking it easy, but I have been getting outside to run here and there, and I even ran two 10K races. After completing the marathon I wanted to let my body rest, enjoy my weekends, and take a break from training for a little while. That said, I didn't want to completely lose the level of fitness that I gained during the past year.

After a month went by, I found that without an upcoming race scheduled, I had lost some of my motivation to log more miles both during the week and on the weekends. During marathon training I had avoided doing steep trails and focused on logging miles on flat surfaces. But now I had the freedom to sign up for anything, without fearing that it would disrupt my training. So I decided I would sign up for a a few local and low-key trail races to finish out 2011.

Brazen Mt. Diablo Trail Adventure 10K
On November 6, 2011 I ran in the Mt. Diablo Trail Adventure 10k (6.2 miles) race. In advance of the race I emailed a few of my friends who enjoy running. Come race day, my husband and four friends, and one of those friend's daughter participated in either the 10k or the 5k race! Below is a picture of all of us from after the race.
The route included two steep ascents with two equally steep descents. The route was entirely on dirt packed trails and was absolutely beautiful. My friend Julie and I ran together, and she ended up really helping me to push my pace faster. She and I finished at the same time and we both placed third in our age groups (we are a few years apart)!!! I actually thought I placed fourth in my age group but when I checked the race results page they updated the information and it listed me as being in third place! That was first time I've ever gotten a medal in a race! Below is a link to my Garmin information for the race.
Brazen New Year's Eve 10K at Lake Chabot 
The last race that I ran in 2011 was the Brazen Racing New Year's Eve 10K race at Lake Chabot. This race was also a steep trail run, but a portion of it was on paved walking trails. The route included one long climb from mile 2 through mile 3.5, followed by an equally steep descent from mile 3.5 through 5. 

This time I was again joined by some great friends. My husband ran the 10k with me, our neighbors and friends ran the half marathon race, and my friend who ran the Mt. Diablo 5k with her daughter, came back for this race and ran in the 5K again with her daughter. Below is my Garmin information for the race. This time I ended up placing ninth out of 41 runners (no medal) in my age group.

Recap on Half Moon Bay Marathon - September 25, 2011

On September 25, 2011 I ran in the inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon, and finished!  It is still hard for me to believe that I finally completed a full marathon, and I am still really thankful that I was able to do it considering the issue I had with my Peroneal tendons.  I am also thankful that I was able to fit in my long training runs and that I never had any real disasters during training, except for one long run where I definitely had an electrolyte imbalance and mild heat exhaustion.   It has taken me about six weeks to finally sit down and write a post, but here it is.

Night Before

The night before we went to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and I had a grilled chicken sandwich with french fries, and a small 12 oz beer in honor of my husband's birthday that day (September 24). My husband had the beer sampler, which looked delicious. After dinner, back in our hotel room, I had some Annie's Honey Bunny Grahams and dipped them in peanut butter - pretty delicious.  We watched some half-decent movie on cable in the hotel room and then went to bed around 9:30 p.m.

Morning of the Race

My memory is getting a little foggy now on the details, but I believe that I got out of bed at around 5 a.m. the morning of the race. I took a hot shower, and had coffee, a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, and probably a few other small items (likely a few Annie's Honey Bunnies Grahams), and drank some water.

I filled my CamelBak with Gu Brew for the race.  I was worried about my electrolyte balance since I experienced some problems with that on one of my longest run (discussed in a prior post).  I also packed Gu Energy Gels, Espresso Love and Vanilla Bean, which tastes like cake batter, yum!  The race started at 7:00 a.m., so we started walking to the starting line from the hotel around 6:30 a.m.

Photo taken a few minutes before the race started.

The setting of the course was absolutely beautiful. The majority of the course was on dirt packed trails along the coast.  The beginning of the course had a grouping of small steep hills, probably starting at around mile 2.3 through mile 9.  Then the course was flat until about mile 16 or 17, at which point there was another grouping of hills around the Ritz Carlton.  Below is information about the course from my Garmin watch, followed by a few photos of the course.

View of the course looking south right after the race started.

I finished in 4 hours and 28 minutes, with a 10:14 minute mile average pace.  I had hoped to run closer to a 10:00 minute mile, but in the end I was happy to have finished.  Below is a shot of me crossing the finish line!

I didn't experience any pain (or if any very slight) in my ankle or in my hips during the race, which was great.  At one point I think I twisted my ankle, but it did not hurt until after I finished the race.  I was limping the rest of the day after the race and the following day, but after putting my entire foot in an ice bath the following evening, the pain completely went away!!  All-in-all, it was a really successful race!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Countdown to Half Moon Bay

Less than two days until the inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon! We leave for Half Moon Bay Saturday mid-day and will be staying at a hotel only 0.4 miles from the starting line of the race.

This past week I've done my best to sleep more, eat relatively well, and not drink any alcohol. I did a nice interval run on Wednesday and today, Friday, I am going to do an easy 2 mile run with a little bit of elliptical. Tomorrow, I plan on either resting completely or doing an easy 2-3 mile run.

Saturday I am hoping to see Scott Jurek speak at the Expo. Saturday night, Adam and I are going to eat at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Big One

This past Sunday was the longest of the long runs in my marathon training plan: a 22 mile run. Here is a recap of how it went.

Preparation, or Lack Thereof

The week leading up to the run was perhaps the busiest five-day period I experienced at work, ever. I squeezed in a short work out Thursday morning, but otherwise did not exercise during the week. Thursday night I never went home and instead had to work through the entire night. I did, luckily, go home early on Friday and took a nap. Needless to say, I did not have a chance to prepare for my long run in the manner I had hoped (i.e. a few good but short runs, ample stretching, and sufficient sleep). I also did not plan out my running route or check my supply of running fuel (obvious foreshadowing here) -mistake number one.

Morning of the Run

Sunday morning came along and instead of waking up early and hitting the pavement, I slept in. And here we have mistake number two. As I lied in bed Sunday morning, looking for any excuse to hit snooze on my alarm clock, I seized upon the following excuse: it was more important to recoup the sleep I lost Thursday night than it was to get up early and run during the cooler hours of the day. Well, all I can say is that this excuse sounded entirely rational at the time.

After waking up late, I made a third mistake, I decided to run on the Iron Horse Trail (IHT). I was toying with either running on the Bay Trail or the IHT, but chose the IHT because it was a much simpler and more straightforward route. Because I've never gone more than 10 miles on the Bay Trail, I wasn't entirely sure how I would piece together a 22 mile run without doing loops. Also, the Bay Trail has no water fountains while the IHT has several on the northern end of the trail. I ran out of water for my 19 mile run a few weeks ago while on the IHT and ended up using the water fountains a lot during the last several miles. I checked the weather forecast for Walnut Creek and Danville, and it said that it will only be around 77 degrees at 1pm. I could handle 77 degrees. The decision was made, I would run on the IHT.

Thankfully, no mistakes were made with regard to the pre-run meal. Breakfast that morning consisted of a peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich, a small amount of coffee with soy milk, and a glass of water.

As I gathered my things to head out the door, I realized I only had two GU gels, which was definitely not enough for a four hour run. I drove to the local running store only to find out they would not open for several more hours. I then scrambled home to search for any GU gels that I might have missed earlier in the morning (and get my Garmin watch, which I forgot to grab). I found no additional GU gels or Chomps. I did have a single granola bar, but I knew that if I ate that during the run my stomach would revolt. Finally, I called my brother-in-law and was able to borrow two gels from him.

The Run
I finally got on the road at 10:15 a.m., almost two hours later than the time I left the house for my 19 mile run a few weeks ago. As soon as I drove through the Caldecott tunnel into Orinda, the cool and refreshing mist hovering over Oakland and Berkeley was nowhere to be seen. Instead, an almost cloudless sky lay overhead. My stress level increased ever so slightly. But I could not turn around. We had a big dinner planned that night and there was no way in hell I would be in a better position to run tomorrow morning. There was no turning back.

I finally arrive at the IHT. It is 10:45 a.m. and it is already warm, not hot, but warm, probably somewhere around 70 degrees. The majority of the IHT was drenched in sun. I took every opportunity I could to run in the shade, when shade was available. But only a few miles of the trail had consistent shade. After only 5 miles I tore off my tank top and just ran in my sports bra. By the time I reached the half-way point of 11 miles I was really tired and pretty damn hot but still had energy left.

When I got to 18 miles I began feeling nauseous and slightly light-headed. At one point I really thought I was going to vomit, but I did not--thank god! To this day I have not vomited during a run. I stopped for a few minutes under a tree to rest and do a self-assessment. The last thing I wanted was to faint from heat exhaustion. I started back up again, but for the last three miles I ended up doing a combination run/walk. I would run for maybe a half mile, then walk for a few minutes, then run another half mile, then walk for a few minutes. I ran the last half mile and finished the full 22 miles. One great thing about the run is that I had no pain in my left hip and no pain in my feet or my ankle, and for that I was very thankful. I did not finish the run until around 3pm--meaning I ran during the hottest hours of the day--what an idiot I am. I checked the temperature when I finished the run and it was about 84 degrees. I know, that does not sound very hot, but after 22 miles I felt really uncomfortable.


For several hours after the run I did not feel right. I know, who the hell feels "right" after running their first 22 mile run? But, I am not referring to fatigue or muscle soreness, but something else. I drank a few glasses of water and had a protein shake. But then I started feeling nauseous again. I started thinking that my electrolyte balance was off. We had plans to get drinks and then dinner, with a departure time of around 6pm. I quickly drank a small glass of salt water but then had to leave the house.

When we got to the bar I ordered some olives (for the salt content) and had a small 12 oz beer. After eating two small dishes of deliciously salty green olives I finally started to feel better. At dinner I also felt fine. I had only a little bit of wine with dinner (well two small glasses), and otherwise only had green tea and a lot of water. The only thing that persisted through the evening was that my face felt like it was on fire all night--like I had a sunburn, but I didn't.

Then came the late hours of the night. I initially fell asleep, but then found I could not sleep sometime after 1 a.m. I was really hot and my face still felt like it was sunburned. I finally got up and turned on the fan, but found that I still couldn't sleep and then realized I was really thirsty. Eventually, at around a quarter to 3 a.m. I got up and went to the kitchen and read about the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I drank a full glass of water, then realized that I had some free samples of electrolyte drink mix. I poured another glass of water and added the electrolyte mix, ate half a banana, and cooled my face with an ice cube. I got back in bed around 3:15 and was able to fall asleep after a half-an-hour or so. Today I felt fine.

And there you have it, the full story. The Half Moon Bay International Marathon is now less than three weeks away. After this past weekend, I am relieved that I chose a marathon with a coastal route, as there is no chance it will be hot in the morning. If anything, I will likely be cold for the first several miles. My remaining long runs are not very long at all, one 13 mile run, and one 8-10 mile run the weekend prior to the race.

Lessons Learned From Sunday's Run:
(1) Always plan out the route for a really long run (especially a new distance) at least one day in advance;
(2) Check on your GU gel supply prior to the morning of the run;
(3) By all means get your ass out of bed and run early when running for more than two hours; and
(4) Do not underestimate the heat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Iron Horse Trail - 19 Mile Run

Last Saturday I ran 19 miles on the Iron Horse Trail. I began the run around 9:15 am in Danville, ran south through San Ramon, then turned around and ran north up to the south side of Walnut Creek, and then back to where I started. I finished the run sometime around 12:40. The last hour or so of the run I did my best to run underneath the shadows of the trees along the trail, but many stretches of the trail were soaked in sunlight. Below is a map of the route I took.

I have not widely broadcasted that I signed up for the Inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon on September 25, 2011. I signed up a few weeks ago just prior to the event selling out. I have been superstitious about the marathon distance after getting injured back in May, and now I've been experiencing soreness in my right foot since the 16 miler. But, the reason I ran 19 miles is because I am training with my eyes set on running the Half Moon Bay marathon.

I originally planned to run 18 miles, but around mile 10 I started thinking that my last mile jump was from 13 to 16 (3 miles) with a lower mileage week in between. If I wanted my longest run prior to the Half Moon Bay marathon to be 22 miles, it would not be a good idea to do an increase of 4 miles for my next run (18-22). But, if I ran 19 miles, I would have consistent 3 mile increases in mileage (16-19-22). Hopefully, I'll be in a position to run the full 22 miles. From a confidence standpoint, it felt great to finish 19 miles last weekend. A year ago if someone told me I was going to run 19 miles in August 2011, I probably wouldn't have believed him/her. A year ago this time, I hadn't even run 10 miles yet.

For the 19 mile run my pace was 9:54 - with a moving time of 3:07:22. But including all my breaks for water/GU/stoplights, the total elapsed time was 3:20:09, meaning all of my breaks put together totalled 13 minutes, making my actual pace around a 10:30 pace. I'm pretty sure the majority of the breaks occurred in the last 6 miles. My Camelbak was running low on water so I started to stop at the water fountains.

The weekend of September 3/4 is the 22 mile run --the longest run prior to the marathon. After that I get to taper my mileage prior to the marathon. I'm anxious to get the 22 miles done with!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quick Update

I am very excited today because while I still have some slight soreness in my foot, I do not think it is anything serious. Earlier in the week I was really nervous that I had a new injury to deal with, but the bruise has gone away and the pain has significantly decreased.

I took a few days off this week and iced the bottom of my right foot to help the inflammation go down. On Tuesday night I just rode the bike at the gym. Yesterday morning I ran a quarter mile to see whether I experienced any pain during or after. I had absolutely no pain at all! Last night I rode the bike and then ran just 1 mile (per Dr. Jess's orders) at the gym and again had no pain during or after! This weekend I had originally planned on running 13 miles, but I will probably only run 6-9 miles just to give my body a rest. The weekend of August 20/21 is when I'll run my first 18 miler and I want to make sure I am feeling strong for that run.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sonoma 16 Mile Run

Last Friday, August 5th, I went on my first ever 16 mile run! We were away for the weekend so I had to find a route in the area we were staying. The route was in the town of Sonoma. I coasted through vineyards, farms, a little bit of high-traffic roadway, and then the lovely downtown Sonoma and residential area around the town. I averaged a 9:48 minute/mile, faster than I thought. I was actually aiming for a slow 10:00 to 10:15 min./mile pace.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning (almost 48 after the run) I woke up with pain in the bottom of my right foot. I cannot remember whether the pain started Saturday or not because I spent most of yesterday wine tasting and the effects of the wine may have dulled the pain. I do know that I had no pain in my foot during my run. Here is a photo of the bruise that formed on the bottom of my foot:

When I apply pressure to the spot where the bruise is located, it is really painful. However, I am able to walk with basically no pain. My foot ached on Sunday but hasn't really ached since then. There is only pain when pressure is applied directly. Sunday night I read some scary stuff online about tears to the plantar fascia and so I made an appointment with Dr. Jess for Monday (yesterday).

Dr. Jess looked at my foot/ankle and said she cannot be sure yet whether I tore the plantar fascia. She told me not to run for a few days, then run just a quarter mile and see how it feels the day after. If the pain doesn't spike or get worse, I can run a mile after another two days. She said I cannot do a long run this week. I will see her again next Tuesday. I am desperately hoping that the pain will resolve itself quickly and that I can return to doing long distance runs in a week or so.

I'll report back soon. Cross your fingers that this damn thing goes away!