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Posts from the ‘Marathon’ Category

The ‘after’ plan


This was last year, after my course best at See Jane Run in Alameda. It was a ridiculously hot day to race, but one that was made much better by champagne and a nice medal, with shoe laces attached, at the end.


I’m looking at a completely different, incredibly exciting reality now. Looking down at, I should say. This photo is from my prenatal massage, thanks to a gift card from my mom, earlier this week. At nearly 31 weeks, I’m waking up multiple times during the night and feeling rather uncomfortable in everything I do.

I’m not going to talk about weight gain, outside of saying that I’m carrying baby girl mostly in the front. My shirts would fit if I didn’t have a big baby bump in the way. My thighs are a little thicker, but I’m still wearing maternity jeans from the second trimester. Only now am I moving into larger shirts, just because the bump is growing more and more each week.

But overall, I’m not feeling a great urge to lose weight, yet. Maybe in the next nine weeks that will change.

I do, however, have a great want to get back to fitness. And running. And being able to actually do asanas at yoga without having to move my legs out to avoid my belly.

That’s why I’m incredibly grateful to have been chosen, for a second year, as an ambassador for See Jane Run. The Oakland-based running store hosts its San Francisco Bay Area run in Alameda on June 22 this year.

Baby girl should be about two months old by then. Last year I ran 13.1 miles.

seejanerunThis year, I’m planning on doing the 5K. My first run “back” and my first 5K in a very long time. I’m considering it a “baby” step for myself. I know the route, I know the parking situation. I know nearly everything about the location. It will be comfortable and fun, even if I am uncomfortable doing it (who knows what shape I’ll be in then).

I’d like to think I’ll be running more than a 5K by then.

Part of my plan is to be able to run twice that far to be on track to run the 2nd Half Marathon of the San Francisco Marathon on July 29.

Two races signed up for already.

Today, though, I got an email about the bigger picture for 2014. Let me make it clear: Baby girl’s arrival is going to be the biggest event of my year. My husband would agree.

But I want something else too: Another chance to earn a PR at California International Marathon in December.

Sign ups begin March 1. I’ll likely deliberate it for awhile before actually signing up, but I really, really want to run 26.2 again this year. I don’t know if that is even a feasible goal, but I’m hoping that it can and will happen.


I’d like to be back in Sacramento with my husband and baby girl taking on this year’s challenge.

To get there? Those baby steps I mentioned before. All starting with See Jane Run in June. It’s perfect that I’ll be surrounded by so many inspirational women my first race post birth. I can’t think of a better way to introduce baby girl to racing than at an event like See Jane Run.

The good news is that I have a 10-percent off coupon code for See Jane Run Alameda’s 5K and Half Marathon for my blog readers so that you can join the party to. Interested in signing? Use SJRAMB243 to secure the discount. Even better, the code is ALSO good for online or in-store purchases from See Jane Run and its website.

Plus, some of the Bay Area See Jane Run stores will be hosting kick off events on March 1 to celebrate the official start of race season and promotion of the awesome events.

The kickoff events begin at 8 a.m. at See Jane Run’s San Francisco, Oakland and Danville stores. Representatives from Moving Comfort, Altra Running and 2XU will be on site at each store (for more details about which presentation will happen at which store, click here). Each kickoff starts with a run, also walker friendly, and includes a clinic about half marathon and 5K training.

It’s time to get serious about training, or in my case start planning for the next step of training in my post-baby come back to running.

Tackling the ‘race even marathoners fear’

I was hoping that if I put off my race report, I could report that within days of running one of the toughest marathons in the country, I was back up and running.

The truth is I’m still nursing a very sore left hip. My toes still have blisters. And I only started being able to cross my legs again. I started hurting on the way home. I didn’t stop hurting until sometime on Wednesday.

I haven’t been as sore as I was this week since I ran my first marathon in 2011.

Five days after crossing the finish line, I’m not afraid to admit something I didn’t want to before: I was absolutely petrified to run this race. It sparked every bit of my anxiety. I had nightmares about getting to the start line and not having pants on.

Why? My thigh wasn’t at 100 percent. It wasn’t even at 80 percent. My cranky IT band wouldn’t settle down. And it’s a marathon. My fifth marathon. And, if everyone was right about San Francisco being a tough place to run a marathon, it was going to be a really difficult one.

I even told my husband that I’d be fine if he didn’t wake up, I was going to go back to sleep. If we hadn’t of stopped to take a breather at Treasure Island, where I used the portable toilets, put on sunscreen and got myself generally situated, I think I would have needed to breathe into a bag in my corral.

As it was, my husband dropped me off near the Embarcadero with only about 30 minutes to spare. My corral was literally shut behind me as we were all shifted down to the start. The daybreak revealed two things to me: 1) It was going to be a rare, sunny day in San Francisco. 2) It was going to be a “26.2” or bust kind of experience for me.


At around 6:30 a.m., we began, passing the finish line to get to the start.


Mile 1: 10:41 — The flattest part of the race is at the beginning and the end. This was the first time I’d run in more than a week. Yet, my hip had a little nagging pain in it. My whole plan for this race was that if I was truly in a lot of pain, I’d cut out at the half marathon point and call it a day.

Mile 2: 10:31 — Moving into the Marina District and up to the first hill, which is essentially just an up and down. I knew there was no way I could do a graduated run up the hills on this day. So I paced myself, I stopped and walked when I felt as if my leg was really going to suffer.

Mile 3: 11:26 — I started seeing the Golden Gate Bridge about now. I think most runners are really, really excited about this part. I hate saying this, but I’m not a fan on the bridge. There are slippery parts to it, most of which have covers, but it’s also a little isolating being on the bridge. The runners are so low on the span, too, that we often can’t see anything. But the bridge doesn’t come in this mile. It comes later. Gu in this mile.

Mile 4: 10:24 — I felt the Gu really perking me up. I know this is one of my final “flat” miles, so I try to push myself though here.

Mile 5: 10:45 — I nearly forget about my leg here, but when realizing that I need to climb one of the biggest hills in the race, I realize that my thigh is in more pain the beginning. And … if I manage to make it through this marathon, I still have 21 miles to go.

Mile 6: 12:47 — Up the hill and onto the bridge.

Mile 7: 10:45 — This time I actually feel the gradual incline of the bridge, it goes up and goes down.

Mile 8: 11:19 — I’m steadying my pace as we get into Marin County. I’m enjoying the experience on the bridge today, but I also know that I’m not even done with the first half yet. I start to kind of freak out about the whole thing, but I bring myself back down. Gu here again, with a lot of water. It’s sunny on the bridge. And warm. I’m starting to get dehydrated.

Mile 9: 11:08 — The little cups of water are just WAY to little in this race. Off the bridge now and back up a hill.

Mile 10: 11:46 — Another large hill. I slow down and stopped to refill my water bottle. I stopped at the wrong booth, though, and got a chalky-tasting energy drink.

Mile 11: 11:29 — All downhill here. The problem with the downhills in this race were that my leg just wasn’t having it. I felt I was floppy and uncoordinated on the downhills, especially near the end of the marathon.

Mile 12: 12:40 — Running through the neighborhoods toward the park.

Mile 13: 12:33 — The miles into the park are rolling, by the time I hit the park, I’m exhausted. I’m slowing down. I’m considering not finishing the marathon. My leg is starting to throb a little. Thirteen more miles of this? Maybe not so much.

Half marathon: 2:31:03

Mile 14: 10:44 — But I don’t stop. I keep going. The next few miles are a gradual uphill through Golden Gate Park, past the start for the Second Half Marathon, which was already underway.

Mile 15: 11:55 — I’m late in the marathon group, so there’s only marathoners for the first couple miles here. There’s a nice, steady stream of people.

Mile 16: 12:40 — I forgot a Gu somewhere, so I do one here.

Mile 17: 13:53 — This is when it gets hard. Marathoners spend six miles in Golden Gate Park. Six miles in the middle of the race. Six tough miles where you just want to get out of the park. I was tired. My body was already aching. I just wanted out of the park. I wanted me leg to stop hurting too.

Mile 18: 11:54 — And yet, I had to get around Stow Lake. I’ve only ever been around Stow Lake while running this race. I’m sure it’s beautiful and tranquil, but when I saw it I just wanted it to be over. Unfortunately there’s a loop around the whole thing. At one point, when you think you’re done, you see other runners and say: “Wow, they’re just starting out!” Then you realize that’s an area you HAVEN’T run yet.

Mile 19: 13:01 — We run past the 1st Half Marathon finish. I hate everyone right now.

Mile 20: 12:02 — Finally out of the park. FINALLY. A couple more uphills. Gu! Make me feel better please Gu!

Mile 21: 13:35 — And then we start the downhills. I would normally go at these aggressively. But I really, really slowed down.

Mile 22: 12:49 — It was literally one tiny footstep in front of the other.

Mile 23: 13:15 — Finally back into the less hilly part of the course. Another Gu. I was considering calling Thomas here, just to let him know where I was and that I likely wasn’t finishing in 5:30, which is when I told him I would probably come in. But … instead I suddenly realized I had to go to the bathroom. I only make marathon bathroom stops if I see an open stall. I did here, so I got in and out as fast as I could. This is also where I realized my leg really, really hurt. There was no “I’ll be fine tomorrow.” I feared that if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to walk either.

Mile 24: 12:13 —Battling a little here, but overall finishing stronger than I did in the San Luis Obispo Marathon.

Mile 25: 11:57 — I’m exhausted. Just trying to put on foot in front of the other. Gu. I needed one at that point.

Mile 26: 11:49 — But the finish line isn’t anywhere near me. What gives? I had realized how far off my Garmin was from the actual course until then.

Mile .51: 5:36 — That extra .31 was torturous for me. I should have just been done. In fact, mt 26.2 time was 5:12:40 which wasn’t too far off my SLO Marathon time (only about 20 seconds), but this course was difficult. And long. I thought I tried to run the tangents good. (Other people were pissed about the course length, missing Boston qualifying because of it, etc. I’m not as concerned about that, obviously. I ran a good race despite my leg constantly throbbing.)


I’m incredibly proud of that time. It was a tough marathon. I felt like I did my best running on a daunting course with a bad leg.

The finishers shoot wasn’t too crowded (with only about an hour left before the official end of the marathon). I collected my medal, a space blanket (even though it was warm), and headed down the shoot. I was handed a blueberry score from Panera. I also got a four-pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls, which I are later with some chicken my husband grabbed at a Safeway in San Francisco.

My husband had sent me a text message around mile 22 asking me if I was still alive. He found me at the finish line soon after I finished. I was sitting on a curb.


There’s the finish line under the San Francisco Bay Bridge.


Since San Francisco now charges to park on Sundays (lame!), Thomas and I headed back across the Bay Bridge and back into the East Bay en route to our home in Tracy. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and eat something.

I was more than happy just to stare at my race medal (I can’t be the only one who does this) and take a breather for the rest of the day before the True Blood season premiere.


I’ve received a “coaster” medal before, but this one is awesome. I earned it for those 26.51 miles on that course. I didn’t even feel bad about hanging it in front of my PR SLO Marathon medal.


The rest of the day, my legs were elevated and compressed. I swear my compression socks are the only reason I can walk after a long run. I love them more than I can relate.

That said, I wish I had a body “compression suit” for my stubborn little hip. It still hurts today. I’ve done some yard work on it, but I haven’t done any pounding. The problem is that I know it’s not broken. I now what a break feels like. I can put pressure on my leg. When my arm was broken, I’d recoil in pain the moment I put pressure on my arm. This isn’t a break.

It’s likely a bad strain. One that I’m reluctantly saying off of for at least another day. I’m itching to run again. But after five runs in a seven week period, I’m also willing to let my hip rest for a bit to put myself back together for September’s flatter Half Moon Bay International Marathon and, possibly, a half marathon in August.

The rest of my summer is about training, not racing. I’m looking forward to some downtime where a start line, and a finish line, isn’t in my future for a bit.

A new member of the ’52 Club’

“Worth the hurt” is the motto for the San Francisco Marathon. Today, I know why.

My whole body hurts. It’s not just my super angry IT band and left hip. It’s my lower back, my shoulders and my core. When I finished my 26.5-mile jaunt (that’s what the Garmin tallied) yesterday, I sent a message to one of my running buddies.

“I’m never doing this one again,” I wrote.

She’s pretty sure I will.

After resting my legs all week, which was it’s own cruel punishment, I pounded the pavement of San Francisco. I ran my second fastest marathon at 5:15:46. I’m still a little impressed that it went so well. I told my husband to expect me around 5:30.

“Or later,” I said when he dropped me off near the Embarcedero, which happened to have a full line of portable toilets without any lines outside of the security checkpoint. (This year, there were security checkpoints in place where runners were searched in light of what happened at April’s Boston Marathon).

I timed everything so well on Sunday morning that I had maybe at 15 minute wait in my corral before hitting the streets.

Immediately my leg started hurting, but it didn’t develop into a full-on “why are you doing this???” pain until about mile 18, which is where I normally hit “the wall.” Except my wall wasn’t a wall as much as a lake that I didn’t want to see and a park that I just wanted to escape after six miles.

In any case, I’m completely satisfied with my time. I don’t feel like the last two races were regressions at all. I’m proud of what I did out there in San Francisco, even if some of my miles had the 13-minute mark in front of them.

My finish also means I truly earned my “52 Club” sweatshirt. When I asked my husband to grab me a long-sleeve shirt from upstairs before he went to work this morning, he brought it to me.

“I’m awarding you the sweater,” he laughed.

My three medals above show my progression from 2011 (“I’ll run the second half because it’s less hilly”) to 2012 (“I’ll run the first half to complete the Half-It-All Challenge”) to this year (“Why shouldn’t I run the full marathon?).

A full race report is in the works. I’m just happy to have survived and not done any significant damage to my leg and hip.

A quick trip to San Francisco (and race shirts gone awry)


My husband accompanied me for a very quick trip to San Francisco today to pick up race packet for Sunday’s 26.2. I mean quick. We weren’t even in the expo for an hour. We were trying to get into the city and back home before all the Bay Area rush-hour traffic hit. The good news is that we were successful.

First off: Why did I sign up for a marathon that marathoners fear? Am I that crazy? The answer is yes.

I’m kind of over expos. I’ve been to a lot of them in the past couple months. I’m just tired. I’ve purchased what I’ve needed to at other ones recently.

I usually make a day of my trip to the San Francisco Marathon expo. This year I’ve just been too busy and too exhausted to make that happen. So I settled for the speedy trip.

The expo was larger this year, occupying the whole San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center. The past two years runners have entered on the complete opposite side. This year, I was a little confused with the address and directions.


It was like a completely new place.

First things first, we headed to bib pickup. Except I went where it said “1st Half” and “Marathon.” But it was actually “1st Half Marathon,” the run that I did last year. When I asked where my bib number pickup was, the volunteer told me to “go ask the service desk.”

Yeah … all she had to do was point me across the aisle where the full marathon bibs were.


I was handed by “swag bag.” Unlike the Rock ‘n’ Roll series races, these bags actually change every year. The first year it was four racing shoes on a bag. Last year, the bag commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. This year, it’s a nice homage to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

We then headed to the shirt booth.

And things got a little weird.

The shirts look just like the bags and are nicely designed. I actually love them more than the half marathon ones last year, which had the corporate sponsor emblazoned across the chest. I kind of hate that. These are much more simple.


The front includes a smaller logo on the left-hand side. Yellow is obviously the color for the full marathon this year.


Maybe it’s just me, but when you write “26.2” on a shirt, it’s kind of implied that it’s the “full marathon.” I’m not actually as hung up with that about these shirts. Almost immediately, the people around me started talking about the race shirts. Right at the booth.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I heard a woman say before I even looked at the shirt.

I turned toward her. I’m sure I looked concerned.

“This is just bad,” she added later.

Then I saw it.

The sleeves were really short. I looked at my size medium shirt. I realized there was no way it would fit across my torso. I’ve asked for mediums for the past two years from the San Francisco Marathon. Both times I had no issues with fit. I still wear my 2011 half marathon one a lot.

I know I’m not supposed to, but I immediately went back and asked to exchange.

“There’s no way this will fit me,” I said. The volunteer sympathized. She probably shouldn’t have. I’m sure there will be people in the next few days that won’t get their size large shirts because of people like me, but I could make fit half my torso in that shirt. I thought she’d handed me a small. So did my husband.

The large fit me better, except for in the sleeves.


Well. OK. Smallish.

It couldn’t be that bad, though, right? I put it on when I got home and realized it was more of a 3/4 length sleeve than a full sleeve.

Then I compared it to past race shirts.


Hello short sleeves! I’m pretty sure this is a good compromise actually. Some people want long sleeves. Others want short. This one hits somewhere in the middle.

People on the San Francisco Marathon Facebook page are complaining about the “boxy” cut of the shirt. I didn’t notice that so much. Instead, I noticed the smaller-than-usual head hole, which is bad for me because I have a large head.

The sizing, though, is similar.


The shirt from 2011 is about the same length. Folded over it shows a difference, but it is really about the same length. I don’t mind the length. I have a longer torso, so most race shirts don’t fit me too well. That’s why I like the longer Lululemon shirts as an under layer.


As for quality, the shirts are similar quality. I think last year’s shirt, with the nice screen printing, looked and felt nicer, but it’s essentially the same fabric. I actually think the yellow is maybe just a tad more lightweight.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it now: Race shirts divide people. Pretty significantly.

And the race shirts at this race, one of the biggest runs I do, have divided people repeatedly over the past three years. The first year people complained about the dark grey used on the marathon shirts (Too dark! I can’t see the design!) and the half marathon shirts (I hate orange! I don’t like the words on the sleeve!). In 2012, people complained about the corporate logo (I hate brands across my chest!) or the color (Why Blue? That’s so boring!).

There’s always something. You can’t make everyone happy. That said, I do like the design this year. And I don’t necessarily mind if the sleeves are short because I like to roll them up anyway.

That said, I only really had three goals when I went to the San Francisco Marathon expo today.

  • Pick up my race packet.
  • Check my status for the “52 Club.”
  • Register for the Berkeley Half Marathon.

I took care of the race packet. Then I turned around and checked out the “52 Club” booth. I wanted to confirm that my name was on the list so when I finished the marathon, I’d be entitled to the “52 Club” sweatshirt.

I admit, I ran the first year for fun. The second year for the Half-It-All bling. And this year for the sweatshirt.

I didn’t expect to be handed the sweatshirt BEFORE finishing the race. But the nice guy at the booth handed it right over to me.


That makes me even more nervous about running on this slightly battered leg. I’m already not sure I’m going to be able to make it through. When he handed me the sweatshirt, I kind of wanted to refuse it. I haven’t exactly earned it yet.


That’s the logo on the back of it. It’s pretty inconspicuous. But I kind of love it. It makes me really eager to finish the full marathon. On my gimp leg and all.

The third goal was to register for the brand new Berkeley Half Marathon. Registration opened for it today. At the expo, it was 20% off the $65 price. It came to $55 for a single registration. That’s a steal for a half marathon. I was able to sign both Sam and I up for the half marathon. It’s Nov. 24, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.


I’m really, really excited about this race. I love the Oakland Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon in 2011. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve run it now three times. I signed up for it because I love the community of Oakland. I lived there for two years while I was in graduate school. I went to graduate school at University of California, Berkeley.

So Berkeley represents just as much to me. So I was excited when I saw the announcement posted on the San Francisco Marathon’s Facebook page. I’m so excited that I decided to sign up even though I was hoping my race season would be done in October. I have a lot going on in the later part of the year, including being a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.

But now I’m registered to run Berkeley.

So I, essentially, accomplished everything I set out to do on Friday.

Now all I have to do is run the 26.2 miles. For the first time in a long time, I’m really nervous. It’s not just the 13.1 I’ve been running in recent weeks. It’s twice the distance. On a still bothered leg. I’m hoping for the best.

But I’m also crossing my fingers for a good race, a sub six-hour finish and an amazing run.

Taking on the Sirena 18 a second time


Do you ever have one of those days where you truly love running? I mean not just the running part, but also the sense of accomplishment and camaraderie from other runners?

Running is hard. Anyone who tells you differently is either freakishly athletic or lying. Your feet pound the pavement constantly. Your whole body shakes. You can easily feel worn down at the end. In some cases, you feel broken and beaten.

Confession: I used to feel the later of those things and more after a run.

Recent realization: I’m lucky to be able to finish a half marathon, marathon or any other event AT ALL. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone wants to. But being a runner, or any distance, means you’ve committed to the challenge. Finishing that distance means you did it. All the runners I’ve ever meant say that once they finished that “unreachable distance” they want to keep pushing. They want to keep going. We’re damn lucky we can.

That brings me to the Mermaid Series Sirena 18. By far, this is one of the smallest races I’ve done in the three years I’ve been running. And I love it.

It is one of three races I’ve run that focuses on female runners (See Jane Run and the Nike Women’s Marathon are the other two). The goal is to empower women of all sizes and backgrounds to just run. The “just run” part is hard enough. Getting out there is even tougher. Running in front of people is unfathomable for some people.

With all that said, this year’s Sirena 18 went well at the beginning, but kind of fell apart at the end for me. And you know what? That’s OK.

I was hot. The sun was beating down on me. I ran out of Gu at mile 15 (seriously!). I felt like I slowed to a crawl after blazing through the first 11 miles without any issues. And it’s all OK.

Because I went out and ran.


The day started out in kind of a daze. My 4:30 a.m. alarm got me up quickly. I was out the door by 5:20 a.m. for a round of pick ups of fellow runners in Mountain House. My husband decided last weekend that he wanted to head up to Colusa and see a friend this weekend. That left me by myself for this run, which was OK when my running buddy Sam offered to come with and bring her daughter to run the Mini Mermaid run.

We stopped by and picked up two more runners to head to Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area in Fremont.

We were there within an hour, maybe even 45 minutes. My race was the earliest one, starting at 7:30 a.m.

In retrospect, I probably spent too much time in the car hanging out and not enough time stretching and preparing. It was kind of cold outside. I wasn’t exactly in “race mode.” That would come back to haunt me later.

I went and grabbed my race bib in the Sirena 18’s one line. I was also given a pretty nice, though long, shirt.


At 7:25 a.m., I lined up and met up with my friend Mimi, who was running her first Sirena 18. Mimi and I go way back to my beginning newspaper reporting days. She’s now a director for an influential organization in my hometown. I first met and interviewed her when she was in high school. I’m in awe of all she’s done since then.

I was pretty jazzed to see her.

The race started right on time with a small field, though more people than last year. It started all good.

Mile 1: 10:06 — Good pacing, feeling good. The start is a smooth, conversational pace.

Mile 2: 10:15 — Still in the park, moving along nicely. The sky is overcast. I’m worried a little because my skin burns more when it’s overcast. I wonder if I’ve put enough sunscreen on.

Mile 3: 10:19 — My first Gu for the day. My legs were starting to warm up. We hit the first out and back. I slow for the Gu and take down a little water with it.

Mile 4: 10:19 — Feeling really good here.

Mile 5: 10:07 — The Gu starts to kick in. I feel amazing as we hit the bridge to take us to the longer of the two out-and-back routes.

Mile 6: 10:41 — My legs are feeling good, but I’m also getting tired.

Mile 7: 10:56 — Why am I so tired? At this point, we’re past the beginning of the park. Nowhere to go but out and back now. It’s a long way until the turnaround.

Mile 8: 10:37 — Another Gu.

Mile 9: 11:41 — Slowing through a water stop. It’s starting to get warm and it’s not even that late.

Mile 10: 10:48 — Gu is kicking in now. Feeling good. The turnaround for the longer out-and-back is within this mile. Only eight miles? I have this! (BTW, I may have been imagining it, but I thought someone said “and she runs!” right here. If that was someone out there who reads my blog, speak up!)

Mile 11: 12:13 — Or do I? I get through the first 11 miles in under two hours. It’s good, but I’m starting to really feel the heat here. In fact, it literally feels like someone just flipped a switch. Why? The first part of this section, we run facing away from the sun. On the way back, we run facing the sun. Suddenly it feels so much hotter. And I’m miserable.

Mile 12: 11:58 — I hate you sun. I hate you so much.

Mile 13: 12:55 — SUN. FIERY SUN. BLAH.

Mile 14: 12:59 — I’m hot. I’m miserable. I realize that I’m falling way behind here. I was doing so well. Now it’s falling apart. I take another Gu in between miles 13 and 14.

Mile 15: 12:03 — The Gu kicked in. I feel better, but I’m still hot. And then I realize my toe hurts. My left IT band is also screaming at me. That’s what happens when you don’t stretch. I was really feeling it then.

Mile 16: 12:48 — Between the heat, my IT band and my toe, I was dying. But the bridge back into the park was coming up again. I was elated to see it. I just wanted to finish. I tried to go for another Gu only to realize I was all out. All out. Gone. No more Gu. Well, crap. One of my major mistakes last year was not taking the Gu at mile 16.

Mile 17: 12:08 — Picking it up back into the park. I grabbed a couple glasses of very watered-down Gatorade. It hardly tasted like Gatorade. If outside the park felt steamy, inside the park was like a furnace. Yikes. Everyone around me was commenting on how horrible it felt. We hit an area near the lake and it smelled like fish. I was ready for it to be over.

Mile 17.82: 10:04 — I was a little disappointed as I came into the finish, until I saw Sam’s daughter with a sign she made specifically for me. She was running into the finish area with me, yelling “Go Tara!” OK, you can’t be mad when you see that. Not at all.


I was handed the charm the Mermaid Series awards participants with. I crossed the finish, grabbed a bottle of water and headed over to Sam. We sat for awhile talking before moving into a more shaded area. I needed to get out of the sun. I was so afraid of baking my skin and turning into a lobster.

Less than five minutes after I finished, I got a text message from the timing company with my official time: 3:22:54.

Even though the last seven miles were not my best, I beat last year’s time by nearly 10 minutes. That’s a good run. Again, I’m damn lucky to be able to run. I’m going to celebrate it.

I’m also going to celebrate Mimi a little too. I saw Mimi a couple times along the course. Each time, she looked cool, collected and serious. Mimi was determined.

I felt honored to cheer Mimi in when she came into the finish. I wish I still had my shoes on because I would have kept running along the chute next to her. I underestimated the thickets in the grass. But I took a cue from my friend’s daughter and started yelling her name the moment I saw her.


That’s Mimi. Mimi rocked it. I swear I’ve never seen a runner look so serene when she finished. She HAD this run. She OWNED this run. I have no doubt that when she runs a marathon, she’ll conquer it with as much determination as I saw her with out there during the Sirena 18.

One of the amazing things about the running community is that we all support each other. This is even more true at races put on with the intention of supporting female athletes. It’s women encouraging other women. Each woman’s name was said at the finish line. It’s a cheesy cliche, but it’s about “girl power.”

I was kind of on overload with all that support. Between a solid finish time (even though the last seven miles were a struggle), hanging out with my friend and her daughter (and heading out to Fremont with a car full of runners) and being able to cheer a friend on as she came into the finish, I felt proud to be a member of the running community.

I’m not sure even Mimi realizes how seeing her on the course pumped my spirits up, especially when I was struggling to keep lifting my feet. Just seeing someone you know and having them say “doing good” or “you got this” is an affirmation. It was a truly inspiring day for all of the reasons listed.

I’ll say it again: Runners choose this. We choose to endure the long runs, the long hours of workouts and the body pains. We push ourselves to go faster and longer. It makes us a little crazy, I’ll admit. But it also means we are incredibly fortunate.

Channeling my inner mermaid


I’m working on my race report for the Mermaid Series Sirena 18 tonight, trying to keep on top of posts for the multiple races I’ll be doing in coming weeks. But I figured I would post a quick update about how it went.

The first 11 miles were great, averaging miles with the 10-minute mark in front of them. I felt really good until about the time I hit the turnaround with a picturesque view of Coyote Hills in the foreground, then I was running straight into the sun. And I felt it. Every single step of the way.

I had to re-read my race report from last year to realize this was a problem for me then too. Basically I melt when running into the sun. Or at least that’s what it felt like today.

My last seven miles were a struggle to keep in 12-minute range, many edging up, but not quite getting to 13.

I felt like I could have performed a lot better in those last seven miles. But I’m really proud of how I did. I took nearly 10 minutes off my time from last year. I had fun. I felt like it went by a lot faster, because it did. And I felt like I knew I could do it from the get go.

So I’m not upset. Just a little disappointed that those last seven miles weren’t as good as the first 11. But getting in 11 miles in under two hours is impressive for me, not matter how I feel about the whole race right now.

I’m proud. And that’s probably the biggest difference between me as runner now and me as a runner a year ago: These things are no longer disappointments. They are just part of the journey.

What we take from Boston


I know there will be a lot of posts about Boston this week. I know that I’m also behind on being relevant with this. It’s amazing what happens when you are no longer tied to the day-to-day life of a journalist. I’m still in the mindset of a journalist, though. When I see a to-do list, I bust through it like there’s no tomorrow. Because in news tomorrow is too late.

This week, I’ve been bogged down in catch-up projects that got pushed aside during my student’s journalism conference.

But I’ve also been watching the news.

A lot of news. It’s basically been on auto play behind me for four days.

On Monday, I told my husband that this hits close to home in more ways that I could even comprehend as I watched the events unfolding in front of me Monday. This was an attack of unspeakable horror. At a public event. At a marathon.

I run marathons.

Once upon a time I was accused, by a newspaper reader, as making a horrific event all about me. The problem with events like what happen in Boston, a lot of people start asking themselves questions about how it could impact them, or if it could.

What I knew before Monday: The start line used to be what caused massive anxiety for runners (especially me).

What I know now: Now the finish line takes on a completely different meaning.



The start line has always been a source of fear and trepidation among runners (the photo above is the Oakland Half Marathon start in March). It’s when your heart starts racing. When every doubt you can think of crosses your mind. If you’re anything like me, the moment you get past the start is actually the minute you feel any sort of relief.

The finish? The finish brings mixed emotions, depending on how a runner does. The first marathon? The finish is the goal. The PR run? The finish is the moment to quit the push. The bad run? It’s the moment it’s finally over.

Consider what the Boston Marathon represents to those who run it. It’s the crowing glory for the everyday runner. It’s a tough race to get into. Runners have to qualify. I likely will never qualify for Boston. Many runners won’t. For those who do, it’s not just about those 26.2 miles. It’s not about Heartbreak Hill. It’s about the journey.

Seeing that finish line? It’s the finish line of all finish lines.

Now it means something completely different. Joy and accomplishment have been replaced with sorrow.


On Monday, one of the talking points that kept coming up was that of how to make “large public gatherings” safe.

Have you ever considered any marathon you run a “large public gathering?”

Think about it. Because until this week, I never did. Instead, I lumped running events into “you either have to be crazy enough to do this or love someone who is” to be here. I think about the smaller races I’ve run, where people not involved were annoyed at our presence when streets were closed down. The bigger races? Well, even those didn’t really seem all that big.

Then I think about the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. I ran the full 26.2 last year (it sucked, I cried, I’m over it).

According to, the “Epic Summer Run” is one of the top 10 runs, according to finishers, in the United States.

The ING New York Marathon (43,660), Bank of America Chicago Marathon (33,701), Boston Marathon (22,843) and the Marine Corps Marathon (21,405) are the top four. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego includes 13,361 finishers. I was among those finishers last year.

This year I’m signed up for the half marathon with my friend Sam. She’s running all the Rock ‘n’ Roll events she can this year.

Yes, the suspects were apprehended (one died, the other was taken into custody earlier this evening). But there are so many twisted people in this world (what you learn from 10 years in the news industry is that humanity, while there are good moments, is full of bad people), that I wonder if this could happen somewhere else.

I’m running San Diego before I run the San Francisco Marathon this summer. Both are large events.

I’d be lying if I said thinking like this didn’t trigger my anxiety.


This is kind of a given, but you don’t see it really, truly in action until something like this happens. On Sept. 11, 2001, very few people had their smart phones out. Facebook wasn’t invented. Those initial images we received on the attacks? More often than not, they were from news photographers. Not a lot of people were pulling out their smart phones.

Today? The finish line at the Boston Marathon was literally the most photographed public place that day. From the moments before (captured by a Boston Globe videographer), to the moment of (captured by an Instagrammer flanking the race path) to the aftereffects (including the YouTube video of people pilfering the Adidas booth).

I ask my students in my first lecture of every semester the same question: Where do you get your news?

Where did you find out about Boston?

I was knee deep in code and curriculum writing on Monday. A Facebook status post alerted me to Boston. It was from another runner friend. That’s when I turned on the television. I tell my students all the time that the best ideas for stories come from Facebook. I can name about 10 ideas that I’ve found on Facebook in the past year.

Twitter is also good for that. This obviously was a breaking news event. Still, social media played a huge role in conveying messages to the masses. I teach mass communication. Unfortunately a really bad headache kept me from my class and more talk of the Boston Marathon on Thursday, but believe me, we’ll be digesting this story for weeks to come.

Why? There is just so much more now out there. We are seeing every side of this story, good, bad and indifferent. Consider, too, that the photos also played a huge role in the identifying of the suspects. The FBI was asking for photos and video.

Say what you want about being in a wired society, in this case it helped crack the case.



This may be the most obvious lesson from watching the bomb blasts in Boston. The videos show the dazed reality runners were heading into after the blasts. And 468 just kept running. That’s right, nearly 500 people finished the 26.2 mile journey AFTER the bombs blew.

“They had no idea what was happening,” one of my Facebook friends wrote.

True. But if you’ve ever run a marathon you know that in those last few miles, you are basically on autopilot. Your legs feel like they are going to collapse under you. You can’t remember exactly why you signed up. You are tired.

The moment you see the finish line, you just run. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed seeing my husband at the finish line because I’m just running and not thinking about anything else.

Runners are a tough bunch.

Runners are also part of a tight-knit community.

And we come to the aid of other runners in times of need. Members of my running club were posting links on how to help, whether it be racking up charity miles or donating to campaigns.

On Thursday, Adidas introduced Boston: Stand as One shirts. The first ones listed, including the yellow one above for women, sold out. I was able to grab up a yellow one before they were all gone. The $26.20 goes to One Fund Boston to support the victims of the attack.

Runs have been scheduled across the country for people to show support. This is an amazing community to belong to.

“You will run again,” President Barack Obama said to attendees of a prayer service on Thursday. The truth, though, is that runners never stop running. Those 468 marathoners kept running. There were people running for Boston that evening. There have been all week. This weekend, the London Marathon will go on as planned, though with more security precautions.


Hours after the second suspect was apprehended alive, what we take, at least right now, is the realization that it only took law enforcement four days, less than 100 hours, to catch the the two allegedly responsible. That’s fast.

We also take away a sense that we may not be as safe on the marathon route, that once exposed in those 13.1 or 26.2 miles, the finish line is not a guarantee.There’s no promise we’ll make it to the end. As runners we know that going in.

But we also take a sense of community, of knowing that we are not alone because there are people out there who want the good to outweigh the bad. And that’s the real lesson in this week.

There are no words


I’ve been watching the live coverage of the Boston Marathon explosions since I received the first update on my phone earlier today.

My television is surrounded by my California International Marathon poster and a Nike Women’s Half Marathon picture frame. Marathons are part of my life. I watched the live coverage of the winners this morning online.

Then I shut off my television.

I’ve been watching the replay of the explosion at the 4:09 mark.

The photos are horrible and dramatic. An emergency room doctor earlier said there were several “traumatic amputations” of the victims. NBC is quoting that two are dead. The number injured is still in dispute, but it’s somewhere around 100. A former soldier, who finished before the explosion, compared the explosions to an IED blast.

It’s chilling to watch the videos over and over again.

These are details you can’t forget.

It’s painful to watch. The Boston Marathon is the top event in marathon running for mere mortals. There are stringent qualifying times and rules to get it. It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening there.

It’s heartbreaking to know that the marathoners there will never come to the start line of a marathon feeling the same way again. It’s also heartbreaking to know that some of the rest of us, me included, won’t feel the same either. This event changes everything.

My prayers are with those in Boston right now.

A SLO marathon: Part II


So, I’m serious when I say that I think the very comfortable bed at the Days Inn on Main Street in Morro Bay was beyond comfortable. I felt like I literally sank into the bed and it just cuddled me all night. It made for a very good night’s sleep.

My alarm clock went off at 4 a.m. I had planned to leave Morro Bay at 4:45 a.m. with my husband. So I went about getting ready, mainly putting in my contacts and grabbing up all my stuff. I had decided I would wear a long-sleeve Brooks “Run Happy” shirt for the race, even though I knew I likely wouldn’t need it after the first half.

Right on time, my husband and I were out the hotel room door and headed through downtown Morro Bay to the freeway. In less than 20 minutes, he was dropping me off at the designated zone. Scratch that, he dropped me off further up the street from the designated zone.

The starting line was at San Luis Obispo High School. The parking lot was clean. It was cool, but not freezing. And there was pretty of light.


My photos are a little blurry because I was a little jittery. The beautiful thing about this photo is that there were a ton of portable toilets behind me. And, because on my anxiety problems, I was able to just kind of hang out in a very, very clean one until about five minutes before the start.


See all those portable toilets? That’s what a runner likes to see.

At about 5:40 a.m. the announcer started corralling the marathoners, all 600 or so of us, to the start line. I initially thought the start was right in front of where all the half marathoners were sitting, near the multitude of other portable toilets. In fact, it was at the beginning of a neighborhood.

I’ll admit it: I immediately felt bad for the neighbors. Wow. They had to hear this guy yelling over and over again. We only had to listen for like 20 more minutes. Yikes. (Neighbors later complained about the noise on Facebook.)


That’s the view as we made our way to the start. It was pretty dark. For a minute, I was kind of worried about the light. Some runners had headlamps. Headlamps. For a day marathon.

Crap. All I could think of was how my doctor just recently told me that it I fell on my arm again within the next six months, I could potentially break it again. I don’t want to re-break my arm. Please don’t let me re-break my arm.

We queued up pretty quickly. I didn’t even know where the pace groups where. I wasn’t exactly looking for one, but still. It was dark when we started at 5:59 a.m.

Mile 1: 10:13 — I was actually on pace to hit a 9:30 mile when I realized I was going out way too fast. Slow down girl. You have 25 more miles of this.

Mile 2: 10:29 — This mile was a combination of downhill and uphill. Maintaining. But I’m starting to actually get warm here. Ugh. Great. I didn’t want to stop and take off my long-sleeve shirt just yet.

Mile 3: 10:41 — More uphills, including the biggest initial climb that gets us out of downtown and starts on the path toward Edna Valley. I start to loosen up a little bit here. My calves feel good. My head feels good.

Mile 4: 11:31 — Continuing that uphill battle right here. Legs are finally starting to wake up and realize that we’re running. And we’re going to run far.

Mile 5: 9:44 — Wheeeee! Downhill. All downhill. Later on, I realized I probably shouldn’t have taken off like this, just because I think it kind of destroyed my legs later on.

Mile 6: 11:22 — The hills are rolling now. This is still the half marathon course. But I’ve only been passed by one half marathoner so far. Good sign? I don’t know. I’m pacing pretty well right now.

Mile 7: 11:52 — The good news is that I’m coming in under 12 on the hills, whereas once upon a time that WAS my pace.

Mile 8: 11:00 — I start to realize that these hills are much more serious than I thought. The elevation changes are drastic, but I’m actually not really feeling all that horrible quite yet.

Mile 9: 11:24 — I decided that I was starting to get a little tired, but I really, really wanted to have all my miles up to 10 under 12-minutes. I kept thinking it would be AWESOME to finish with an average time under 12 minutes.

Mile 10: 11:13 — Score! Under two hours! I’m still feeling good here.

Mile 11: 11:37 — Still going strong. We’re heading into the marathon out and back. I’m so ready to start heading back. For some reason heading back just seems like a mental break. Once I start heading back, that means it’s over soon, yes? And…suddenly I had to go to the bathroom.

Mile 12: 12:22 — I’m actually not ashamed of this mile, considering that I had to stop and go to the bathroom. I see two portable toilets on the side right near the turnaround. Out loud I say: “Please, please, please be open!” I was honestly surprised when one was. Quick in and out! I love small races.

Mile 13: 13:01 — Then I had that mile that killed me a little. I was doing so well, making progress, then suddenly it was like the wind got knocked out of me. I had a hard time picking it back up.

Mile 14: 11:33 — Back at it, saving myself a little. And downhills.

Mile 15: 11:35 — I know the hills are coming up, especially a big one, so I try to conserve.

Mile 16: 12:15 — That big uphill. I walked it. I was tired. But I kept going. Part of me didn’t want to start running again.

Mile 17: 12:38

Mile 18: 11:57

Mile 19: 13:17 — My problematic left IT band was starting to really, really bother me. Too many rolling hills, too much pounding in general. This was the point where I realized I was still doing pretty well in terms of time. OK, I need to slow it down. I need to take some time to walk. Slow walking. I was slogging. If that’s even a word.

Mile 20: 13:28 — Beating myself up a little and still slogging. SLOGGGGG. UGHHHHH.

Mile 21: 12:19 — I decided to start picking it up again. I wanted to start mile 26 in under the five-hour mark. I really, really wanted it.

Mile 22: 12:16 — But I’m not going fast. I can’t run as fast as I want. My IT bands, both now, hurt. This was, unfortunately, the less scenic part of the run. We headed back into the downtown area. There were far less people here, but the traffic was coming back too.

Mile 23: 13:36 — More slogging, but I wasn’t even sorry now. I was doing OK. I was coming in under the 5:20 mark that was my previous PR. I knew it would be OK now.

Mile 24: 12:26 — Getting back into the downhill area. If you look at the elevations, it looks as if the last six miles are downhill. They aren’t. Not even close. More hills. A walk bridge that goes up only to come back down. I’m exhausted.

Mile 25: 13:50 — So exhausted that even when I need to fill up my water, I kind of come to a dead stop instead of continuing to run. I’m excited when I see this later because I only had five miles in the 13 range. I was excited about that. And it was because my legs weren’t exactly properly trained to run a full marathon. The longest I had run was 15 miles. I’ll take it.

Mile 26: 12:07 — Pushing it into the end. I’m ready to be done running. I see my husband standing alongside the fence area. “I’m coming in under what I thought!” I yell at him. He has a huge smile on his face. I can tell he’s proud. Really proud.

Mile .3: 2:43 — And then, finally, I cross the finish line. I hurt, but not nearly as bad as I did when I finished the monsoon known as California International Marathon 2012. I was elated.

Chip time: 5:12:21

That’s eight minutes, 20 seconds off my PR from CIM 2011.


I was so happy, I cried. And people were concerned, which I think is amazing and funny at the same time. I made my way back out to my husband after grabbing a small Jamba Juice, which I really didn’t want to drink.

In fact, I didn’t really want to eat or drink anything. I just wanted to hug my husband. I just wanted to cry. I did. A lot.

A woman walked by me and said: “Oh, honey, you did good!”

I think she thought I was sad. I wasn’t sad.

“I just wanted to make you proud,” I said to Thomas. He gave me this really sad look and told me I make him proud all the time. I didn’t need to run a faster marathon to do it. Truth be told, all my husband asks is that I don’t give up. And I make every effort when I run to not give up.

On Sunday, I didn’t give up. And I finally got my 5:15 finish. I did even better than my 5:15 projected finish.

I was so extremely happy to have my 5:12:21 finish.


I love this photo my husband took of me. You can see the finish line to the left of me. You can see the pink sign for the Madonna Inn, kind of, behind me. And then there’s the expo tent with a guy stretching out right next to it.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past couple months as it pertains to running. I’ve realized that something was truly, incredibly wrong with me. That all that training I was doing that I felt was all for nothing was not working because I had a physical issue that was really holding me back. I was in pain. I was having issues each run. My stomach issues were reaching a real peak late last year as I was going through a bunch of other crap.

Pain was holding my passion back. Now I’m moving forward without it. And I’m realizing I’m a better runner than I thought I was.


After lunch at the Applebee’s with my husband’s uncle, we started on our nearly four hour ride home. The good news is that I was sore, but it was an amazing kind of sore. It was a sore than comes with the realization that after nearly a year, I had finally broken my previous PR. And I had fun doing it. I felt amazing, even with a cranky IT band, all 26 miles of it.

It was good. I’m not a religious person, but I felt as if all of — the run, the experience, the positive vibes, my husband smiling at the finish — was telling me that everything was going to be alright.

A SLO marathon: Part I


I realized when I was printing out my confirmation for the San Luis Obispo Marathon that I registered on Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. By 7 p.m. that night, I was laying in a hospital bed curled over begging the emergency room staff to give me something for that pain.

When they finally did, the marathon I had just signed up for was the farthest thing from my mind. I was pumped full of Dilaudid and sent home. A week later, I was back in the hospital being rolled into an operating room having my gallbladder removed.

Ominous beginnings, right?

Good thing the San Luis Obispo Marathon didn’t turn out anywhere near bad. It was actually an amazing, pleasant experience. I had fun. I felt good. It turned out to be a great weekend, actually.

My husband and I left home at around 11 a.m. I completely forgot how long the drive down to the San Luis Obispo area was, a total of about four hours with a pit stop for lunch. The drive was relatively uneventful. In fact, we hit very little traffic on the way down, likely due to our late start.

By 3:30 p.m. we were driving down into central San Luis Obispo on Highway 101, passing right by the tented expo at the Madonna Inn.


I should explain why I decided I wanted to run this race.

One of the issues I’ve had lately is with running really large races. Nothing spikes my anxiety more than being around a huge group of people. So I’ve been avoiding large marathons. I’m lucky that California International Marathon only has about 8,000 people. I was slightly hyperventilating at the beginning of CIM. The fear was masked by the rain, thankfully.

I read that the SLO Marathon had a cap of 1,200 marathon runners. The half marathoners were capped at 4,000.

I hate to say this, because it’s a great race, but I knew that the races wouldn’t sell out. The event is only in it’s second year. I heard about it from another runner’s blog, but otherwise there was very little Internet chatter about the marathon. I signed up when I did in order to avoid rising prices, though it still wasn’t cheap.

On Sunday, only 672 people ran the marathon. It started at 6 a.m. It was still dark. By the time I was hitting mile three, the half marathon was starting. Most of my time on the course, I only saw one or two of the fastest half marathoners. Small. Nice.

Plus, I love the SLO area. My husband and I went on our first vacation together in Morro Bay. We went back for years before our lives became too busy (note, we need to go back more now).

I ignored the elevation chart. I just wanted to run somewhere beautiful.

And it was beautiful when we arrived at the expo. It was also easy in and easy out to get my race packet. The only people lined up for the marathon were two misplaced half marathoners. It took me about five minutes from start to finish to get my race packet and number, which was assigned the day of. The race organizers then wrote my shirt size on the bib tag for me to claim my shirt.

I initially signed up for a medium. On race day, my husband went and exchanged it for a large. It was way too tight across the chest. But it was a beautiful green color, very similar to my CIM one (see above).

We made our way through the expo, which actually didn’t seem all that big. I found the race gear booth and admit that I went a little crazy. I’ve been so good at not buying anything running related lately. But I always consider marathons different. I don’t do a ton of them, definitely not as many as the half marathons I do. So I bought myself a nice jacket, my first nice race-related jacket.


The nice logo was embroidered on the front. It’s a nice jacket, with a fleece lining and no hood. It’s kind of a windbreaker material, but it’s really, really warm.

So I splurged a little. The back of the jacket also had a basic logo on it, but simplistic design that I loved enough that I was sold pretty quickly on the jacket.


I also bought a hefty water bottle. I’m already using it. Like I said, I haven’t been buying any running items lately, so I figured this would be my gift to myself for running the marathon. Incentive is always a plus, especially with 26.2 miles ahead.

We didn’t stay at the expo long. The area is too nice to stay inland. And we were staying in Morro Bay, which was only 20 minutes away. I had told my husband I would have preferred to stay in SLO, but I’m glad we stayed on the coast.

We actually headed out to the peninsula area and went exploring for a little while before dinner.


You’ll notice the difference in atmosphere here. It was nice and sunny inland. Last year the marathon was run on a relatively foggy day. This year it was beautiful the entire time. The coast, though, was layered in fog. We went for a quick jaunt along the peninsula, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.

I did get to take in some ocean calm.

It helped to soothe my nerves, though, a little before my run. We ate at an Italian place overlooking the ocean before heading back to the hotel. I settled in for bed early, at about 10 p.m. Why? My iPhone alarm was set for 4 a.m. The marathon started at 6 a.m.

And you know what? I slept really, really well. The bed was super comfortable, comparable to my bed at home.

I felt like this whole marathon lead up was different than the three times before. I felt as if I was much more calm. I wasn’t cranky. The anxious nerves were being kept at bay as well. I was taking it moment by moment.

I’d like to think that’s what led me to PR success the next day.