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Posts tagged ‘Pasadena’

Rockin’ to a course best in Pasadena: Part I


There’s always a little bit of anxiety when you start toward a race expo, especially one that’s more than 300 miles away. Why? A lot can happen in three hours. Between traffic and other things, it’s always best to start out a little earlier than normal and hope that there are no snags along the way.

On Saturday, there were no snags. None whatsoever. Everything seemed a bit too easy.

My running buddy Sam and I hit the road at about 10 a.m. from Mountain House, which is west of Tracy. It’s also the place I do a lot of my runs.

We hopped on Interstate 5 and just kept on going. We only had to stop once, about 50 miles before The Grapevine, the stretch of road that takes drivers from the valley floor over the Tehachapi Mountains. On one side, there’s an expanse of land before you, on the other a metropolis.

We made the long journey on one tank of gas plus some. And we arrived in Pasadena around 3 p.m., which gave us ample time to scope out the expo.

Pasadena is only in its second year as a “tour stop” for Rock ‘n’ Roll, so the expo is still relatively small in comparison to the flagship San Diego run. It didn’t take us long to work out way through the bib pickup, even with a small wait for our $10 parking pass for the Rose Bowl.


Speaking of which, a lot of people were really upset about the whole “pay-to-park” thing. Most of the other races don’t required it. I’ve been in a lot of races that actually make concessions and find people places to park. Apparently other Rose Bowl-hosted races don’t require this. Because we had paid last year, waited in the traffic and hung out in the morning, Sam and I were prepared for all this crazy.

I purchased the pass ahead of time.

We picked up our red Brooks event shirts and our swag bags and headed into the expo where we quickly bypassed the Brooks area, outside of checking out a very interesting display with fake beer.


Fake beer is the way to sell pint glasses, I must say. But I didn’t buy one. We kind of just ran through that area because I’m on a “no new clothes” kick right now. I didn’t even look.

Sam and I checked out all the booths and she picked up some new running equipment. A fire at her house late last year means she has absolutely no gear. We picked up a new bottle set for her, which was a discounted $15 and had four small bottles and a place to stash stuff. Plus, it was Nike, so she got a deal.


I loved this label on another belt she looked at. Penguins. For penguin runners? I don’t know. I kind of consider myself a penguin.

The sad part of the expo was that we didn’t find the “cake booth.” It’s some sort of organic, healthy cake that we’ve seen at multiple Rock ‘n’ Roll expos. The reps at the booth gave out these amazing slices of cake, with frosting even, that were incredibly delicious and apparently good for you as well.


See all those awesome running clothes? I didn’t buy any at the expo. I was so proud of myself.

The real purpose, though, of our expo visit outside of picking up our stuff was to hit up the main Rock ‘n’ Roll booth. Sam has a Tour Pass for this year, meaning she pays a flat amount and can run as many races as possible. I’m really noncommittal about races going into the later part of the year after I run two marathons in the first six months, so I didn’t go that route.

Sam wants to run San Diego again.

After last year’s disastrous run there, I was reluctant. I kept waiting for the course map to be posted online. By the time it was, the price had gone up. So my only chance to register at a lower price was to do so at the expo.

So we ventured to the booth to do so.


I saved $15. The downside? We didn’t register for the 2014 Pasadena run for $70, which will be the lowest price all year. But I really hate making a decision on something like that this far in advance.

For registering, I also got a Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego T-shirt, which was pretty rocking.

After those few things, we were kind of done at the expo.


So we left. By then it was later than it was last year when we finished. We had planned on meeting one of my friends for dinner. But we saw that the Macy’s across the street from the expo was having a closing sale.

So we went.

Because we needed shoes and all.

Not really. But we bought shoes.


We were starting to get a little hungry though, so I sent my friend a text message. We hadn’t yet checked in our hotel room. But both of us were more tired than we thought we would be anyway. My friend was caught up with something, which was a bummer, but we figured since we were already out, we’d find a place to eat.

Last year we ate at this ridiculously bad seafood place right down the street from where we stayed. We both still laugh at how bad the service was and how bad the food was.

This time, we found a great Mexican place. Both of us ordered fajitas.

The food totally made up for last year’s horrible fare.


It was amazing. Plus, we had a ton of leftovers that we both of us ate when we got all the way home the next day. The food was just as good as leftovers.

We finally checked in to our hotel room around 7 p.m. Saturday. The room was nice, toasty and, we thought, would be a little more quiet than last year when we heard people above us making loud noises all night long.

We were so wrong.

Another one of my friend’s stopped by for about an hour to catch up (I know a lot of people in the Los Angeles area, more than I ever think I do). Then it was off to bed for a 4:30 a.m. wake up even though we were only four miles away from the race start.

Why so early? The parking lot closes at 6:15 a.m. for the 7:30 a.m. start.

Unfortunately we didn’t fall asleep all that well. Instead, we heard people screaming in the parking lot and on E. Colorado Blvd. at midnight. It was ridiculous. Both of us woke up numerous times. It seemed our hotel management did nothing to make it stop. In fact, unlike most the hotels I’ve been to, this one’s lobby wasn’t even open at 5 a.m. when we headed down to my car.

It was still dark when we ventured to the Rose Bowl.

Something amazing happened today


I can’t explain it. I don’t think I even want to try really.

I knocked 20 minutes off my course time from last year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon. I had a couple challenges, including kind of running into a woman at mile 12 (there will be much for elaboration on that later), but I ran my little heart out. I left everything on the streets of Pasadena.

I picked up when I was dragging. I powered up hills as quickly as I could.

I had moments when I slowed down, when I walked and when I wanted to give up.

But when I saw the 2:30 pacer ahead of me just slightly, I pushed it at the end.

“Just run, Tara. Just run,” I kept saying to myself.

And I finished in 2:28:21 officially.

My first thought: Oh my God. I just ran my my fourth best half marathon. Five weeks after surgery that derailed my entire training plan for this run. I’m not even sure how it happened. It was even a tougher course than I’m used to, with rolling hills and gradual inclines and declines throughout.

I sat waiting for my running buddy to finish and literally said out loud: THAT. JUST. HAPPENED.

Hours later, including a four hour car trip home, I’m still in shock about how well I did today. Only last week I was debating not even making the trip. I was thinking there was no way I’d be ready to run the race. There was every reason for me to fail.

But I didn’t. I’m hoping this bodes well for the “new” Tara, sans gallbladder and all that’s been weighing me down for the past year.

Going through the motions

And getting ready to head down to Pasadena early on Saturday morning.

I’ve been working on a really awesome website renovation this week, that today kind of made me frustrated. So instead of waiting for SQL databases to behave appropriately, I decided it as time to get ready for the ride to southern California. I started clearing out, mind you not “cleaning out,” but “clearing out” my car.

I keep a lot of jackets, scarves and other items in my car. So I decided to get it washed. Professionally. I’ve only had it for six months.


It took about an hour (the car wash was really busy on a nice 70-degree day here in northern California). But my car is bright and shiny. I went and got a tank of gas as well ($80! Prices are going up again).

Then I headed to Target to pick up some needed supplies. I haven’t traveled anywhere since December for California International Marathon, so I had a few toiletries to gather.

When I got home, I was greeted to a package from Road Runner Sports.

It was my two new pairs of LunarEclipse +2s.


And they are actually pretty cute. I kept putting off buying this color before because I thought they would be black and too dark. The color is actually more of a dark gray.

One of the boxes was completely trashed. The other was in decent shape. So I replaced the broken box with one I already had, then I put both pairs up in my closet for “when the time comes.” That means the first pair of these to be used will probably come out in June sometime, likely before I run the San Francisco Marathon.

I’ve been slowly gathering my running clothes and other essential items all day in preparation for the journey down and the actual run. I hate to say it but my anxiety is peaking a little.

I’d like to think that was prompted by the $1,200 in hospital bills I just got from my gallbladder removal (seriously, if they were going to charge me that much, they should have at least let me keep it to take home in a jar). Yikes.

So I’m a little jumpy tonight. It makes “going through the motions” all that much harder, but I’m trying to breathe, relax and know that no matter what I can run 13.1 miles. I’ve done it before, many times. It may not be the best run I’ve ever done, but it will be OK. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

I’m not sure if it’s working to calm me at all. But I kind of feel like hitting the road and just going will be the push I need to be more “present” and, maybe even “participate.”

Speaking of the last sentence, if you haven’t seen “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” I highly recommend it. I actually can’t recommend it enough.


I read the book when I was 14 for the first time, back when it was just a little MTV novel that no one had ever heard of. By the time I graduated from high school in 2002, nearly everyone I knew that had any sort of taste in literature had read it. I spent years imagining what Charlie would sound like if he was ever brought to life.

When the movie came out last year, there were no local theaters showing it. The nearest one was about 30 minutes away and I just never got to see it. So when it came out on Tuesday, I made a night out of it. I ran the day before so I didn’t have to run that night.

I picked up dinner from a drive-thru fundraising dinner that I had purchased tickets from weeks before and headed home, immediately putting on the movie. I even went to two different Target stores to make sure I got the super-low priced BluRay for $16.99.

Call me cheesy, but the moment I heard Charlie’s voice for the first time, I had a bit of a moment. I guess it was kind of living seeing the opening screen of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. I had a moment. (I’m completely aware of how big of a dork I sound like right now. I don’t even care.)

I may put it on now as I finish packing all my stuff up for the road trip.

On expectation and reality


I made a confession yesterday that I’m now feeling less anxious about saying out loud: I may not be ready to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon this weekend.

I’ve been thinking it for weeks. I only started really feeling it and wanting to be open about it 14 hours ago.

I told myself I needed at least three 10-milers to be OK with this training cycle. I’ve done two. The first one was a horrible struggle. Less than halfway through I felt like keeling over and just dying. Or at least disappearing into the ground.

Over the weekend, I told myself I’d do another. Then I went wine tasting and was having an amazing day with friends when my now gallbladderless body decided to rebel against me majorly for the first time since my surgery.

I had a margarita with dinner out at a restaurant. I ate barbecue chicken, coleslaw, corn and a bunch of other things. Within twenty minutes of eating, I found myself in the bathroom and (sorry, this may be TMI) throwing up everything I’d eaten during the day. My body wasn’t having it. I felt horrible.

I put off Sunday’s run for as long as I could, until Sunday was over.

I worked from home on Monday, straight through lunch and into the afternoon. At about 2:30 p.m. I decided it was time to put out or get out, for lack of a better term.

I started running. I didn’t stop for 10 miles.

It wasn’t a horrible run. I hit my training thresholds. I just felt completely unprepared after.

Why? Because my training runs haven’t really been “training” runs lately. I haven’t used Gu. I haven’t paid attention to hydration. In fact, my biggest concern has been my abdominal comfort and not overdoing it too soon. I never expected to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder last month. Doctors didn’t even know what it was, after years of tests and a previous surgery, so there was no way I could have prepared for any of this in my training cycle.

I look back now and realize I was living with a ton of pain. When I woke up in the hospital after my surgery, I hurt like hell where they put holes in me. But I also remember feeling something I hadn’t for awhile: no underlying abdomen pain. I guess the human body can withstand certain thresholds of discomfort and even make them normal. My pain was normal for me.

My expectation after the surgery was that I’d be up and running in a matter of weeks. The reality has been a lot harder.

My husband asked if I could switch to the 10K. I kindly told him there was no 10K option, which would likely have been far for doable for me in my current state.


Instead, I’ll be venturing down to Pasadena to try my luck against a four-hour window in which I have every reason to fail. My running buddy actually assured me that I couldn’t do worse than her since she hasn’t run over four miles in forever. I, somehow, do not feel better about this whole thing.

The problem with signing up for races too far in advance is that most people don’t know what happens between the moment you hit “register” and the  moment you are at the start line.

In a perfect world, you would be fully trained by the time the gun goes off. Many people are not. Those who are may or may not have skipped or skimped one or more of their runs. There are cramps, torn ligaments, strains and sprains that set training back. There are unexpected events, whether personal or physical.

“Life is full of setbacks,” one of my old Lululemon bags I now use for my lunch has written on it. “Success is determined by how you handle those setbacks.”

I can’t help but think that Pasadena will be a critical point for my personal and athletic setbacks. My last race was weeks before I went back to work in December. This is my first race since I put all of that crap behind me. My husband tells me to just put one foot in front of the other.

“I’ve never seen you quit a race,” he said.

He’s right. Even at mile 18 in the pouring-down-rain 2012 version of the California International Marathon, I kept going. Even when my feet where waterlogged and my soaked shoes were tearing up my feet (my black toenails are the result of all that fun now), I kept going. But that now seems like forever ago, even though it was only December.

It seems like another Tara. In many ways, it is. She had a gallbladder, for one. She also never missed a training run despite a bevy of personal issues keeping her from being around people, even talking to people in some cases.

I’ll admit, I’m a little scared to see what the trip to Pasadena, the run and the aftermath has in store for this new Tara.

Rockin’ through Pasadena: Part II

I figured I’d be out incredibly quick on Saturday night. I’d worked an 11.5 day before and fell fast asleep on Friday only to have to wake up early to get ready for Sam to pick me up. I stayed awake for the trip. I can’t exactly sleep on the road.

And I had a headache by the time I went to bed. So I took an Ibuprofen hoping I wouldn’t wake up with a nasty one the next morning.

That wouldn’t be the problem. No. I couldn’t even get to sleep.

When I finally opened my eyes for real at 4:53 a.m. I knew that it wasn’t going to the best day for running. My whole body was dragging.

Too much work and no sleep kind of does that. But we got dressed and ventured out.

We made our way to the Rose Bowl and only got stuck behind about 10-minutes worth of traffic getting into the parking lot. It wasn’t a bad parking situation actually. We made our way quickly from the car to the staging area. The portable toilets were plenty. I’m not kidding, there were enough toilets that it didn’t seem like there were any people waiting.

Nice. That was good because my stomach was turning knots. One after another. My stomach was killing me.

I’m not even going to pretend to do a recap. Every mile was painful. Every mile was hard.

And this is what it looked like:

OK. I didn’t hit the 13-minute average range. But still. This was a bad run. I did a Gu on mile four and mile eight.

That propelled me through a little bit. But it wasn’t enough. I just never picked up pace. At mile 10, though, I felt as if I could run awhile longer. I did. Then my butt started hurting, as if I pulled a muscle or something.

Then I slowed again.

Along the way were beautiful sites, including the Colorado Blvd. bridge, and Old Pasadena.

There was a ton of cheering. This was my second Rock ‘n’ Roll event, and I have to say I enjoyed it just as much as the first in terms of fun, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I was tired.

Too tired.

And by the time I reached the end at 2:48:19 I knew I’d given it all I could.

I pushed myself a little farther, passed the finish line and was handed my medal by a nice volunteer who gave me some strong encouragement.

I snapped this photo as I saw a member of the Half Fanatics group as for a second medal for his sister, he said. And, more shocking, the volunteer actually gave him one. Really? Wow.

I loved the medal. I actually held it nearly the entire way home because it’s so awesome and I really felt like I’d earned it for the five or six times I felt like quitting during this one.

When I got to the finish, I waited for Sam as they tried to kick me multiple times out of the area. I actually stood in one place for about 10 minutes before being asked to move. And yet a lot of people were around that weren’t being asked to move. I think I was just annoyed, which made this all feel so much worse.

Ugh. Double ugh. Triple ugh.

Then Sam crossed the finish line:

She’s somewhere in all that. She grabbed her medal and we headed off into the rest of the finisher’s area, which wasn’t nearly as packed as it was in San Jose during the October event.

I grabbed a Gatorade and some water. A volunteer gave me a heatsheet, even though it seemed a little warm and, by then, I’d already put on long-sleeve shirt.

And I was done.

The one good thing about this half was that the band that played at the end was Sugar Ray. I was really looking forward to seeing them, especially since I should have been finishing around the time they started playing.

By the time we finally got to the finish, after picking up our bags from bag check and getting some food, Sugar Ray was in the last half hour of the concert.

But they rocked.

I have some great video of Mark McGrath rocking the cowbell which I’ll post another time. Overall it was an excellent concert. When it was over, we headed to the merchandise tent where I picked up the gray shirt photographed above. And we headed to the car. It was a quick ride back to the hotel room where we cleaned up and packed within an hour.

And then, it was back on the road, our whirlwind trip to Pasadena ending.

Four and a half hours after we hit the road, we were home. I was tired. I fell asleep quickly on Sunday night, which was great because of the Monday holiday.

And now, as I reflect on it, I think part of me knows it was the result of fatigue. But I also know I’ve gained some weight recently that hasn’t helped.

I run the Oakland Half in a month or so. I want to be more prepared for it than I was for this. I thought I was prepared for this. Nope.

Now I’m taking a look at my diet and training plan to see where I went wrong. I know bad runs happen, but they also make a runner reflect on what he or she did wrong and right. That’s where I am right now.

So did I really rock through Pasadena? No. Was it still a good time? Of course. And I’m glad I did it, despite the pain and discomfort of all 13.22 miles.

A (half) marathon trip

We left at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. We ran at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. We hit the road for home at 1 p.m. after the race.

It was a whirlwind trip from Tracy to Pasadena and back.

I finished the half marathon, an inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll event, in 2:48:19.

It was definitely not a day for me to be racing. I was tired. Too much work in the past week, mixed in with a long drive and only about four hours of sleep because of noisy hotel neighbors made for a fairly lame race.

I was tired.

I’m planning a full recap tomorrow, since it’s a holiday and I have some time. But despite the fact that it wasn’t my best race ever, I had a good time away from home for a night.

I’m so tired now. So very tired.