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Posts tagged ‘personal record’

Admitting I’m better at this than I think

Three weeks ago, I replaced my half marathon PR with a brand new one.


The Garmin data isn’t even completely accurate. The actual time was a 2:20:52 half marathon. Two minutes off my previous personal best.

Yesterday, I ran a fantastic first half in the San Luis Obispo Marathon. I wanted to run my little heart out. But at mile 18, where I normally get a little held up, my left IT band started telling me how much it hated me.

I made a choice then, a smart one. I could either keep running on it until I couldn’t run anymore. Or I could pull off, slow down a little and still be able to run it into the finish. At mile 25, it really started bothering me. But I had a smile on my face the entire time.

Between the increasing heat and the lack of people over the last couple miles, I had my worst mile right before the end. It happened through the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo, where the spectators became few and the  passion to finish well was waning. I was tired. I was done running.

Even then, I knew I had the goal I had projected for the very rainy, very windy California International Marathon. I was coming in well under 5:15.


When I saw my husband at the finish, I yelled out: “I’m coming in WAY under what I anticipated.”

What I’m learning: When you keep running better than expected, you should refocus your priorities. Instead of feeling anxious about every race, maybe I should just embrace each one?

I’ve replaced two PRs in three weeks. And while the SLO marathon wasn’t what I had planned, I still came in under a 12-minute average. I knocked eight minutes off my last marathon time, which is a good chunk when you think about it.

I’m better at this than I’m giving myself credit for. It’s time I start focusing on THAT as opposed to thinking about the negatives. And while a 5:12 finish may be bad for another person, on Sunday it was amazing for me.

In Oakland, my best 13.1 performance to date


Right after I ran my first marathon, a coworker told me he knew I had it in me. He also brought me cake, which was amazing, but he kept saying it: “I knew you’d finish.”

I’m still kind of stunned at that response. Because I didn’t know. I admitted that, later on, to someone because I kind of felt like a fraud. I didn’t really believe in myself to know I could do it. My body kept telling me I couldn’t. So did my mind. Everything told me I couldn’t do.

“Then when did you know?” the friend asked me, concerned.

“At mile 26,” I responded.

You read that right. I didn’t know until mile 26.

Sometimes, you doubt yourself all the way to the end.

This year’s Oakland Half Marathon was exactly that way. I didn’t know until 13.1. And even then, when I was this:::close to the finish line, and still not quite there.

I didn’t really know until 13.3. The moment I crossed the finish line and turned off my Garmin, I knew.


No matter what my official time was, I had a PR. I wanted, so badly, for it to be in the 2:20 range. But I had it. Without question. There was nothing, even running .2 out of my way (damn tangents), that could have stopped it. I had it.

If you would have told me 2:21:04 seconds before that I would have the race of my life, I would have called your bluff. I spent most of Saturday trying to figure out how not to get to the start line. I just didn’t feel like running. I didn’t feel like pushing myself.

But Oakland, as it has for several years, has a way of bringing out the best in me.


Let’s rewind to 2005.

I was a fresh college graduate. Living on my own for the first time. New place. New roommate. Uncharted territory. And I chose Oakland to live economic and personal reasons. The rent was inexpensive. I always knew my roommate. My husband’s brother’s girlfriend at the time had an extra room. She was kind enough to rent it out to me for two years, though I’m pretty sure she was tired of me by the end.

In Oakland, I learned to be a better reporter. I learned more about journalism academically in my two years at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism than I did in three years a communication major in college. More importantly, I learned how to finish a story.

People ask me all the time why I went to graduate school, especially since I already had a nice padding of experience right out of college. I went because I would get halfway through a long project and not know how to finish the story. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I couldn’t get to the point where the words flowed. It was my “wall” at mile 20.

Berkeley helped me finish my story. Oakland helped me define the characters in it.

So I chose Oakland, in 2011, to be my first half marathon. Because it was familiar. Because I’d run those streets before. And, because, I wanted to give back to a place that had given so much to be. Races like this bring in a ton of money into communities. I wanted my money to go to Oakland.

My first half marathon was an amazing experience that ended in a 2:35:36 finish. My next Oakland experience had me finishing in 2:32: 27.

This year, the experience wasn’t even comparable. I thought I’d run races before where I left every single bit of me out on the course. On Sunday, I realized I was, again, in uncharted territory.

I came into Oakland this year unable to finish my story. Over the past few months, I’ve struggled with gaining perspective about everything that’s happened since January. I’ll start with this: I’m glad it all happened. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t where I am today. I’m better for it.

So on Sunday, even though I didn’t realize it, I came to run. And that’s what I did.

Mile 1: 9:24 — Are you kidding me? That’s faster than I run. I feel so comfortable. This can’t be right. It must be the Gu I took right before the start.

Mile 2: 9:57 — OK, better legs. I don’t want to be done before I’m actually done.

Mile 3: 11:25 — WHY IS MY SHOE UNTIED? MY SHOES ARE NEVER UNTIED! Pull over, tie shoe, start running again. When the Garmin beeps, I consider it the “beginning of the end.” Well, I had two good miles in me, I figured. It’s over.

Mile 4: 10:06 — Or not? Better take a Gu.

Mile 5: 10:56 — Battling some uphills here, over the Lake Merritt crossing, it gets a little congested. Weaving in and out of people.

Mile 6: 10:24 — Feeling the Gu. Picking it up.

Mile 7: 11:18 — That moment when you ram into someone because they stop right in front of you? That happened. I’m not two for two in running into people in half marathons. It wasn’t my fault, though. She stopped at a water station and just came to a dead halt.

In this mile, a guy also ran by me and whacked right into my arm. Seriously? That hurt. I let out a sound similar to a baby velociraptor in pain. The guy stopped dead in his stride. He actually turned around, came back and started talking to me.

“Are you OK? Did I hurt you bad?”

“I’m fine, dude. I just have a broken arm. You didn’t do it. I came that way.”

The concern on his face was amazing. He actually hung close to me for two miles. He told me he was afraid I’d pass out. I don’t know what I looked like, but apparently it was bad.

Mile 8: 10:55 — Only now was I getting tired. I took a Gu.

Mile 9: 11: 40 — The climb into the park around Lake Merritt is here. After nine miles, I really felt it.

Mile 10: 10:16 — This was  the point I looked down at my Garmin and realize I was coming in pretty early.

Mile 11: 10:53 — I started mile 11 under the two hour mark. I couldn’t believe I started mile 11 under the two hour mark. This is where everything comes into play in terms of questions. I can definitely beat last year’s time. I can beat my Pasadena time. What do I have to do to beat my PR? Too much math. I can’t think. Just keep it under 12-minute miles, I thought.

That should be good enough. Right? Follow the plan.

Mile 12: 10:42 — Follow the plan. Just follow the plan.


Mile 13.1: Where’s the finish?

Mile 13.2: I should be done by now. Why am I not done? What the hell?

Mile 13.3: UP THE HILL. RUN. RUN!

Total time for that .3 miles: 2.47

I saw my Garmin move past the 2:20 mark before I crossed. I closed my eyes and just gunned it. The full inertia I had behind me didn’t stop until I was nearing the medals. And then I knew. I fell a little bit, and had a moment of joy I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I had my story’s end.

Six months. Multiple bad situations. Turmoil. A lot of self reflection.

No regrets.  A healthy body. My husband at the finish line. A PR.

I gave the Oakland the race it had deserved for three years. I finally did it. I came away stronger than I ever thought I was.


As I sat on the lawn, taking it all in, I had a moment where I started tearing up. All the self-doubt started to fade for the first time since last October. Suddenly I felt as if I was back in control. On Sunday, I really did have the race of my life. I felt like somewhere in those 13.1 miles, I shed every ounce of upset and took myself back.

Two years ago, Oakland made me realize I could do anything when I finished my first half. Last year, I struggled with every step because I was mentally and emotionally spent. This year, Oakland gave me back something I didn’t even realize was still gone.

All of these things came rushing to me before my husband found me. I let myself cry. I deserved a good happy cry.

But before I got up, I decided to check my official time, even though I knew it wouldn’t be that far off.

I’ve mentioned in previous race posts that I always start my Garmin a little ahead of crossing the start, just to make sure it works. When I loaded up the page with my name, I realized that elusive 2:20, which I didn’t even realize was a goal for me, had been achieved.

My official time: 2:20:52.

That elation? The bliss? It all was just that much better.

I then realized that while this may be the picture-perfect end to one story, is now just the beginning of the next. What’s my next goal? How I can break it? Can earn a 2:15? Those are questions I didn’t think possible before all this stuff happened to me. Now? It seems doable. It seems realistic.

For me there was no better place to finish this story, and start a new one, than in Oakland.

An unexpected PR

I didn’t think it was possible to have a greater runner’s high than the one I did after the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon a week ago. I felt amazing when I finished. I was floating. I continued floating for the coming days, even on my other runs this week.

So when I woke up this morning, I was a little tired and not really expecting much out of my half marathon this morning. I slept a little on the way over and was still exhausted when I got to the starting line.

But the day’s conditions were perfect.

Marina Park in San Leandro was beautiful, as always.

It was cool and a little windy. I decided to keep my long-sleeved shirt on because when I took it off I felt a little too cold to stand around the 30-minutes before the beginning of the race. I used the portable toilets twice (love smaller races). I ate a couple Simply Fruit twists. I said goodbye to Thomas, who was planning on heading to work.

Then I made my way to the start line.

I love Brazen Racing for many reasons. One is that they are very organized. I never have to pick up my bib or shirt beforehand because they are totally fine with having race-day packet pickup. In fact, many people do that because Brazen makes it so easy.

The lines were actually a little longer at this point. I got there at about 7 a.m. and the race began at 8 a.m., so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the car.

It was a little bare when I got there, but you can see the overcast sky.

In any case, I was starting to get warmed up when the race director began advising everyone on the proper use of D-Tag timing chips. The race directors are incredibly awesome people. The husband, Sam, even came out and showed some people what they were doing wrong with their chips.

The countdown began and after 4…3…2…1 we were off.

Mile 1: 9:48 — Whoa! Where did that come from? I couldn’t believe I was moving along that fast. Not at all. I didn’t even feel like I was going that fast, but I figured I’d better slow down.

Mile 2: 10:24 — This feels much better. This pace wasn’t bad. I thought I’d surely get tired quickly. I figured I wouldn’t be able to sustain this, but I kept moving along because it felt fine. I didn’t even look like I was trying all that hard yet.

You can see me back there in between those three guys. Moving along, feet off the ground.

Another in the same area.

And another.

Mile 3: 10:39 — Still feeling good. Slowing down a little, but not struggling at all. We hit the second aid station a little after mile three began. I did a Vanilla Bean Gu.

Mile 4: 10:15 — The Gu propelled me! I picked up the speed.

Mile 5: 10:43 — Still trying to find my happy pace. But moving along strong. I usually average 11:30 or so on these runs, so this was an amazing pace for me this far in.

Mile 6: 10:31 — I was nearly under the hour with this one and started a huge chunk of mile five within that first hour. The turnaround was coming soon, and I started to realize I might get a PR if everything went right.

Mile 7: 11:03 — Slowed down at the turnaround to grab a cub of Ultima Replenisher and take off my long sleeved. But I turned it around fast. Did another Gu.

Mile 8: 10:59 — Moving along. Kind of getting tired of trail ground moving below me, but I find solid spots to run on.

Mile 9: 11:51 — This would be my “wall.” I started to get a little tired here. Decided on a 30 second to a minute-long walk break. I thought this would be the point where I gave up. I figured I’d still finish strong, but not as strong as I could. I drank a little of my Gatorade and got a burst of energy to push through the doubt.

Mile 10: 11:03 — I picked it back up. I felt amazing in this mile. I look at my Garmin and was coming in well under the two-hour mark. Wow. This is turning out to be a great race! Did another Gu.

Mile 11: 12:09 — Two not so great things happened here. My toe started killing me because the tape slipped off. And I had to stop and refill my water bottle. I filled up the bottle, slowly, at the aid station and then went on and into mile 11.

Mile 12: 11:13 — I started to get really excited about halfway through this mile. I knew I’d be coming in much sooner than my previous PR, as long as nothing happened within the next mile. I suddenly had a kick in my step. I realized I was running my best race to date.

Mile 13: 10:42 — I really picked it up here, I even passed four or five people. I NEVER have that much energy at the end of the race. But I did. I had a smile on my face from ear to ear I’m sure. I was elated.

Mile .15: 1:25 — I ran it in. I probably ran harder than I’ve ever run before. I was so happy. I stopped my Garmin and breathed deep, smiling.

Official time: 2:22:45

That’s so not what I expected to happen today. Not at all. I figured I’d go out flat, with this being my second half marathon in six days. My aim is to always run an 11:30 average. Today I ran a 10:54 average.

As always, Brazen gives out the most amazing medals. The shirt, pictured first, are pretty awesome too. They are just a well put together company that makes the experience less about competition, though there is some of that, and more about having a good time. They really let runners compete against themselves.

So what made this experience so good?

I started out strong. I knew my footing was secure. I kept moving, even when I started to think about potentially stopping. I figured it must be a good time when I started out with clean shoes and they ended up covered in dust.

A before and after comparison:

That’s dirt all around the “collar” of the shoes. I’m thinking it may be time to wash them.

I also had fun. I think that may be making the greatest difference in my running as of late. I’m having a good time. I’m chatting with people. I’m enjoying the experiences so much more. It’s making me a better runner.

So I have a new PR. I hope that doesn’t mean I have to go nearly a year before I get another. Now I know I can run that fast and that far. Now I know I have it in me.

Also: Today I put my new running bottle to the test.

It’s a little larger than the Amphipod bottles I usually run with, and it’s a Clean Bottle. I picked three up for me and one for myself at the expo for the San Francisco run. I’m really loving it. It’s easy to hold and I can easily clean it because the bottom and top come off.

I’m hoping to write a long review-type post about the bottles in the near future.

Rocking my way to a new PR

I’m going to say I’m disappointed. I was consistent for nine miles of this race. My aim was to run a 11:30 mile or under. In fact, I was moving along so well, I actually ran seven miles under an 11-minute mile.

I’m actually not disappointed by that. Not at all. In fact, it got me a new half marathon PR by 14 seconds. Yes, only 14 seconds, but still a new PR.

I’m a little upset because I think I could have ran EVERY mile under 11 minutes. I probably could have. But I was getting tired later in the race. My body wanted to keep going. My feet kind of hurt, though.

It wasn’t a total disaster. Quite the opposite actually.

Four weeks ago I couldn’t run at all. I’ve spent a good deal of time reinventing my training plan. I added in rest days. I’ll be adding in cross training this week. I did good today. Only two miles were horrible. And they were under 12:30. And I paced with the 2:15 finisher group for about five miles of the course.

I did well today. I’m allowed to have some regrets, though. I do.

My day started out at 4:45 a.m. I rolled out of bed, took a quick shower and got dressed. I woke Thomas up as I finished packing my gear in the swag bag I got my the Saturday expo.

I grabbed a small bottle of Gatorade and did a 50/50 mix of it and water in my bottle.

We left around 5:45 a.m. to pick up Sam. We were on the road by 6:08 a.m. Moving along. Today’s trip to San Jose went by much faster than yesterdays. No traffic. We were there by 6:50 a.m. We looked around and saw few people. Within 10 minutes thousands were embarking on downtown San Jose.

One of the first sites we see as we make our way to the start line was a huge pack of ambulances. I’m not kidding.

That didn’t sit too well with Sam. She’s a first-time half marathoner. I could understand. No one wants to end up on one of those during a run. (Later in the race she saw a guy go down near mile 12, I’ve been watching the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon Facebook page to see if anyone has information on him, but there is very little confirmed yet).

We checked out the finish line and grabbed some photos before it got too hectic at the main area.

We made or way to the portable commodes (not nearly as cute as the Brooks dressing rooms during the expo) and started warming up. Lots of people were running up and down the street. We kept moving until we had to make our way to Corral 10 for the 2:30 time finishers. I could see 16 corrals in total with about 1,000 each. That’s a lot of runners to get moving that early in the morning.

The race started promptly at 8 a.m. Our corral was projected to move across the start line at 8:07 a.m. We actually went at 8:04 a.m.

My Garmin was under four minutes off race time the entire run. That was nice. I’ve been in races where the clocks are way off, which causes a bit of panic when looking at the Garmin.

Mile 1: 10:14 — Well good morning legs, you are used to the Sunday long runs so lets get you moving.

Mile 2: 10:23 — Not bad timing here. I can see the 2:15 finisher sign.

Mile 3: 10:39 — Bands! We have music.

Mile 4: 10:39 — Lots of cheerleaders out here. Love the cheers about runners.

Mile 5: 10:18 — This pace feels good. Keep moving along.

Mile 6: 10:47 — Ugh oh, getting a little tired. Better have some Gatorade.

Mile 7: 11:38 — Walked one minute when my heart rate did a strange peak.

Mile 8: 11:29 — Moving along, slower now.

Mile 9: 12:26 — Walked through a rather congested water stop AND had a guy step on the back of my shoe and nearly pull it off. Seriously dude, walk much?

Mile 10: 11:47 — That’s a little better, but suddenly feel tired again. More Gatorade.

Mile 11: 11:04 — Yay Gatorade!

Mile 12: 12:25 — That small hill near the end just seems like cruel and unusual punishment. I slowed, but didn’t walk.

Mile 13: Look at Garmin. I’m coming in under 2:30. RUN! RUN! RUN!

Mile .3: 2.42 (average pace of 8:58) — Yeah, I ran 13.3 miles. I wasn’t watching the tangents well with this.

I crossed the finish with an official time of 2:27:20, a new PR by 14 seconds. My Garmin reflected 2:27:27 but I always forget to turn if off exactly as I cross (my husband even asked if I had remembered to turn it off this time, I once drove five miles down the freeway with it still on, that REALLY messed up my time).

Woo for a new PR!

I called Thomas to find out where he was. Turns out he wasn’t too far away. I was handed my medal (which was heavy) and started to figured out if I could wait through the crowd for Sam.

She came in at 2:32:59. She rocked it too even if her initial thought was “finish in under three hours.” She did so, no problem.

We had to make our way out a huge horseshoe-shaped area to the crowd. We were handed water, bananas, oranges and some Snickers Marathon bars. They taste like candy bars, so I keep wondering if they are really good for me.

Sam opted to get her knees wrapped in ice. She tells me if felt really good.

To me it just looked REALLY, REALLY cold.

We sat down for a little bit, just to cool off and decompress. I think both of us needed it. And then we did the obligatory photo opp thanks to Thomas. He was patient enough with us to take our photo and wait while we complained mostly about random stuff and how bad we were hurting.

We headed to the merchandise tent to purchase a new shirt for me. I usually prize my PR shirts and I wasn’t too hot on the unisex size medium I got at the expo. I got a “finisher” size small shirt. I also bought two pint glasses with the race logo (because they were cool) and a pin. All that got me a free shirt, which I gave to Sam (we joked later that it’s because I’m a Dri-Fit snob, I only like clothes I can run in).

Then we hobbled over to P.F. Chang’s for a second day in a row (Sam and I ate there in Plesanton on our way back from the Expo). Our race bibs got us $10 off, so we had lunch for three for only $21. And that included a beer. Good deal.

Overall a successful first half marathon for Sam and a great PR race for me, even if I was a little inconsistent.