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Posts tagged ‘PR’

A tale of two races

A year ago, I swore off the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. I ran my second 26.2 on a warm, balmy day in America’s Finest City with bad shoes and an attitude in need of much adjustment.

I’m admitting it: The trip, despite the destination, didn’t include any of my finest moments. At the end, I collapse to the ground, threw off my running shoes and cried. It wasn’t even a pretty cry. It was an ugly cry, with an ugly cry face. I hated every minute of it. On the way home, I told my running buddy Sam, who did the half marathon, that I would never do it again.


It’s amazing what changes in a year. I ended 2012 and began 2013 going through the worst moments of my life. I was convinced 2013 would be the worst full year of my life.


And you know what?

It actually hasn’t been too bad. That’s one of the reasons Sam convinced me, during our February trip to Southern California for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon, to sign up for San Diego. Not the marathon, though. At that point, I was already registered for the San Francisco Marathon (which I’m running on Sunday and crossing my fingers I’ll be able to finish with the IT band issues that have flared up lately), so there was no way I’d run two marathons in a three week period.

I did run two half marathons in a two-week period, which makes me think I qualify for the Half Fanatics, which I’d gladly join if I didn’t have such an aversion to groups.

Still, so much has changed. Last year, I realized something was very wrong with me. Within a month, I was on anti-depression and anxiety medication, trying to keep my more-fragile-than-I-ever-imagined self together. That didn’t end well.


In the months leading into San Diego, I became a PR machine. I ran a half marathon five-weeks post surgery in February and knocked twenty minutes off my time from last year. In March, I ran my first ever 2:20 half marathon. In May, I PRed again at Portland with a 2:19.

In San Diego, the place where I had the worst marathon experience of my life (we’ll see about this weekend and this dumb IT band), I found something in myself to push me into a runner a year ago I didn’t think existed in me. I ran a 2:16:41 half marathon. And I know exactly how I did it, which made it all that much better.

Mile 1: 10:08 — We get started at 7:08 a.m. I think I finally found my footing in the 2:20 corral. That’s my pace at the start and, usually consistently. I feel good. But right before the mile mark, I also realize I’m really, really warm.

Mile 2: 10:37 — That feeling of “warm” kind of stayed with me. I figured this wouldn’t be the best day to race. Plus, this Rock ‘n’ Roll race welcomes a ton of people … so at the first aid station, I felt like I was pushing my way through people to get to the water.

Mile 3: 10:07 — We start making our way into the University Heights neighborhood. The support here was AMAZING. These people were yelling and cheering for all the runners. A real boost.

Mile 4: 10:53 — Water stop to slow me down again. Vanilla Bean Gu.

Mile 5: 10:06 — I’m starting to feel the Gu as we get to the “top” of the half marathon route.

Mile 6: 9:53 — Now the Gu is really kicking in. And I’m getting excited as we move past the relay exchange point. There’s no “mini marathon” option in this race, but the half course is split in two so that people who aren’t quite ready to go the full 13.1 can test out their skills on six-mile and 7.1 mile routes.

Mile 7: 10:43 — A much-needed downhill. But not a complete downhill mile. Despite what this race boasted, it was not “flat and fast.” Nope. Not even close.

Mile 8: 10:05  — Some up and down here. I grab another Gu. I was running so fast (for me), that when I grabbed my Gu it literally felt like it was taking forever. I felt like I was clumsy and couldn’t really control my iFitness band really well.

Mile 9: 11:00 — Rolling hills. NOT A FLAT COURSE.

Mile 10: 10:45 —The combination of an aid station AND the hill right at the beginning of this mile dropped me here. Plus, I was getting tired.

Mile 11: 11:17 — I nearly lost it this mile. This is when we started heading into Balboa Park. The course narrowed here, with half marathoners on one side and marathoners on another. The problem with that is this the half marathoners, which there are more of, were right on top of each other. I took an elbow to the chest at the aid station here. Then I walked for a bit to recover from that. Then, I swear, another hill popped up.

Mile 12: 10:01 — Gu. I’m finishing this thing. Downhills in sight. Let’s go. Right at the mile 12 beep on the Garmin, the 2:15 pacer passed me. First thought: I RAN 12 MILES WITHOUT BEING PASSED BY THE 2:15 PACER! Second thought: CHASE. HIM. NOW.

Mile 13: 9:42 — So I literally chased the 2:15 pacer. I lost site of him as we got back into downtown, but I already knew I was on a good pace. There was no way I couldn’t PR now. I HAD THIS.

Mile .18: 1:28 (8:15 average) — Right downhill into the finish chute.

Official time: 2:16:41





This time though, I wasn’t stunned. I didn’t cry. I held it together pretty well. I found a curb. I sat and waited for Sam, who was leading her sister into a sub-three finish. I was really proud of Sam. She helped her sister take an hour off her previous half marathon time. And Sam ran a pretty great race herself for “just getting back into it.”

I hate to say “I wasn’t surprised.” But this time, I figured out WHY I ran well, which had been alluding me in previous races.

1) I took care of the jitters, for the most part, before hand.


That includes the required visit to the portable toilets. But it also includes having a more “set” schedule and plan for race morning. I now do a Gu about 45 minutes before the start. I also eat a Luna Bar for breakfast. Nothing too fancy or extreme for my stomach. I also plan and pack everything the night before.

2. I found my comfort zone early, then backed off that pace a little.

It’s hard not to speed up. I’m really bad at that. But, for the most part, I’ve gotten that under control. I find a pace I can reasonably sustain for 10 miles, then I ease up. That way, I get to mile 12 still feeling good. I’ve finished my last three half marathons feeling amazing. That’s a huge change from feeling like I was dying before in nearly all of them.

3. I paid less attention to my Garmin.

Really now. I know that’s hard to believe. But I am spending less time staring at it between miles and more time just running. I’m doing more “in the moment” running.

4. I’m having fun.


I used to feel like these races were “make or break.” It had everything to do with the fact I was carrying the stress of my bad days, and bad life there for awhile, with me into them. I ran so well in 2011. I improved my times. I ran my first marathon. But 2012 turned into a bad year for my racing, until I took a vacation from my full-time work in August 2012. That’s the week I ran my best half marathon, a 2:22.

That should have told me something. (Everyone, including my grandmother, has since told me that.) Proof of that fun? I’m able to joke around now before races (see above? It is unpleasant to be towed…ha!). I’m just much looser than before.

5. I’m fueling well.

The Gu pattern is becoming just that, a pattern. I’ve started to “figure out” this half marathon thing. I’m carrying just enough to make it in to the finish, taking it when I need it and not dwelling on it too much.

6. I’m training better.

I’m sure that’s telling in itself. I do incline treadmill training now. I’m also running outside more when my IT band is allowing it. Unfortunately lately my IT band has been really angry. I do one long run a week, two mid-length runs (7-8) and two tempo runs (4-6). I feel better about my training. And it’s “just enough” to push me where I need to be.

That said, I don’t necessarily have more time. I don’t. Right now I’m back to averaging 10-hour days while my boss is on vacation. I’m just glad to have the “itch” to run back. My self-imposed “no run” rule this week to help my leg get better is annoying me more than this sort of thing ever did before.

7. I know now what I didn’t know then.

I didn’t realize how much “healing” I had to do after January, both mentally (from all depression and anxiety) and physically (from emergency gallbladder surgery), until I really got away from what I felt was making me “sick.” Part of me thought everything would get better overnight. In many ways, it did. In others, it didn’t. I had to heal. I had to grow. And much like I literally regained my “stride” in running last year, the running this year has played a huge part in that.

I’m better because I run.


Half marathoners are just better now. Running is just better now. I’m better now. And believe me when I say I know I have further to go down that road to feel “whole” again. A 2:16 half marathon though moves me closer to that goal.

Last year, I walked away from San Diego feeling the lowest I had ever felt. I was miserable. I hated my life. I wasted time on people I thought were my friends. I couldn’t imagine that it could get much worse. Then it did.

This year, I came to San Diego with a completely renewed purpose. I came into it a more whole person. I came into it happier. And also with better shoes. But, most importantly, I came into this race knowing that I had that faster race in me. That made the biggest difference. Everything else was just complementary.

Two races. One year apart. A little rock ‘n’ roll. A world of difference.

So much to write, not enough time to do it


I’m having one of those “I WANT TO JUST LET EVERYTHING IN MY HEAD POUR OUT INTO MY BLOG” days. But I can’t.

My husband I got back from Six Flags Magic Mountain, after our trip to San Diego for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon this weekend, at about midnight last night. I’m exhausted. But my freelance boss is leaving for vacation later this week.

I’m buried in work until Friday. Then See Jane Run happens on Saturday.

It’s going to be a crazy week.

But at some point I’m going to have to write about my new personal record. I did it again. I ran faster than I did in Portland.

My time for Sunday’s half is 2:16:41. So close, yet so far, to 2:15. It’s so close I can taste it. In fact, I did taste it, for all of one minute, when the 2:15 pacer passed me during the run. For a race I didn’t think would get me to this goal, I’m pretty stoked at how it turned out.

But…more details will have to come later.

A new PR in PDX: Part III (Race edition)


Finally! The race report! My apologies for this coming a couple days after the second part of this series. Yesterday I went to graduation for the community college I work for as a journalism instructor. This was the first time in three years I had students walking (many choose not to), so I was really excited.

But it turned into a very long day.

In any case, on race day Sam and I woke up at 6 a.m. The race began about .7 miles from our hotel two hours later. We knew we wouldn’t have to walk far. We also knew we could chill for awhile beforehand. I can’t say I had any “race day” nerves. In fact, my anxiety has become a lot better lately when dealing with larger crowds (hence, participating in graduation).

The good news? It had stopped raining. In fact, it looked to be a fairly nice day. The skies were a bit overcast, though. Perfect running weather.

We called down to the hotel front desk and asked for a late checkout. I know that seems like the most importune time to do so, but the desk clerk kept telling us we had to come back and ask. Finally, when we went downstairs to actually leave for the race, they told us we could check out at 2 p.m. That meant we could stick around for a bit at the finish.

We headed down in tank tops to the start. Sam needed water so we stopped at a little store along the way. But instead of buying regular water, she bought sparkling water.

Too bad we didn’t notice until AFTER we filled our water bottles up. Great, I thought, this is not going to be good for my already shaky digestive system.

It wasn’t too long after that we came into the main staging area. And stopped at my predictable pre-race hangout.


Hello portable toilets! This was the same race that offered portable toilets in a premium area for a discounted fee. We waited in line less than 10 minutes, so we really didn’t need them.

After our stop at the “Honey Buckets,” because that’s what they are called in Portland, we headed to my corral.


We figured the wait for our start, in corral 14, would take a bit. But they actually held us back a lot longer than we thought. I think seven or eight corrals before us took off before they finally started letting us move forward.

The corrals went all the way back to the Hawthrone Bridge, which we could run over as we made our way to mile five. The people seemed to stretch on forever.


Some people complained later on the event’s Facebook page that they couldn’t hear anything all the way back near the underpass. I can imagine why.

My Garmin has me making my way across the start line at 8:16 a.m.

And we were off…

Mile 1: 10:07 — I think the best thing I ever did was sign up for the 2:20 corral for this race. This is my starting pace. This is my comfort zone. I didn’t have weave around people like I do in later corrals. I think I found “my” corral.

Mile 2: 10:14 — The initial route takes runners along the shore past the second bridge we’d be crossing, near the finish. A lot of flat here, in this mile a small downhill.

Mile 3: 9:46 — This mile has a tiny, gradual uphill. I don’t know how I managed this number at all.

Mile 4: 10:37 — The climbs begin. Not significant, but not small either. I think my legs are always a little shocked when I start climbing. Here I came into the first water/Gatorade stop I walked through. I also downed my first Gu of the race (though I’d had one before the race).

Mile 5: 9:36 — Anyone ever tell you that Gu doesn’t work? It does! Plus, there was a nice downhill here that went a long ways toward this number. I think this race was defined by shorter uphills with longer downhills.

Mile 6: 11:10 — Which is likely why my IT band was starting to throb right in the middle of the race. I think a combination of sitting on the plane and worrying that my Tiger Tail would get confiscated by airport security added to this. I couldn’t roll adequately the night before the race. And I’ve been having a lot of issues with my IT band lately. (Though I have to say, a full Smartwater bottle worked really well as a roller.) This area was the most boring part of the race, through industrial and port areas.

Mile 7: 10:58 —The biggest hill begins. And it was no joke. I ran as long as I could before starting a brisk walk uphills. Not as steep as a San Francisco hill, but fairly long.

Mile 8: 12:10 — The biggest bulk of the hill was in this mile. This would have been longer without the small downhill at nearly the top of the hill. I realized, after I finished this hill, that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. What’s happening to me? I took another Gu.

Mile 9: 10:59 — We start making our way through cute neighborhoods where children are giving high fives. Lots of nice houses. People cheering with cowbells.

Mile 10: 10:33 —I felt like the Gu was starting to kick in. My leg, at this point, is really bothering me.

Mile 11: 11:07 —This was my wall. My leg hurt. My stomach was starting to flutter. I wasn’t even considering time. I felt like I could “walk it in” and still be OK with it.

Mile 12: 10:30 —And then something happened. I can’t explain it without mentioning that it’s something new. Ever since I had my gallbladder removed, I’ve had this ability to REALLY pull deep within myself. I look at my watch now and realize something else is happening: I’m running a 2:20 half marathon. On a tougher course than Oakland. I’m an honest-to-God 2:20 half marathoner. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Mile 13: 9:56 — So I ran. I ran like I’d never run before. Because suddenly I didn’t care about my weight, or the cupcakes I ate, or my job, or the plane trip home or the fact that I was surrounded by thousands of other people. I hit the final downhill conservatively and then used everything I had stored in me to push to the finish.

.19: 1.41 (8.47 average) — The truth: I have never, not in any race I’ve done, pushed that hard to finish. I wanted it so bad. If I was two minutes off a PR? Whatever. I probably wouldn’t have. Maybe I would have. I don’t know.

Official time: 2:19:23

If I said I wanted to cry, I’d probably get teased because that seems to be a thing for me lately after races. It’s hard, though, to put into words what training for three years, non-stop, without achieving any sort of new PR for six to eight months at a time can do to a person. I was failing in my races. I had one good one last August. Everything else was just blah. I never found the passion to push forward like I did that day.

Not until recently.

I ran a 2:19:23 half marathon. Oh my God. I don’t know who I’m becoming. I’m completely serious.

You’re probably wondering what’s changed, outside of the missing gallbladder. I’m prone to hyperbole, but my answer now is honest: Everything.

Every damn thing about my life has changed. For the better. And the running? It’s just coming along for the ride.


My mom texted me soon after. I told her. I tried to call my husband who never picks up his phone. Then I went and grabbed as much food as I could and headed to find a spot to wait for Sam, who was making some good time of her own compared to her experience in Pasadena earlier this year.

I bought myself the obligatory PR shirt. I buy one for myself after every race I PR at. It’s kind of my deal to myself since I promised myself I wouldn’t intentionally buy running clothes for awhile. The PR shirt is different because I always feel like I earned it.

And at that point I was dumping heat. Know how you know you had a good run? You dump a ton of heat within 30 minutes of finishing.

When Sam finished, we hung out for a little bit. But I think we both wanted a shower more than we wanted to sit around and wait any longer. That said, we did try to visit Voodoo Doughnut for a second time that day only to be left empty handed again. Instead, we headed back up to the hotel.We did stop and ask a nice guy to take our photo.


Because nothing says friendship like being wrapped in space blankets with a ton of excess freebies between you. And race medals. Of course race medals completely say friendship.

And remember I mentioned the sparkling water? I barely drank out of my water bottle. This was one of the first races I really relied on the water stations. But it was cool outside and still overcast when I finished. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I needed the 15 ounces or so still left in my bottle. (I know I could have poured it out and started over, but I was too busy PRing.)

The rest of the day focused on two things: 1) Finally getting Voodoo Doughnut (which we did) and 2) Getting back to airport to fly out of Portland.

Had we of known Portland a little better, we would have not walked multiple extra blocks to the train station. It was my fault really.

Earlier in the day, after the half marathon, I literally told Sam where our train stop was to get back to the airport. And then I proceeded to forget it completely. And walk us around in circles.

By 5:10 p.m. we were heading back to the plane en route to Oakland.


Ladies and gentlemen, we went the route of the H-O loading doors. Again with my juvenile humor. I’m not sorry.

It felt nice to finally relax on the plane, even though I knew by the time we got back to Oakland an hour and 55 minutes later I would be all cramped up and lucky to walk.

But I kind of feel like, in a way, my luck has returned a little.


I got to go to a beautiful city for a race. I got to run my first out-of-state race. I got to hang out with a friend. I didn’t pay sales tax for more than 24 hours. I ran a solid race. I had an amazing time.

In two weeks I run Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego. I’m excited for that one too. Even if I don’t PR, I’m excited because lately I’ve just felt lucky to race. And lucky to run.

Something is definitely happening to me.

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.

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.

When Oakland actually became my ‘A’ race


When I decompressed from running a ridiculously soggy California International Marathon last December, I realized two things:

  1. I was overcoming the anxiety that had paralyzed me and all but taken away my voice and confidence
  2. I was gunning for the Oakland Half Marathon to be my “A” race

Two very different realizations, yes.

But running CIM a second time, during one of the worst periods of my life, made me think that if a marathon could make me overcome something so seriously wrong with me, maybe gunning for a new “A” race would continue to promote that healthy perspective. It matters, though, that Oakland was my first-ever half marathon in 2011. CIM was my first marathon the same year.

I have sentimental attachments to both.

And after emergency gallbladder surgery, a broken arm and an incredibly messed up training cycle, today, Oakland actually became my “A” race.

I’m not afraid to admit, there were some tears. There were also exasperated sighs. The moment after I finished, all I wanted to do was collapse into a ball and scream. I can’t relate the feeling any other way. It wasn’t anxiety, though this is the biggest race I’ve done since crap went down last October. (Confession: I had my first panic attack since last October this week. It wasn’t as traumatic as that one, but it took me right back to THAT day. And it kind of ruined my week and made me feel fragile again. The trigger was a very similar, hopeless situation like what happened to me last fall.)

Today, I felt pure bliss. I haven’t felt that in more than a year. My heart sang and danced. I felt more free than I ever have before.

That bliss came in an official time of 2:20:52. Nearly a two-minute better than my August PR time.

My husband called it, as if he knew I had it in me. Though he was a couple minutes off.

“I should expect you around 2:18, right,” he said as we circled Lake Merritt to go to the start.

I laughed.

“You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’ll be that fast,” I responded.

He wasn’t far off.

Last night, I was considering not even going to this race. I was throwing in the towel before I even started. The panic attack did that too me. It, again, made me doubt everything I knew. It paralyzed me with fear. I even offered my very-tired husband, who has worked six days a week at his engineering job since last fall for a rebuild project, an out. I told him we didn’t have to go. Fine by me. He could sleep.

I’m thankful he’s a man smart enough to know I was looking for an out. He wasn’t giving me one.

I also knew that on my list of consistent things that pulled me out of the darkness last year, running was at the top. With each run, the confidence came back.

Two years ago, this half marathon made me feel like I could do anything the moment I finished. Last year, I suffered through physical and emotional pain, doubting myself every step.

Today, it made me fearless.

I feel like I’ve been cheesy on a lot of my posts lately, but I can’t help but feel liberated these past couple months. Something in me has changed. And it’s not just the gallbladder being gone.

It means today I gave Oakland the race it deserved. More than anything else, those streets defined who I became as a person during my two years of graduate school at UC Berkeley. I became “me” in Oakland, away from my family, my now husband and my life before that point. That race deserved a better performance than I had given in previous years.

More importantly, I gave myself the race I always knew I had in me.

I hang my PR medal right in front of my computer in my home office. It’s to remind me of what I can accomplish. Right now it’s also reminding me of how far I’ve come.

And that PRs are made so that we can break them.

Turkey Trot 10K PR

It’s fair to say I struggle with the 10K distance. I think that’s one of the reasons I “got over” it pretty quickly. I’m pretty sure at this point I’ve run more half marathons as I have 10Ks. Or, at least, they are pretty close. I’m not a fan of the 6.2, though.

I think it’s because I always felt as if I was starting to “warm up” at the end of the run. 5Ks have a tendency to be fast. I’ve never ran a 5K over 30 minutes. That’s a quick run. I’m out and done,

10Ks are more of a struggle. When I ran a couple, I suddenly realized that the difference between 6.2 miles and 10 miles (a nice training distance for the half marathon) was pretty insignificant. It’s not surprising it took me 11-months to move from 5Ks to 10Ks, but only five months to more up to half marathons.

The marathon distance is still daunting. Even after a 20-mile run, it’s intimidating. I’m ridiculously scared of my first marathon this weekend, no kidding.

The point is I struggle with getting going, getting comfortable and then stopping. My joints thank me. My legs do too. But my mind tells me to keep going.

I ran my first 10K on Thanksgiving Day 2010. I finished in 1:03:18.

And my PR stuck for a year. I tried to regain the momentum. I tried to push harder. But the truth was, my 10K experience quickly moved to trails for something more challenging. I’ve really only run two “flat and fast” ones. My second fastest was somewhere around 1:05, which was because I had a bathroom break mid-run. I couldn’t avoid it.

So I had low hopes going into the Thanksgiving run in Stockton. The Run Against Hunger attracts a diverse range of people. Most compete in the 5K. Only about 200 do the 10K. I did the 5K in 2008 before I took running as seriously as I do now.

I was nearly thinking about now going to the run. Big Sur hadn’t gone as planned. I was tired. My stomach hurt.

And yet, Thomas dropped me off and I started the run.

One mile in, I couldn’t tell how I’d do. In fact, I didn’t look at my Garmin until I hit the turnaround point to repeat the course. By then the field thins out tremendously.

Mile 1: 10:02

Mile 2: 10:03

Mile 3: 10:01

I was feeling good. I started to see the field way ahead of me. That doesn’t bother me anymore really. People will finish before me. People will finish after me. I walked through a water station.

Mile 4: 10:15 — Still feeling good, but still not too sure about this run.

Mile 5: 10:40 — A stomach cramp got me at about mile 5.5. I slowed but stayed steady.

Mile 6: 10:07 — Looked at the Garmin here and realized I could come in under my time from last year if I pushed. So I pushed. It’s easier to push in a 10K than it is in a half marathon. So much easier.

Mile .19: 1.41 — I ran the tangents good on this course, definitely. I don’t typically come in under, but I hugged close everywhere.

Final time: 1:02:52

An incremental PR, but still a PR.

I was pretty stoked about this, despite the fact that I had to wait until Monday for official times to be posted. (This company often doesn’t have streaming results. And we didn’t have chip timing this year. We did last year. I have a feeling I would have shaved some seconds off with chip timing.)

It was a good run. I felt good.

Oh and it had started raining at some point during the last half of the run. Not even a big deal, outside of the fact that I finished with my glasses on my head. I’m going to run the marathon in contacts I think.

I’m happy this race happened. It redeemed two not too great race performances – Nike Women’s Half and Big Sur – but scared at the same time too. I usually run good, then bad, then good. I’m hoping a good 10K doesn’t translate into a bad marathon.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, four days and counting.


It’s official

I PRed at my Turkey Trot last week. The writing is small, yes. I was waiting to write my race review until the results. And I totally PRed!