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Posts tagged ‘race’

When a good run changes everything

Pregnancy does a number on a woman's body. I say that, now 11 weeks postpartum, only minutes after trying to find professional clothes to wear to a formal event. It, obviously, changes the abdomen. Even though everyone swore I was "all tummy," my legs and arms feel deflated.

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Joining the #StayFreshTeam: A ShowerPill review


My race report is still to come from this weekend’s Summer Breeze Half Marathon, but the run was my first race in more than a month and it gave me a chance to finally use and review the ShowerPill.

Dubbed “the athletic body wipe” the ShowerPill is a thick, largish wipe that kills 99.9% of germs on the body after getting in a good, sweaty workout. The cloth, though, also contains Aloe Vera and Vitamin E which makes for a nice, clean feeling without damaging the skin.

I normally carry some type of wipe in my gym bag with me. Usually it’s something I get at Target in the travel section.

I started doing so after reading reviews of the Oakland Half Marathon online and former participants mentioning a lack of toilet paper for slower runners in the portable toilets. I carried them with me, in my waist water bottle pouch, that day. Nowadays I just keep them in my bag until after a race.

I use them to try and freshen up.

My husband hates it when I use the wipes, though, because they smell. It’s not a horribly bad smell. It’s more of a flowery, fragrant smell that just kind of lingers, even when you buy the “baby powder” fresh version.

And the cloths were small. Too small to actually use on more than one arm.

Enter the ShowerPill.

I found out about the product on Twitter and asked if the ShowerPill would be a good option for the days I run and work out when I’m at school. I don’t have access to showers or anything in between meetings and labs, but I have, in the past, gone for quick runs, especially when the fall and winter comes and it gets dark earlier.

The folks at ShowerPill were nice enough to send me some free samples.

I packed them into my gym bag, but didn’t have a chance to use them until this weekend after the Brazen Summer Breeze Half Marathon.

After 2:19:15 running, I needed clean off. I usually do after a race.

Good thing I had a ShowerPill packed away. When I found my way back to the car (which thankfully was parked close since my husband took out the kayak and the marina saved spots specifically for boat launching) and started wiping down.


My husband took some nice rapid fire shots of me getting clean. And then I learned how to make .gifs via Photoshop. So I had to share this gem. It looks like I’m in pain. I assure you, I’m not. I just have a hard time having anything touch my face, I always have.

I’ll save the images of me cleaning off the rest of me (arms, arm pits, etc.) because that’s just too much information.

And you know what? I felt so much better afterward. I didn’t smell like baby powder. I didn’t have to go through multiple wipes just to get clean. My face wasn’t irritated afterward either.

The ShowerPill was also large enough that I felt like it was really cleaning me off.

Even better, I didn’t have to ride the nearly hour-long ride home smelling bad or having to worry about my sticky sweat getting all over my car seats. This one is especially important since the car I’m driving right now had cloth seats. It’s nice not to have to open the windows and “air it out.”

My husband and I were even able to make a stop, which we don’t normally do because I’m not the best-smelling person after a run, and I was able to sit at a restaurant without feeling self conscious or gross. I was sold, seriously though, when I felt fresh when I got home still and didn’t feel the need to run and get in the shower immediately. (Confession: I did get in the shower after a bit, though, to wash my hair. I didn’t expect the ShowerPill to do that.)

The ShowerPill is also reasonably priced at $9.99 a pack for 1o. That’s $1 each. It’s well worth it.


You can purchase the ShowerPill at You can also enter to win a one-year supply of ShowerPills (which, if you’re like me and work out a lot, you know will come in handy) here after liking ShowerPill on Facebook. You can also follow ShowerPill on Twitter.

I’m all about trial and error of products before jumping in. I’ve spent way too much money on things billed for athletes and runners that just don’t work for me. But I’ll be ordering a couple packages of ShowerPill wipes to use after a good run or other workout.

Disclosure: I was sent three ShowerPill wipes from ShowerPill, but was not compensated for this review nor was a review promised to the company. These opinions are solely my own.

A true middle packer


My Garmin has me only running 12.99 miles today, but I know the course is 13.1. It also has me finishing a full 11 seconds after my official time. I never start my Garmin that early. I’ve had some irregularities with distance lately with Gertrude the Garmin III, so I’m not sure if it’s in need of calibration, but I was off the entire time today.

I also had some pretty significant stomach issues out on the course today. My abdomen was cramping up, very much like it was before my gallbladder was removed. The electrolytes didn’t go down well. The Gu made feel gross. None of those things have happened since my surgery. I have been having some issues with my GI tract lately…I’m trying to get it under control again.

That was the bad news.

The good news? I still did well on the course.

In spite of myself. And my slightly Debbie Downer attitude going into the run. That’s anxiety. It kicks you when you’re down. Repeatedly.

I told my husband three times as he was loading his kayak up (so he could explore the bay while I ran), that I just wanted to go back to bed. Last month, I did just that and didn’t do the color-themed run I was supposed to do.

The anxiety even got me at the start.

My official time is 2:19:15, which makes it my second best half marathon. (And yes, I feel guilty my Garmin didn’t read that.)

I’ve run in the 2:20 range enough that I can truly call myself a “middle packer.” I’m actually kind of proud of it. I’ve shown I can be consistent. Maybe my nerves will be far less the next time than they have been. Or not.

This is the last half I am currently registered for until the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon. I run that a week after I run 26.2 at the Half Moon Bay International Marathon. A chance for a PR? Probably not. I’m fairly comfortable with the knowledge that it takes me much longer to recover from a marathon than a half. I’m not going to push myself.

Right now, I’m just happy to be a “middle packer.” Why? Because the course changes when you move through it faster. It becomes a different world completely. I’m incrementally spending less time out on the course, which may not seem like much, but it’s huge to me.

I AM getting better. Now if I can only get my training and diet back to par as the school semester begins, I can probably get even better.

I can only hope, right?

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.

What we learn from the races that don’t go as planned


Two years ago I signed up for the See Jane Run Half Marathon as my first 13.1 race distance. I picked it specifically because of the company’s mantra and it’s encouragement of women of all kinds.

“Here’s to you.  The broad-shouldered, the knock-kneed, the pigeon-toed, the small-breasted, the wide-hipped, the long-waisted, the short-legged, the stocky, and the skinny. And yes, even the perfectly proportioned.  May you live long, enjoy dessert, and never stop laughing.  Blisters heal. Muscles recover. Friendships last a lifetime. High heels have their place in the very back of the closet.  If you can run a mile, you can run a marathon. There comes a time when you really need to replace your sports bra. No really. Consider this.  Only one person wins. Everyone else should have a rockin’ good time. Yes, you can talk and run at the same time. Chewing gum is the hard part. A little chocolate goes a long way. Be yourself. There’s a little bit of Jane in all of us.”

To me, that’s the embodiment of running. It doesn’t matter who you are, how much you weigh or how fast you run: You can and will do this.

In fact, what propelled me to sign up for an earlier half marathon was that notion that if I could run a mile, I could run 13.1 just fine. So in January, immediately after my first 10-mile run around my city, I did just that.

Then I signed up for another.

By the time I hit the picturesque start-line in Alameda for See Jane Run, the race I signed up to be my first was now my third. But I held dear to what was supposed to be. This race meant everything to me.

I ran a 2:35:36 in Oakland for my first half marathon. I ran a 2:27:34 for my second. I was hoping to run a 2:25 for See Jane Run.

I remember being so optimistic when my husband dropped me off at Washington Park in Alameda. It was a sea of friendly faces. Every woman there was happy. The best part was the before-race 1980s inspired aerobic workout.

Once I started running, I felt good. My 10K time was decent.

Then I started to fall apart. My feet started to fall apart.

My body started to fall apart.

I was encouraged on by all the fabulous runners around me, but I just fell flat. Something was wrong. All that positive I took into the race was disappearing, but not because the race was bad. The race was fantastic. The volunteers were amazing. Everyone was really supportive.

But I wasn’t “on” at all.

By time we head back into the finish-line area, off the island we were running around, I could tell my feet were blistered up. And not just small blisters here and there. I feet felt as if the entire bottom was blistered beyond repair.

I was in pain.

I crossed the finish line at 2:42:16.

And I was devastated.


My husband took this photo of me after I sat down at a park bench for about 30 minutes and tried to figure out what went wrong. I was near tears. I was so upset.


Then he shot this one because he told me no one could take a photo looking sad with a glass of champagne in their hands and chocolate in their stomach. No one. Not even after running 13.1 miles. He’s a wise man.

And yes, that’s the view from Crown Beach Memorial Park, where See Jane Run in California ends. You can sit there and just stare out at the water for hours. Which is good if you’re feet hurt and you have a glass of champagne. (If those aren’t reason enough to run this race, I don’t know what would be.)

Needless to say, the race knocked the passion out of me for a couple weeks. I kept asking myself questions on what I could have done differently.

Are you supposed to get better at half marathons are you do more? Shouldn’t you feel better at the end of each race?

I learned something, though, as a sat out a couple weeks processing what happened at the race: You will have bad running days.

You’re probably thinking: Well, yeah. Everybody has bad days at SOMETHING.

But I was still very new to running. I was still very unsure of myself. I didn’t know how to react to a race going that completely wrong when it should have gone right. Now I know you react and change. You look at what happened and make sure it doesn’t again. You adapt.

That day, I realized what was wrong fairly quickly. I was wearing the wrong socks. At that point I had very little experience with wearing “performance” clothing. I had just started purchasing Dri-Fit shirts and moisture-wicking pants. In many of my early race photos, you can see me wearing my $1 Target socks.

They’re socks. Who needs to buy special socks? If you’re running for a long time, i.e. over two hours, you should probably invest in some good socks. (Still new to running? See Jane run has you covered in the socks area, no doubt.)

So my time on the course didn’t exactly constitute my finest running moments during the 2011 See Jane Run race. But I walked away from it with a much greater perspective on overcoming and fighting. It didn’t matter how much pain I was in that day, I was going to get to the finish. I was going to get my chocolate and champagne. And I did.

That’s part of the reason I sent in an application to be an ambassador for the company this year. The blisters healed. The ego wounds did too. But I took something more powerful away from that specific race than I realized at the time. I took the skills I needed to run every one of my long runs, marathons included, with persistence.

See Jane Run holds a special place in my heart because of that. That race taught me one of my first big lessons in running.

I also took the knowledge that bad days are like bad runs. The ones that don’t go right make us appreciate the ones that do so much more.

So this year, I’ll be back out on the course. I’ll be focusing on running as fast as I possibly can to 1) Beat my time from 2011 and 2) Hopefully PR. I’ll also be using it as a final training race for the San Francisco Marathon, which is the following weekend. I already know it’s going to be an amazing time, if only because two years ago it was and I know it’s just become even better since then.

It’s a a half marathon, sure. But it’s also a party that celebrates women over 13.1 miles. And you should join the party.


The link above takes you to a registration page where the half is $85 through May 8. Then the price goes up by $10. Not quite ready for a half yet? The 5K is also a fun option with the same perks (chocolate and champagne at the finish!). The 5K is $45 currently.

Did I mention it’s mostly flat and fast? Plus the neighbors cheer you! I had a toddler give me a high-five two years ago. You can’t beat a toddler high five!

(NOTE: I’m a See Jane Run Ambassador for 2013-14, but the views in this blog post are completely my own. I really believe in this race and what See Jane Run represents. So come out and celebrate with us. OK?)


A late addition to the racing calendar

As of Monday, this is happening:


Yes. I’m running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland Half Marathon. It’s the day before my 29th birthday. I’m considering this my birthday present to myself, kind of a big celebration to welcome my last year in my twenties.

I’m heading up with my running buddy Sam. I’m crashing in her room. I’m going to keep costs down by being as frugal as possible while there, but certain things will happen. Voodoo Donut will happen for sure.

I’m excited. This will be my first race out of state. And, surprisingly, I’ve never been to Oregon. I’ve been to Seattle, but that was a long time ago. I haven’t been out of state since we went to New York a couple years ago.

My husband is stoked because it means he’ll have quite a few nights without me in upcoming months. I’m taking my students to a journalism conference in April. Then there’s this. I have his blessing to have a good time.

I think I’m more excited about this race than I am about any other coming up. It is sure to be a good time! Look forward to running PDX!

Becoming anti-expo

This morning, my husband and I ventured to San Jose about 60-miles away to pick up my race packet for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I’m usually pretty accepting of picking up my bib number and race shirt far away, then returning home, but today I was annoyed for several reasons.

The first is that gas is ridiculously priced right now. The second is that I felt completely underwhelmed by the experience. So this isn’t an expo review. Not at all. This is a post about how I’ve increasingly become against expos in recent months.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll expos aren’t the entire reason. Competitor actually does a good job of moving people through the lines and then corraling them into an area where you can purchase more race stuff. And then you walk around and looked at all things running related.

Except I didn’t want to stay.

We only had an hour on the meter anyway. I had already made a corral change. I had my bib and my shirt. I had my “swag” bag that wasn’t full of all that much swag. We walked around for about 20 minutes and I looked at my husband and said I was done.

“I’m over it,” I said.

And with that we walked back to the car and drove five miles to the nearest Lululemon. I’m not even joking.

I was disappointed for several reasons, all of which have been hallmarks of many expos I’ve been to lately.

The first was the location. In San Jose, the expo was at the local convention center, right near/in the middle of the downtown area. Not bad. But the building was torn up last year when I went to this expo. And then torn up again this year. We had to walk much further than we wanted to. Petty complaint? Yes.

But consider we’re in a metropolitan location and working against a meter and you’ll realize our dilemma.

The next was organization and a tad bit of misinformation provided at check in.

Check in was easy enough, but see that line at the end. That was the line for my initial corral. Above each of those signs was another sign that said
“corral changes.” So I asked a guy if we made corral changes at the desks. Seems simple enough, right?

He said: “Do you know how this works?”

Then he proceeded to tell me where I needed to go to pick up my bib. I already knew that. I was asking a separate question. He wasn’t listening, or didn’t want to. I know this happens. But I’ve noticed a lot more lately that volunteers aren’t exactly helpful at expos. Often they have no idea how to answer a question.

It’s because they’re volunteers. It’s because they have very little training before being sent out to do their jobs for the day. In many cases I’ve seen teenagers leading people the wrong way at expos. They’re probably working for community service credit, but still.

Again, working against a clock here.

The T-shirt pick up was a breeze, as was the “goodie” bag grab.

Except all these races that promise “goodie” bags have one sample and then a bunch of pieces of paper. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series is notorious for that. Other races (the Oakland Marathon and San Francisco Marathons included) have online options for this. I’m always appreciative of that, even though it likely requires more work.

Why? Because all but one of those papers from the expo I went to this morning went into the recycling bin when I came home.

I think next time I’ll bring my own bag and skip the reusable backpack.

Another peeve is that there are very few deals to be found at expos anymore. Only a year ago, you’d see signs for compression sleeves marked down to $25 from $40 or $5 off on purchases at another booth. I rarely see that these days. I didn’t see that at all today, outside of Competitor offering discounts on signing up for next year’s event.

The size of the event was also smaller, likely due to the ongoing construction, so there wasn’t as much to see.

I’m jaded, I think. I have all my “racing essentials” already. I don’t need last-minute compression socks, or a sports bra, etc. I have running gloves that are packed in my gym bag every day. I have Glide. And sunscreen. I have, basically, all my goods with me. I’ve never purchased shoes at an expo. And I’m saving my money for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon next week.

So we made quick work of it. For a 120-mile round-trip drive, with gas pushing the $5 range, it just wasn’t worth it.

Even if I got to walk past the finish line, where I’ll be, all things going fine, will cross the finish line and receive a pretty blingy little medal tomorrow morning.

But instead of spending any money at the expo, we went and shopped elsewhere.

Race organizers often promise cities when they book events that the runners will bring money in and stimulate the economy. I don’t have qualms with that. I think most races are money boons to cities. But I hate being forced to traverse miles and miles, only to have to come back the next morning.

We decided to venture to Lululemon and stimulate the economy there instead of at the expo, which kind of fails in the purpose of the expo too. It was there I picked up a pair of capris I’ve been eying and new ear guard for colder weather. And then we made out way back to Tracy, via a stop for lunch in Livermore.

The one good thing today? The race T-shirt.

This year, organizers switched to gender-specific shirts. I have last year’s shirt from the same race underneath. It’s a unisex medium. The gender-specific one is a women’s large, big difference.


This post seems rambling. I’m sorry for that, but there’s a lot on my mind as I write it (including what I’ll be making for dinner tonight). But I have a point.

Many races have strict “no race day” pickup policies to avoid confusion and disarray on race mornings. I’m totally fine with that. What annoys me is when I’m forced to drive long distances to spend 20-minutes at an expo and pick up a race packet when there’s very little to offer me otherwise.

So, as much as I try to make a day out of it and add on some extras to make it “worth the drive,” it usually isn’t. The one exception to this is when I head to San Francisco for a race there, because I can often spend the entire day finding things to do.

Moreover, expos don’t offer all that much to entice a more seasoned runner. (Yes, I’m calling myself a more seasoned runner.) For newbies and people still building a base stock on supplies, expos are great.

But most the time, expos offer very little in the way of useful items. This is the case for many of the expos I’ve been to in recent months. I just want to be out and done.

Jaded? Yes, definitely.

But I’m also saving a lot of money by not dropping money on every little thing at an expo.

I’d just like them to be more worth my time and not just a destination to pick up a race bib.


I have a goal for tomorrow’s race, but I don’t want to write it or say it because I think that makes it too real. This race held my PR for nearly a year. It was one of my last good races before I hit a really bad slump at the beginning of the year.

So I have a goal. But I never know until I’m actually running if I’ll make that goal, or if I’m trained enough. There are lots of variables. I’m definitely leaning on my time for this being faster than my projected time for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

I don’t want to have too high of expectations, because I’ll be disappointed if I don’t make my first goal, or even second or third goals. But I’m anxious to try.

An empowering 9K

I signed up for the Title 9K for one specific reason: Last year an injury forced me out of the previous one at the last minute. It was one of two races in a two weekend period that because of my strained Achilles, there was just no way I could run.

I was on crutches, actually. And in a lot of pain. So much pain that it still hurt to put my foot down even slightly.

So when I found out that this year’s run would be at Quarry Lakes in Fremont and that it would be a little later in the year, I decided to sign up. I’m so glad I did.

Today was a good day. An empowering day, with hundreds of other women. And over a 9K (5.59 miles), I didn’t stop once. I also didn’t wear my Garmin, surrendering it to Jennie who came along to do a training run herself in the park. But my official time is pretty awesome.

I finished in 53:39 for an average of 9:37 a mile, officially.

I’m super stoked about this for a couple reasons.

One is that it means I can likely sustain a 10K at under 10-minutes a mile. Two is that it means, despite some recent setbacks and a not so great running week, my training is still on course for the California International Marathon. Success. Empowerment.

The sky was overcast as the group headed over to the start line.

Jennie looks a lot preppier than me in this photo. I just look tired. And my hair is a mess. Yikes. I’m only posting this to show the weather, which was a nice overcast.

I was only there for about 20 minutes before it started. There were plenty of portable and real toilets. I was literally in and out of the bathroom line in five minutes. Thumbs up for Title IX for that one, especially for an all-women’s race.

The starting line was chaotic, but organized. I don’t have any photos because my husband “borrowed” my iPhone so he’d have entertainment while I ran. (He couldn’t exactly leave because I was running for only an hour.)

My husband had already picked up my race bag with a bunch of swag in it.

And my nicely-designed T-shirt, which initially was too big. The nice ladies at the expo/check in both were nice enough to let me exchanged it with a size medium after the race. I’m glad I hadn’t washed it before, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to exchange it.

At 9 a.m. exactly, we were off to run Quarry Lakes. The organizers promised a “flat” race. I’d say it was “flattish,” but definitely not as flat as I’m used to on some of my training runs. I’m actually really glad I’ve been doing more incline work to prepare.

I started out strong, kind of stuck behind a group of women who were spread across the path. I kept trying to pass them, finally doing so when the path opened up a little bit more. I had no pain in my legs, not even my glute that’s been bothering me over the past week.

So I just kept going. I had no idea what my time was. I just kept at it. No problems, outside of a park official’s truck literally driving right through the race path.

I didn’t even need to stop at the first aid station because I carried my Amphipod 20-ounce handheld.

I quickly saw the sign for mile two and headed out into the out and back section. It all seemed to happen so fast. I turned around at a bridge, behind what seemed like a ton of people, and headed back along the outside of the park and then into the park again.

I slowed only when I hit an aid station on the way back, just after mile four, and grabbed a cup of water.

Toward the beginning of mile five, as I made my way back to the finish line, there were two ladies manning an aid station with chocolate for the runners. I didn’t partake. I figured I was doing really, really well. I was tired and I could have used a boost, but I figured I’d just keep going.

And I did.

My legs picked it up on a couple more small inclines and finally I ran under the finish line and my chip made the computer beep. My time was registered and I walked through a line of people toward an area of food.

As I was headed that way, I was handed an awesome water bottle.

It’s a little blurry, but the bottle is a nice metal one. It has the race on it and a design that matches the shirt and the bag. I was surprised because no one said anything about a finisher gift.

It even denotes that I ran and finished the Title 9K.

At the end there was a nice offering of bagels, Hint water and other goodies. In another line, people were being handed awesome multifunctional headbands/wraps. I was handed a tie-dyed purple and black one. It’s pretty awesome. I definitely think I’ll end up wearing this as it starts to get cooler in the next month or so.

It’s pretty nice. I’m looking forward to trying it out on one of my upcoming training runs.

All the “swag” at this race was pretty nice, but that’s not why I’m excited about it. It was a great experience, surrounded by other women who propelled me to do my best, resulting in one of my best races to date.

It’s funny, I figured I’d start this blog and talk all about how great I ran. The problem is, when I run great I don’t feel the need to dwell on it. When I have a bad run, I almost feel the need to justify my time, even on my blog.

This was a good run, but not because I willed it to be. Because my training is on par. Because I’m a better runner now than even four months ago. Because I’m taking my CIM readiness runs more seriously.

In three weeks, I run the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon. After today, I’m really looking forward to it. Because after today, I know I’m ready. And there’s no need to dwell over that.


The good, the bad and the ugly of race shirts

A couple weeks ago I wrote about my dislike of the San Francisco Marathon’s half race shirts this year. I also mentioned that everyone has widely differing opinions on race shirts. Some people aren’t satisfied with any shirt they are given, others wear everyone with pride.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I have mixed feelings about race shirts in general. I get excited to potentially get a new workout shirt that screams “look what I did.” But I also, as evidenced in the photo above, have way to many race shirts. I’ve opted out of some shirts. Then when I get a really good one, I’m usually excited.

But I also have a lot of bad.

That’s discouraging because the shirt comes as part of the race admission. I pay to run. I pay for the supplies along the course and the use of portable toilets. I also pay for my shirt and my medal.

I know it’s not what running is all about, but when you want to show people your pride for running a specific event you can’t do it if you don’t like the shirt. So, I figured I’d share the good, bad and ugly of what makes a race shirt either worth it or not to me.


I mentioned before that I like clean design and simple lines. I want a race shirt to say the name of the event, without throwing it in your face. I have two favorite examples of this, which happen to be from my first half marathon and marathon.

My California International Marathon one is about as basic as a shirt gets. No frills, no sponsors. Just a nice, functional shirt. And I love it. I love that I was given the option of a short or long sleeve, obviously I took the long sleeve. I love the basic color. It’s a great shirt. Because of that, I wear it all the time.

My 2011 Oakland Half Marathon shirt is also a great one. Again a basic, simple front design. The logo doesn’t look weird across my chest, which is wider than some women, I’ll admit. The sponsors are listed on the back, but aren’t huge either.

Funny thing about my Nike Women’s Half shirt is that a lot of people complained about the color. More people complained about the Safeway store logo being on the side. I loved the color, the plaid texture in the letters and the fit. Nike makes gender-specific shirts that are always the same size as other Nike apparel. So it was easy to pick the best shirt for me. I don’t mind the store logo either.

Brazen Racing makes a habit of having awesome race shirts. They also make a habit of putting on top-notch races, so this isn’t anything new. Between the company’s medal design, T-shirts and low price, Brazen puts on the best runs in the Bay Area.

Brazen also takes into account where and when the races are, including a St. Patrick’s Day run this year in Livermore, close to my house. The Badger Cove one is a perfect example of that. I only own two green race shirts and I love the color.

Brazen has a tendency to be repeat offenders when it comes to awesome shirts. Here are my past two shirts from the Coyote Hills run near Fremont. Same logo, different design. Both fit well. I’ve run other races in the 2011 shirt.

What makes these shirts good? They are cut specifically for women. All are a tech material. No cotton. All fit me the way I want a running shirt to fit, which is tight, but not too tight, and definitely not baggy around the mid section. That always just seems to add extra bulk to me.


A shirt can be nice, but not functional for me. Unfortunately most of the shirts I get fall into this category. I love them, but don’t wear them all that much.

I wish this shirt worked for me, but I find Brooks shirts to be inconsistent. I’ve bought mediums that fit me perfectly and larges that are too small. It’s kind of across the board, especially when they are made from different material. This one is more mesh and is too big in my mid section.

This one is WAY too big. It’s a unisex size and I drown in it. It also has a weird consistency to the fabric, which kind of feels funny when I wear it. I noticed a bunch of people cutting the sleeves and neckline on this shirt at the race. This has been in my “wear to stain furniture” pile for some time now.

Same issue with this shirt: Just too big. It’s a unisex size medium. I didn’t know Rock ‘n’ Roll races had a tendency to make unisex shirts when I signed up for this race. I was really disappointed. I literally swim in it. I love the color an design, but I’ve never worn it.

A shirt company sponsors Bay to Breakers, which would make you think that they’d have some wicked awesome shirts. Nope. Last year, it was a plain white shirt. Even the volunteers got better ones. Those ones were brown, with nice light brown screen printing. The runners got over-sized cotton T-shirts. Worse yet, this year Bay to Breakers charged a ridiculous amount of money for “plus” and “premium” registration with poorly-designed, cheaply made shirts again. Even the Adidas tech shirt was overwhelming and huge. Never again.


And then there’s the shirts I just don’t wear because I’m not a fan. At all.

This year’s Oakland Running Festival took cues from local sports teams and made their shirts color-coded. The half was done after the Oakland Raiders. I’m not a Raiders fan. That’s not to say the Raiders aren’t a good team or anything, I just don’t watch a lot of football outside of following my California Golden Bears. I’m not in love with this shirt because I think the first thing people think of is Raiders and not a marathon. Marketing fail.

This was the first year of this half marathon and the shirt was just lackluster. It honestly felt like the back of a shirt to me and not the front. The back has another big design with a rose, a symbol of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, but it really just looks like they couldn’t decide which design should be front and which should be back.

Simulation mud? Really? Add in the Comic Sans type on this cotton shirts and it’s a race shirt disaster. It’s actually in a donate pile now. I won’t wear it. And to think, some people were worried about getting their shirts muddy after the race. I would have given them mine.


There are some races that despite the not-so-great race shirt, I still want a memory from the race. I’ve bought several “extra” race shirts, including spending a little too much at the Nike Women’s Half last October. Sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little extra for a shirt that I’ll wear a lot.

When I saw this shirt at the expo at CIM I told Thomas that if I finished the race and didn’t die, I wanted this shirt. I was true to my word too. Literally after I got myself put back together we went over to the booth to buy this one. It fits a little weird,  but I have a larger back than most people. I love the modern design and the prominence of “26.2.”

I didn’t realize I’d taken photos of two marathon shirts, but I think it’s fair that I bought both because I wanted a little something in addition to the race shirt from each marathon. I love this shirt. I have a one that’s nearly identical from the Pasadena Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, which I bought in lieu of the race shirt I posted above. I love this shirt because it fits well and is a nice, smooth material.

I’m actually considering sending it a bunch of my shirts to get a quilt made. I’ve seen a couple companies that will make them for a relatively cheap rate. I like that I’d be able to use the shirts again. Right now, most of them aren’t getting much use sitting in a pile in my closet.

Second marathon sophomore slump: Part II

I usually don’t start out posts with the “after” photo, but felt in this case it was necessary. The above photo comes from near the finish line. I’m beyond spent at this point. I don’t even think I can describe how tired I am at this point. My feet are killing me. I’m near tears. I just wanted it to end.

At 4:45 a.m. I woke up to my iPhone alarm. I usually have to set two, but since I didn’t sleep at all I didn’t even need the second one. I rolled out of bed and started getting ready for the 6:15 a.m. wave starts. I was in corral 25, so I’d be heading out later, obviously, than 6:15 a.m., but I still wanted to be down to the start area with enough time to go to the bathroom (necessary, always) and warm up.

I ate an apple in the hotel room and most of a Chocolate Peppermint Luna bar. I also wrapped my feet. My shoes had been giving me a lot of problems, more than my Nikes ever did. I kept thinking I’d break in the Saucony Hurricane 14s before the marathon. By the time I hit the streets of San Diego, I had put about 80 miles on them alone.

Broken in? No. Not at all.

My pinky toes were completely raw. I also kept getting blisters on the inside of my foot. All of this would come back to haunt me during the 26.2. But at 5 a.m. I thought wrapping my feet with moleskin and then doing a once around with tape would make the world better.

Thomas drove us away from the hotel on the less than 10-minute drive to the starting line.

The portable toilet lines were ridiculous. I’ve seriously never seen so many people waiting to use the bathrooms. This was a complete 180 from the Oakland Half Marathon earlier this year where there ALWAYS seem to be ample bathrooms and no lines.

The bathroom wait ended up being about 30+ minutes. That was actually fine, if only because the waves went off every two minutes or so. By the time I was done using the bathroom, there were still six or more waves in front of me. I lined up with Corral 25 and set my Garmin.

Nerves were taking over. I downed a Vanilla Bean Gu before I crossed the start. It didn’t help soothe my stomach.

I figured they would get better once I started running.


But either way, close to 7 a.m., we were off and running.

It started out promising.

Mile 1: 10:59 — I was hoping I wouldn’t start running and suddenly have to go to the bathroom. Thankfully I didn’t. The first mile is downhill straight until a quick turn onto University Avenue. I hit Mile 1 and was feeling OK.

Mile 2: 11:08 — The first water stop comes pretty quickly here. I bypass it because I’m carrying my 20-ounce Amphipod water bottle.

Mile 3: 11:12 — We’re in Balboa Park for parts of miles 2 and 3. It’s beautiful. Nice architecture. I’m still feeling OK. We’re passing the zoo. This is also the point is seemed like every guy on the course seemed to be running off into the bushes to go to the bathroom. The women on the course talked about how they were envious they couldn’t do that.

Mile 4: 10:54 — This is what split the course between the half marathon and the marathon. I suddenly felt so much more comfortable with fewer people around. A little more than 7,000 were running the marathon. There were more than twice that many in the half marathon. I took a Gu, hoping the fatigue I was feeling would level off.

Mile 5: 11:10 — Lots of street, few big sites.

Mile 6: 11:10 — We ran through Petco Park, which was pretty nice in itself. This is also the point where I started to feel tired. The Gu seemed to be working too.

Mile 7: 12:48 — And then, just like that, it wasn’t working anymore. A gradual incline started here. My body wasn’t having it.

Mile 8: 14:52 — Things went from bad to worse here. The stable group I was running with was suddenly gone. I was still moving up an incline. Then I had to go to the bathroom. I was lucky that this mile wasn’t longer really. I got lucky and ran into a portable toilet that was behind a performer’s stage. I don’t think we are supposed to do that, but there was no one stopping me. And by the time I ran out of the toilet, there was a line of people waiting to use the bathroom.

Mile 9: 13:15 — We got onto Highway 163 at this point, which is banked for most of the surface. I wasn’t down for the count yet.

In fact I still looked pretty happy despite slowing down again on the inclines. Everyone was starting to look a little fatigued here, but I was still in good company.

Mile 10: 14:12 — I had done a Gu at mile 8, like planned. But my body wasn’t having it. I did another here.

Mile 11: 11:37 — The Gu, with a nice long downhill allowed me some speed here.

Mile 12: 13:58 — But not long enough. By this time, the tape I had secured around the moleskin was wearing into my foot. I’m not talking about a slight wear. It was a painful searing. I didn’t want to stop, though, because I already knew I was quite a bit behind my goal.

Mile 13: 12:07 — The Gu caught up with me, but my half marathon time was somewhere around 2:41. I was spent. Two runners tried to help my spirits, but I wasn’t having any of it

Mile 14: 13:36 — The slowdown continues as we start moving back uphill.

Mile 15: 11:37 — I did another Gu here.

Mile 16: 14:30 — Here we start an excruciating out and back area. By now I can tell my foot has been rubbed raw. I also know my baby toes are completely trashed. This is also the point where I stopped at an aid station and had a woman re-tape my foot. I thought, maybe, it was at mile 19. That’s where I nearly melted down. A nice woman at a medical tent along the way told me that I could give up. But if I did, the sweep crew would be nearly two-hours behind. I had a moment here where I almost did give up.

Mile 17: 13:32 — Gu. This was probably the most depressing part of the run. I was so tired. I didn’t want to go. Every step was painful. I wanted to cry.

Mile 18: 13:17 — More of the same.

Mile 19: 13:07 — I started to feel as if this run would have an end. I did another Gu, before I was supposed to, but I kept going.

Mile 20: 11:42 — The Gu propelled me through a beautiful park area. I couldn’t help but be propelled to move forward.

That’s about the point in the run where I knew that if I put my mind to it and forgot about how much pain my feet were in, I could get through it. That would prove harder than I thought, though. The photos are my purchases from MarathonFoto. And they get better, just wait.

Mile 21: 12:07 — “Keep moving,” I kept telling myself. More Gu. I’m surprised I finished with one Gu left for all I was taking down.

Mile 22: 13:19 — This part was discouraging. We moved from one island, full of support, onto another where it seemed the crowd thinned out so much that we were the only ones there.

Mile 23: 13:43 — Then, I couldn’t do it anymore. My feet were killing me.

Mile 24: 12:56 — The pain took control.

Mile 25: 15:05 — Those photos? Yeah. That happened. I didn’t care who was taking my picture. It hurt. My legs felt fine. But my feet were not having it. Not at all. I was so mad. I was mad at myself. I was mad at my shoes. I was mad at the run itself. I was just hoping to finish at this point. I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records. I knew I wouldn’t be better than my previous time. I was pissed. I can’t even say how pissed I was. It was depressing. Considering I’d spent more time preparing for this run than the first, I was depressed. I did a Gu.

Mile 26: 12:28 — It’s here, I decided to pick it up again after another Gu. Yep, another. I just kept taking them down.

Mile .2: 3:53 — Pushing it here. Trying to run it in. The finish line seemed so far away.

I ran over a very uneven part of road/sidewalk here. You can see it in the photo on the left. That one little imperfection at the end just added insult to injury. Finally, after all that pain, I crossed the finish line.

Garmin time: 5:34:26

Chip time: 5:34:14

I walked in a daze through the finish area and collected my medal. I had enough energy to smile for the photo at the end, but no more. I was done. It was over. And I hated nearly every minute of it.

So what went wrong? I want to say everything. My training was strong. I went out conservatively.

The shoes were the biggest problem. I had blisters everywhere at the end. I could barely stand after I sat down. The bottom line: After nearly a month of trying to break my Saucony Hurricane 14s in, I was getting nowhere in making them work for me. Instead, they put me in excruciating pain the entire way through. My small toes were rubbed raw. I had gnarly blisters. I even had two blood blisters. It was a mess.

Something I wish I knew before the marathon: My shoes weren’t working for me.

I’m a big believer that the bad runs make the good ones all that much better. But this was ridiculous.

My husband tried to reassure me that I should be proud. I ran 26.2 miles. He was proud. Yet, all I feel is defeated. Defeated by a distance that only months earlier I ran 14 minutes quicker.

I contemplated this as I sobbed on a curb. Thomas had forgot my backpack with flip flops in it. I didn’t want to put my shoes back on. So I sobbed while he went and got the backpack. It was kind of like Pink’s “Just Like a Pill” when she says “I haven’t moved from the spot where you left me, this must be a bad trip.”

And it was a bad trip indeed.

Like that, it was over. I waddled to the car. We started on our way home. Nearly eight hours in the car later, and suddenly realizing I had a gnarly leg sunburn, the weekend was over. I’ve never been so thankful in my life to have taken a Monday off.

I wish I could say I learned something from this run about my training structure or what I need to do in the future. But the truth is, nearly a week later, I just want to put it out of my mind.

I’m thinking it will take me awhile to get over the disappointment my second marathon.