Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘running buddies’

A good run


Today I did something that I don’t normally do while out on a run: I ignored the time. My two running buddies and I set out for a 10-mile run with no given pace. In fact, we set out going purposely slow so that we would make it through the 10.

We stopped when we needed to, whether it be for bathroom breaks or Gatorade refills. We were in no rush.

My stomach didn’t hurt. I had no nagging pain. I paced myself. I watched my heart rate.

We finished, 20-minutes faster that our fastest 10-mile time together, but a finish nonetheless. We talked the entire time. And we had fun.

I started thinking that maybe THAT’S what has been missing from my runs lately. The stress and anxiety plaguing my runs has meant that I stopped having fun while I was running. Today I had fun.

Perhaps it was the good company. Or the overcast weather.


A missing sun is a very welcome thing for a runner after multiple weeks of hot days, especially a runner who has been dealing with overheating issues and a wonky stomach.

Today was a good day for a good run.

Jumping on the color-covered bandwagon


More than a year ago, I swore off the 5K distance. It’s not that I don’t have a love for 3.1 miles. I ran a lot of 5Ks in my training to run my first 10K in 2010. I nursed those 5Ks to that 10K finish, believe me. But I realized midday through 2012 there was no way I could run a fast 5K if all my training planes literally had my legs coming alive at mile five.

That’s part of the reason I have a love/hate relationship with the 10K. It’s actually more of a hate/hate relationship. I only run trail 10Ks now. Those are the only ones I feel “worth my time and effort.”

I sound like a pretentious runner. I’m really not. I just kind of gave up on the 5K and 10K being “my distance.”

And we all have a distance we claim as our own. For me, it’s the half marathon. Two years ago I never thought I’d say that. But in the past seven months, I’ve learned to master the 13.1 and make it my own.

So when my running buddies asked me to do a “color run” with them, I initially said no. Color runs are the new mud runs, you know. Everybody is doing them. But not me. No thanks.

I think my resistance lasted for about four weeks before my friend Sam sent me a Groupon deal for the July 6 “Run or Dye” event in San Francisco. It was at a really low price, one that might make me budge. Finally, I did. I actually opted to do a 5K color run over a six-hour endurance run. At least I’ll be done quickly, I told myself.

I’m not even sure what I’m getting myself into.

I’ve heard a mix of good and bad going into these runs. This one is untimed. I’m not even taking my Garmin. I am, however, taking an accessory that doesn’t usually make it into my running ensemble.

Yes. A tutu has been made.

It’s fitting that my June issue of Runner’s World magazine has a runner on the front getting splashed with corn starch-colors on all sides. It lists color-themed runs with zombie runs, foam runs and neon-light runs as a way to “have fun” for a 5K.

After months of serious racing (two marathons in a three-month period and a bunch of other distance races), I’m kind of looking forward to finding my fun again in a less serious run.

So I’ll be heading out Saturday morning with my running buddies and their children to San Francisco.

I had to buy a white shirt. Because I apparently don’t own any I can thrash. Though I’m told that the colors all wash off.


I kind of find it ironic that it says “live love color” and “lasting color” on the shirt when I intend to make it very, very colorful. I also found a pair of hot pink tights to wear, though on second thought I’m not sure if I really will.


I may not be digging the brightness on race morning.

I’ll also grab an older pair of my running shoes. I don’t plan on “running” this race at all. Instead, I plan on kind of slogging (slow+jogging=slogging) through it for fun.

Since this sort of race doesn’t put focus on the time, it will be easy to relax and slow down a little. The last time I didn’t focus on a race time was during a mud run a couple years ago. In that case, I couldn’t. I was stuck behind a line of people in a mud pit for about 20 minutes. My time for the 5K was somewhere around 54 minutes when I finished.

Less serious? Yes. Still difficult? Yes.

This run doesn’t include obstacles, which I’m actually rather thankful for. My core still hasn’t recovered since my January gallbladder removal. (It should be by now, but I’ve been really unmotivated to push myself in that area. I have even less motivation to bring my once-broken arm back to the form it was in, strength wise, when it broke.)

In any case, I’ll get to fulfill my only-recently discovered dream of wearing a tutu while I run. It’s not really a dream. I’ve just never figured it would be practical to do so. I mean, it will likely itch.


Doesn’t it look so much prettier finished? Maybe not. I think it kind of looks like a 1980s wedding favor. Long live Tulle.

I’m actually kind of nervous about how this is all going to go. I think once you’ve towed the line at a couple marathons, running takes on a different feel. As in: Can I approach a race without that competitive need to beat myself?


Or can I run a race with friends and not feel naked without my Garmin? Will I feel as if I still have a long way to go after I hit the three-mile mark?

I guess I’m going to find out.

A new PR in PDX: Part I


The trip to Portland marked a lot of firsts for me — specifically it was my first time in another state for a race. It was also the first time I flew to run. It was the first time I took a cab (that cost a ridiculous $40 to an expo). The first time I walked to a race start (and back). That’s a partial list.

There are a lot of races in California. Included in that are a lot of Rock ‘n’ Roll races. But my running buddy Sam, who I’ve done seven half marathons with, bought the Rock ‘n’ Roll Tour Pass this year. She’s getting her money out of it too. She had this race on her schedule. I was considering it, but then backed out after I left my full-time job in January.

Then she told me about an awesome deal on air fare. And I booked my trip. Simple as that. I wanted to run. And I wanted to run out of state for once too.

We’d talked about it for the two months we knew we were going. When the day came, I don’t think either of us could contain our excitement. And yes, I was more excited than anxious for once in my life.

For that reason, I’m doing something I don’t normally do — I’m splitting my race report into three sections. This post will cover the travel to Portland. The next will be the expo (because it included a lot of things that made it deserving of it’s own report). The last will be the actual race.

There will also be a lot of photos.

She picked me up bright and early to head to Oakland International Airport on Saturday morning.


Bay Area traffic is rarely bad on weekends. At 7 a.m. it moves along nicely. After a quick stop along the way, we got to the airport with a lot of time to spare and chill for a bit.

Security wasn’t even that bad.


I always wonder how many people actually check in at the desks at airports these days. Especially for quick flights. We had carry-on baggage, so we didn’t need to bother. I think when we walked into the airport there were only about 50 other people around. The line to get scanned and checked was about 15 minutes.

Lucky me, I was selected for a pat-down on my left side.

By 8:50 a.m. we were boarding for our 9:15 a.m. flight. Another first for me — I had never boarded a plane on the tarmac. It was so bizarre walking down the connector and then going outside, down a ramp and then boarding the plane via another ramp.

The small plane was packed full of people. I don’t think there was one seat empty. Sam and I, even though we bought our tickets at different times, were lucky enough to be able to sit together.


Everyone needs an excited plane selfie, right? We settled down for the nearly two hour flight with a couple magazines and good conversation. That included making sure we were up-to-date on the appropriate way to escape the airplane just in case of emergency.

I guess I’m a little strange. I read these every time I get on a plane.


One picture showed how not to drop a suitcase on another passenger’s head. Apparently some people need to be told that.

Since we were flying north, I was able to snap some amazing photos of San Francisco. I’m always amazed that the seven-by-seven block that is the city can be covered in a marathon (which I’ll be running now in less than a month if my IT band doesn’t act up).


I always love how it can be cloudy in some parts of the Bay Area and then bright and sunny in others. When I live in Oakland and went to school in Berkeley I used to love climbing to the top of campus and looking down at the vast puzzle that was the Bay Area.


I loved this shot of part of the Golden Gate Bridge. You get a great view of Fort Mason and Golden Gate Park too.

I’d never flown Alaska Airlines before so I was a bit surprised when the drink and snack choices included beer and wine. Yes, even on a 9:15 a.m. flight. OK. I’m saying for the record that I’m not typically a lush. Not even close. I’m usually the designated driver, especially since I had my gallbladder removed.

But it was two days before my birthday. And I felt like I deserved some wine. Even though it was red wine, which I’m not usually a fan of. I’d like to think I wasn’t the only person on the plane opting for early wine.


Red wine, Biscoff cookies and a rumor-mill Hollywood magazine. I indulged myself a little. Maybe a lot. I had two other drinks during the day. For dinner, I ordered a margarita and a mojito. I’m not sorry. Not even close.

When we arrived in Portland, we were immediately greeted by cloudy skies.

I was warned to expect this. I was also sure when I checked the weather report it said clear skies this weekend.


This was before we landed in Portland proper. I kept marveling at how green Oregon is. I know that California has pockets when it’s lush and green, but we’ve suffered from a severe lack of rain this year. We had a little a couple weeks back, but the span of ranges between where I live and San Francisco is still mostly brown.

Oregon was all green.


I knew, as soon as we went through the clouds and down into Portland, that one of us should have brought an umbrella.


Fun fact: At PDX passengers are allowed to embark the plane from the back and front. That rocked for Sam and I since we were in seats 17A and 17B. No waiting! In this photo, you can also see the ominous rain clouds. And puddles on the ground.

Unlike the Bay Area, that wasn’t a fog layer. Those were rain clouds. I ran a very hard California International Marathon in the ran. For 18 miles it poured and poured. I was hoping (and saying a silent prayer) that I wouldn’t have to do the same for my first out-of-state race.

It didn’t take long for us to pick up our belongings and head out to the terminal.


PDX is an incredibly nice and easy to get to airport. And right when you get by the security entrance there’s a Nike store. (There was also a guy waiting with a Nike sign and a name, which was pretty cool too see.) I didn’t partake in the Nike store, since we were heading to the expo.


Next thing you know we were heading to a cab en route to the expo. What we didn’t know was that the cab ride would cost us $40 because the cabbie decided to go out of his way and make the trip longer than it should have been. (You live and learn, right?)

The best part is that we didn’t initially walk into the expo we were supposed to be at. Instead, we walked into a knife and gun show…

Taking on the Sirena 18 a second time


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because I went out and ran.


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

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

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

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

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


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

I was pretty jazzed to see her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile 8: 10:37 — Another Gu.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Channeling my inner mermaid


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The view from my 10-miler

Today marked kind of a comeback for me, more than last week’s performance at my half marathon.

This morning, I went back to my base mileage point and ran a 10 for the first time outside since my gallbladder removal. I’ve run a couple shorter, smaller runs, but nothing this long.

I think everything was aligned just right, because this is the view I was greeted with:


A beautiful crisp morning. No clouds (that’s fog rolling over the Diablo Range) and a slight breeze. I kind of wanted to just sit and stare at it.

A couple notes from my run:

  • I didn’t have the stomach/abdomen issues I was having before the gallbladder removal. That means I went to the bathroom less and ran more, plus I enjoyed the run. No bending over and clenching my side.
  • We went slow, to get through the 10. My running buddy has kind of fallen off training since I lost my gallbladder. She actually said, joking: “Damn you and your gallbladder removal.” I think she was joking at least.
  • My new Nike LunarEclipses gave me blisters. Yep. On my baby toes AND along the inner part of my right foot. I haven’t had running blisters in forever. I’m starting to think they were maybe tied too tight, or where too loose. Or a combination of the two?
  • I felt amazing afterward. No stress. No worries. I just ran.

We may run again tomorrow, at a slower pace. We’ll see.

I just kind of had to share the view from my 10 this morning. Because it was amazing, both metaphorically and actually.

Rockin’ to a course best in Pasadena: Part I


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

I purchased the pass ahead of time.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Sam wants to run San Diego again.

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

So we ventured to the booth to do so.


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

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

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


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

So we went.

Because we needed shoes and all.

Not really. But we bought shoes.


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

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

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

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


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

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

We were so wrong.

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

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

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

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

Taking on 20 in Clarksburg

The 20-mile run is the pinnacle of marathon training. In a training cycle it’s the training run that is often feared. It’s also the one that most would-be marathoners rejoice about when it’s over.

It’s daunting for many reason. For me, it’s been incredibly more daunting for the past couple weeks. I was considering not doing this race. I figured, if anything, I could go out and do my own the same day. I knew the likelihood of me actually doing the run on my own was really low, though.

So I was more than glad when Jennie decided to head up and run with me. Overwhelming glad.

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. after having a not-so-great night on Saturday. I just didn’t want to leave the bed. So I laid there until I fell asleep. I put on my running clothes, opting for long capris over my winter running pants, and headed out the door when it was still dark.

By the time I go to Jennie’s house to pick her up, the sun was rising. At that point, my nerves were killing me. I’m trying to stay away from things that trigger my anxiety. I felt okay, though, as we got on the freeway and started our 60-mile drive to Clarksburg.

Clarksburg is a little town right next to the Sacramento River. We run along the river in many areas (including a beautiful levee that I just seemed to fly on) and on country roads that go by vineyards. Needless to say, it’s an amazing run.

Jennie and I got to the southern part of Sacramento around 7:15 a.m. I had a moment when I didn’t know which way to turn…but then saw the signs.

This race was good for more than a couple reasons, but one was the signs leading the way.

Immediately upon exiting Interstate 5, there were signs pointing the way. There was one pointing over the only bridge to access the levee road leading to Clarksburg. From there, a man with a bright-orange flag led us into the Delta High School parking area, in an athletic field.

Jennie hadn’t pre-registered, but we had a good amount of time for me to pick up my race packet and her to do so.

We were greeted with only a small number of people, being that the half marathon started 45 minutes after the 20-mile run.

There was a lot of space, not a ton of people.

I waited in the pre-registration line for about five minutes. That was it. I was handed by bib number and some safety pins and then pointed to the shirt table.

By the time I was finished checking in, Jennie was done with her registration too. We were there early enough that, even though she registered that day, she was able to get one of the event shirts in her size. Kind of a win with smaller races.

We headed back to the car and started getting our supplies ready, including our water bottles.

Then we headed back to the start line area where there was zero wait for the portable toilets.


That’s a runner’s favorite site ever. There were ample enough portable toilets for everyone. The wait, even about 20 minutes later when I decided to go again, was minimal at best.

One of my favorite things to see are portable toilets. I won’t lie. It’s beautiful.

We watched the beginning of the children’s races as we waited for the 8:30 a.m. start time.

And pondered the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing the finish line for likely some time. I estimated it would take me around four hours, maybe a little more, to finish. But I was running naked — it’s been almost a month since I sent my Garmin 405CX to Kansas for servicing. It still hasn’t come back. I figured it would be back for this run.

No go. So I ran without.

I’m starting to think that might have been why I did so well.

Jennie and I started getting prepped for the run as we waited.

Jennie was checking her phone for the last time before she put it away for the run. We were talking, at that point, about moving to a sunny area. It was cold. The temperature was in the 40s it seemed. I’m not really sure what it was exactly, but there was frost every.

Jennie also got a photo of me stretching.

Apparently I’ve lost weight. I’ve also dyed my hair red, in case you can’t tell from previous photos. I haven’t been eating well, but I’ve been running miles upon miles. I also, lately, felt as if I need something new in terms of my hair. I’m not sure how much I like it.

For the first week I had it, the dye seemed to get all over my workout clothes every time I ran.

But I digress.

Soon, it was time to line up at the start.

The gun went off before we knew it and we were off.

The first three miles were tough.

I started wondering how I’d make it through 20. Even though large groups aren’t the biggest trigger of my anxiety, I’m afraid of what could potentially trigger it. Familiarity is huge for me right now. It soothes me.

But Jennie hung with me for the first five miles or so before she had to cut off and go to the bathroom. I kept on. I didn’t see her again until right after mile nine. At that point she was only about 10 minutes before me.

I kept pushing, along the roads (with cars going by in some cases, yikes), and it didn’t seem that long until I hit mile 10.

After that, we hit a levee area as we ventured into mile 11.

That’s when I really hit my stride. I just kept going. I was running like I’d never run before. Why? I don’t know. There were very few people around me. I even past 10 or so people.

Jennie always comments that I tend to get stronger as a runner in the later miles. She was completely right for this race.

I just jetted.

And then I found myself at mile 13, then 14, then 15, then 16 and so on.

I just kept going. I walked through aid stations and drank both water and Gatorade. There were the perfect amount of water stations. The volunteers were amazing. They cheered as we went through and offered words of encouragement.

I walked here and there, but never for longer than a minute.

I had no idea what time I was running. Not at all. As I came up to mile 19 and slight hill, I walked a little before deciding to push it to the end.

When I came around the corner into the finish shoot I noticed the clock still read in the three-hour area.

I finished at 3:59:17. Below the 12-minute mile mark, but just barely. I would have likely done better if I hadn’t had walked so much here and there, but I didn’t want to risk injury with a half marathon next week and a full in three.

Then I waited for Jennie.

She came in looking strong as well, finishing about 20 minutes after me.

Jennie always seems to have a lot better form than me when she runs. She got a little behind in the run, taking care of some personal stuff on the phone, but ended up passing a ton of people to get back into it. Plus, she was so nervous about running 20 miles when her longest run had been a 15-miler with me more than six weeks ago.

But she did great.

And I did great. I felt great too.

After we finished, we were told the race officials had run out of medals. After 20 miles, they’d run out of medals. As bummed as I was, it didn’t matter because I finished in under four hours. (They have promised to send them to us when they make some more, though when I had to find the person to put my name down she asked “do you want a medal?” which I thought was weird. Of course I do. The medals were fairly epic, though, from what I’ve seen.)

We got a hot, free pasta lunch too. We sat down, a little sore in some areas, and enjoyed the spoils after such a long, and successful, run.

As we started to get ready to leave, we noticed something strange.

This portable toilet had tape preventing people from entering. I was looking for a toilet with paper, because the rest didn’t seem to have any, and was wondering why, so we approach.

Turns out if had a bit of a hornet problem.

That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that at a race. Jennie and I had a laugh about it.

The Clarksburg Country Historic 20-mile Run turned out to be an incredible experience. Not only did I feel accomplished after the run, but a day later my legs feel fine. I’m really proud that I got up and out instead of avoiding it altogether like I initially wanted to.

This experience gives me hope for next week’s Big Sur Half Marathon. A lot of hope.

Why was it so good?

It was a small race, with only about 500 people doing the 20-mile run. There were enough portable toilets to accommodate everyone without any problem. The people were friendly and nice. The runners were cordial, for the most part (I could have done without the Obama/Romney debate I heard for more than a mile). Getting there was easy, as was parking.

The shirt is pretty swell too.

For what that’s worth. Plus, the cost of only $45. That’s an incredibly good deal for the amount of supplies along the course, which included bananas and oranges at every aid station, as well as Gatorade and water. It also included the free lunch.

My only qualm would be that there was only one portable toilet at each of the aid stops, which meant lines went deep. That’s one of the reasons Jennie finished so far behind me, as she had to stop and go to the bathroom near mile five.

I felt supported along the entire path, though. And it was a fun day. I definitely recommend this race for anyone training for a marathon, specifically California International Marathon.

Gift idea for a runner: The $5 headlamp

I may buy Lululemon running clothes, but I know a bargain when I see one. And, especially with money tight right now, I’m always on the lookout for one. My running buddy Jennie is the same. She has a family, including teenagers. So Jennie often lets me know about great deals (and couponing!).

I’ve written before about running with a headlamp. I love my Princeton Tech headlamp. And while it came with an unconditional REI guarantee, I was a little turned off by the $32 price tag.

I know some people pay a lot more for headlamps. The ones on the REI site run up to $70. I’ve seen them at expos for $50.

My husband, as a poor college student, paid only $14 for his. He now steals mine all the time because it’s much brighter. Believe me, it gets really annoying when I get out to Mountain House for a run and my battery light starts blinking (the advantage of having a premium headlamp).

In any case, during one of my “I-only-came-to-Target-for-my-prescription-and-ended-up-buying-a-bunch-of-other-stuff” trips I found a $5 holiday deal at the end of an aisle.

Next to glass coffee mugs and gimmicky key chains, was a simple headlamp.

Jennie has been in need of a secondary headlamp for our runs, specifically since it’s now darker outside because of the time change. (Though it’s been pretty dark since the beginning of October in general when we run at night.)

I sent her a text with the above photo:

Hey, these are $5 at Target. I’m picking one up for you. Now sure how good it will be, but can’t beat the price, right?

She responded with a thumbs up so I grabbed one.

I prepped it for her since I figured she wouldn’t want to mess with a blister pack when we were trying to set out on a run.

I read the back of the package and knew it was a sign when it suggested use for running. I got it home and used some creative scissor technique to get it out of the plastic.

The best part of the deal? It comes up batteries!

I’m not entirely sure what “Greenergy” batteries are (something environmental?) but they work all the same. I popped them in and checked out the little light.

It has two modes, one using two of the three LEDs and one using all three. It also has a flip down to point the light in whatever direction you want. In our case, that would be the sidewalk. It’s not ridiculously bright, but it adds nicely to a light array with my headlamp.

Plus, it’s really lightweight and has an adjustable head strap.

It’s the perfect little headlamp.

I tested it out in my closest to see how bright it was after initially seeing the vast difference between my headlamp and it. It actually was pretty good.

It works really well and provides a decent amount of light and it’s pretty comfortable. There’s even a little pad that keeps it stable on the forehead.

Plus, it was $27 cheaper than my headlamp. Great in a pinch. And a good deal all around.

Believing in the run

It’s been some time since I went for a run in Mountain House. A really long time. Between other obligations, school ending and work being crazy, I haven’t been able to venture out there much for a nice run.

I’ve missed it for some time.

So when Jennie asked if I wanted to head out there for a run I was really excited. Today has been a really nice day in the valley, but as we got further into the day it started to get a little windy. Then a lot.

It was windy at my house when I left. Mountain House sits right along the Altamont, a part of the Diablo Range that separates the valley from the Bay Area. So if it’s windy in Stockton (where I work), it’s even windier in Tracy. And then it’s even crazier in Stockton. I shot some video of today’s crazy wind.

The little fountain at the main park, where we meet, was blowing every which way. It as crazy.

I sent a text to Jennie: “Crazy headwinds!”

And I knew we were in for it, which meant that by the time we hit the backside of the community, we were being hammered by the wind. We talk a lot when we run, which means we were kind of yelling at each other throughout part of the run where the wind was really hammering us.

Our “warm-up” miles for two and three were both over 12 minutes. Our best mile was 10:23.

More crazy wind for your viewing pleasure.

But we kept putting one foot in front of the other. Moving along. Into mile four. Then five. And, finally as the  wind came back to hitting us again, we got to six and I turned off  the Garmin.

A good run. By definition? Not so much, but by my standards, yes.

In six days I run my second marathon: 26.2 miles of insanity.

The marathon is a distance that runners are taught, rightly so, to respect. It’s a distance that’s not easy by any standard. And it’s one that some people, myself included, struggle with. My first marathon was a 5:20:41.

I’ve trained harder since then. I’ve run more. I’ve had two longer-type runs in this  training cycle. (One of them was the Big Sur 21-miler, hills and all.) I’m also on track to hit 100 miles for May, including an 18-miler a couple weeks ago.

I’m ready. I’m also hesitant.

The run is long. It’s also hard. But I feel better going into this race than California International Marathon in December.

Then I had only done a 15 and a 20 miler. I also didn’t average nearly as many miles as now. I feel like a stronger runner.

Does that mean PR marathon magic next weekend? I can’t say.

A couple years ago Nike had a campaign with a simple slogan: “Believe in the run.”

I had to say I give marathon training a “let go and let it ride” approach, but the three weeks before the day of a marathon if you haven’t busted your butt in training runs and made yourself a suffering mess along the way, there isn’t much you can do at that point.

I have. More eight milers than 10, yes. But more longer runs too.

More focus on recovery. More focus on building strength. And, since I had to give up swimming a couple months ago, more focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

My ugly feet, yes. And the wrapped baby toes. I’m still getting used to my new running shoes. They wear my feet a little differently than the Nike Equalons.

It’s now time to believe in the run. The run I’ve prepared for. The one I’ve come close to in training.

Today’s six-mile taper run was without Gu. With little water. I survived. I didn’t push too hard, but I made it work.

It’s just time to work on relaxing now, until Saturday when I wake up early in the morning and head to San Diego. Then wake up earlier the next morning for a 6:15 a.m. start (though my wave will likely start much later.)

So my mantra, worth repeating, for the week starts now.

Believe in the run.