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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…

Packing for Portland


I’m a little late with getting everything together tonight for tomorrow’s flight from Oakland to Portland. I have my plane ticket printed. I also have my confirmation sheet for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon ready to go.

Now I’m just piecing together everything I need for the next couple days. It’s amazing how little fits in a duffel bag. I have to pack three outfits for two days essentially. And I’m bringing my “big purse.”

I’m incredibly excited. The Portland half will be my first out of state run. And there will definitely be a trip to VooDoo Doughnut involved. And I’m taking my video camera…so there may be a video blog coming from this as well — just a warning.

Working, but not working out


You know when you go on a work trip and take your running clothes because you are convinced you are going to run? And then your scheduled becomes so packed that you can’t?

I’ve been in Sacramento since Thursday afternoon for a community college journalism conference. I have six students with me. We leave late tonight, after a fancy dinner where I’ll be wearing a dress and heels.

My students have been scheduled with back to back breakout sessions.  I’ve been running around trying to keep track of money, hotel reservations and making sure everyone gets fed.

And now we’ve checked out of our hotel rooms and deactivated our room keys, right when I could have had a chance to check out the hotel treadmill. I don’t know the area well enough to not get lost on a run.

It’s a good thing I ran a marathon last weekend. I’m just going to call this “recovery” time.

A SLO marathon: Part I


I realized when I was printing out my confirmation for the San Luis Obispo Marathon that I registered on Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. By 7 p.m. that night, I was laying in a hospital bed curled over begging the emergency room staff to give me something for that pain.

When they finally did, the marathon I had just signed up for was the farthest thing from my mind. I was pumped full of Dilaudid and sent home. A week later, I was back in the hospital being rolled into an operating room having my gallbladder removed.

Ominous beginnings, right?

Good thing the San Luis Obispo Marathon didn’t turn out anywhere near bad. It was actually an amazing, pleasant experience. I had fun. I felt good. It turned out to be a great weekend, actually.

My husband and I left home at around 11 a.m. I completely forgot how long the drive down to the San Luis Obispo area was, a total of about four hours with a pit stop for lunch. The drive was relatively uneventful. In fact, we hit very little traffic on the way down, likely due to our late start.

By 3:30 p.m. we were driving down into central San Luis Obispo on Highway 101, passing right by the tented expo at the Madonna Inn.


I should explain why I decided I wanted to run this race.

One of the issues I’ve had lately is with running really large races. Nothing spikes my anxiety more than being around a huge group of people. So I’ve been avoiding large marathons. I’m lucky that California International Marathon only has about 8,000 people. I was slightly hyperventilating at the beginning of CIM. The fear was masked by the rain, thankfully.

I read that the SLO Marathon had a cap of 1,200 marathon runners. The half marathoners were capped at 4,000.

I hate to say this, because it’s a great race, but I knew that the races wouldn’t sell out. The event is only in it’s second year. I heard about it from another runner’s blog, but otherwise there was very little Internet chatter about the marathon. I signed up when I did in order to avoid rising prices, though it still wasn’t cheap.

On Sunday, only 672 people ran the marathon. It started at 6 a.m. It was still dark. By the time I was hitting mile three, the half marathon was starting. Most of my time on the course, I only saw one or two of the fastest half marathoners. Small. Nice.

Plus, I love the SLO area. My husband and I went on our first vacation together in Morro Bay. We went back for years before our lives became too busy (note, we need to go back more now).

I ignored the elevation chart. I just wanted to run somewhere beautiful.

And it was beautiful when we arrived at the expo. It was also easy in and easy out to get my race packet. The only people lined up for the marathon were two misplaced half marathoners. It took me about five minutes from start to finish to get my race packet and number, which was assigned the day of. The race organizers then wrote my shirt size on the bib tag for me to claim my shirt.

I initially signed up for a medium. On race day, my husband went and exchanged it for a large. It was way too tight across the chest. But it was a beautiful green color, very similar to my CIM one (see above).

We made our way through the expo, which actually didn’t seem all that big. I found the race gear booth and admit that I went a little crazy. I’ve been so good at not buying anything running related lately. But I always consider marathons different. I don’t do a ton of them, definitely not as many as the half marathons I do. So I bought myself a nice jacket, my first nice race-related jacket.


The nice logo was embroidered on the front. It’s a nice jacket, with a fleece lining and no hood. It’s kind of a windbreaker material, but it’s really, really warm.

So I splurged a little. The back of the jacket also had a basic logo on it, but simplistic design that I loved enough that I was sold pretty quickly on the jacket.


I also bought a hefty water bottle. I’m already using it. Like I said, I haven’t been buying any running items lately, so I figured this would be my gift to myself for running the marathon. Incentive is always a plus, especially with 26.2 miles ahead.

We didn’t stay at the expo long. The area is too nice to stay inland. And we were staying in Morro Bay, which was only 20 minutes away. I had told my husband I would have preferred to stay in SLO, but I’m glad we stayed on the coast.

We actually headed out to the peninsula area and went exploring for a little while before dinner.


You’ll notice the difference in atmosphere here. It was nice and sunny inland. Last year the marathon was run on a relatively foggy day. This year it was beautiful the entire time. The coast, though, was layered in fog. We went for a quick jaunt along the peninsula, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.

I did get to take in some ocean calm.

It helped to soothe my nerves, though, a little before my run. We ate at an Italian place overlooking the ocean before heading back to the hotel. I settled in for bed early, at about 10 p.m. Why? My iPhone alarm was set for 4 a.m. The marathon started at 6 a.m.

And you know what? I slept really, really well. The bed was super comfortable, comparable to my bed at home.

I felt like this whole marathon lead up was different than the three times before. I felt as if I was much more calm. I wasn’t cranky. The anxious nerves were being kept at bay as well. I was taking it moment by moment.

I’d like to think that’s what led me to PR success the next day.

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!

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.

On expectation and reality


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psyching myself out

Tonight, I’m packing my bag for our early morning and through the day trip eight hours south for the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon.

I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I’m a little scared.

I think I’m most nervous because I’m afraid I’ll be slower than the 5:20:41 I ran for the California International Marathon in December.

They (as in everyone who urges first-time marathoners not to set goals) say that the first time you should aim to finish. The second time? Well, there are no recommendations for goals for a second time.

I’m hoping to run more consistent. I’m hoping to finish (again). And I’m hoping it doesn’t turn into a sufferfest. It could.

I think I’m psyching myself out a little. I kept feeling pain in my legs this week. Then I went for a now-regular massage before I do a long run and suddenly realized my arms were bruised from it (sign of a good massage?).

So I keep thinking to myself: This is going to be all bad.

That’s not helping me at all really. I know that, of course. But I also don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how I’ll feel at mile two. I don’t know how I’ll feel at mile 22.

It’s all still a mystery. And it’s making me very anxious.

Breathe deeply. Breathe deeply. Remember the Gu.

We set off early tomorrow, around 5 a.m. And I’m waking up early the next day to run 26.2.

Again. 26.2 again.


I’m packing my bags. I’m trying to get everything together.

And I’m trying to get it together. And keep it together for the run.