Nine Pounds

25Jun14

“The scale is a pound off,” Yolanda said, staring hard at her clipboard. Nervously. “You also gain two or three pounds throughout the day, and you’re wearing your shoes, so …”

“I gained nine pounds,” I said.

Yesterday I drove to the gym for a free fitness assessment. I wanted to familiarize myself with the weights and use the membership I had neglected for two years.

Having run and trained for races for four years, I never worried about my size. I’ve been athletic most of my life and had gotten away with eating whatever I wanted while staying slender.

If you’ve ever hung out with me or seen my Instagram you know I’m not the healthiest eater. I have dessert once (sometimes twice) a day and drink three times a week. Partly because I attend a lot of networking events for work, and knocking back a beer or two is expected. Also, two of my clients are dessert manufacturers. Eating macarons and cakes counts as research, right?

I figured I could have ALL OF THE CALORIES to fuel my running adventures.

Obviously I was wrong. I have gained nine pounds since running my marathon PR. And I really wish I could say weight doesn’t matter, because I don’t want to be one of those people who runs to lose weight.

But I look back, and I know that — for me — weight makes a difference.

Consider my past two marathons.

CIM: Nine pounds lighter. Running feels fun! Easy! I pull off an awesome negative split.

Mountains to Beach: I feel bloated. Goal pace takes more effort. I feel bloated.

Now, you may argue that I was shooting for a faster pace at M2B, so running was going to feel harder, no matter what. Which is an excellent point. But I experienced a lot of fatigue leading up to the race, even after my taper. Tempo workouts were becoming increasingly more difficult, and I was running them slower. My race outfit felt tight. Uncomfortable.

Nine pounds.

“Next we’re going to calculate your body fat percentage,” Yolanda said, holding up a pair of calipers. She pulled and pinched the fat on my arm, the fat on my stomach.

I hadn’t realized how soft I was until that moment.

She scribbled numbers on her clipboard, made her calculations. Pointed to a chart on the wall. “You have 24 percent body fat,” she said.

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“You’re fit,” she assured me. “But I would like that number closer to 20 percent.”

“I see,” I said. My head was spinning.

I run six to nine hours a week. How could I gain nine pounds and have that much body fat?

After a few sets of weight-lifting, planks and squats, we sat down to discuss my results.

“You do a lot of cardio already,” she began, “so I wouldn’t work with you on that. I would focus more on lifting weights, building muscle and getting your body fat down to 20 percent … maybe even in the teens.

“You could stay at the same weight and be great” she added. “You would just look more toned, and your clothes would fit better.”

“I should lose a few pounds,” I said, softly.

“How much do you want to lose?”

“Five.” Nine.

I forked over my debit card and bought five personal training sessions.

“Honestly,” Yolanda said as the gym manager typed up my debit card information, “I can show you how to use the equipment and help you get stronger. But you’re already small; the weight isn’t going to come off easily. Seventy percent of this boils down to your diet.”

I drove home, poured my beers down the sink and ate a salad for dinner.

***

In good news, I returned to Sawyer on Monday.

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First three miles in 27 minutes, last three in 24.

Eight-minute pace for three miles? Pretty good for someone who took five days off. And really awesome for someone who gained nine pounds in the last six months!

Even though I was supposed to take this week easy, I loved running this fast. I can’t believe I ran this fast and felt decent!

Can’t wait to return to the track next week.


On Saturday my family met at a seafood restaurant in San Jose to celebrate Father’s Day. As my mom took photos I caught this image on her phone:

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I remember how I felt when this photo was taken two years ago. It was the first time I tried to go under 1:50 in the half marathon. I was totally unprepared for the heat in Windsor and started walking after five miles. Threw up after I crossed the finish.

So I was surprised to see my mom had selected such an unflattering snapshot as her phone’s wallpaper.

Then I began to think about it.

When I sign up for something, I’m all in. I don’t believe in half-assing anything. If I don’t do my best, I don’t want it bad enough, and it isn’t worth my time.

Back then I wanted a 1:50 more than anything. It took eight half-marathons to get there, and the photos from those eight races are not glamour shots. Those races were rough for me. I gave them everything, from start to finish, even when I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal.

And isn’t that fight admirable in itself?

I went into Mountains 2 Beach with one goal, to break 3:40. Even though I was working a lot, I made time for every workout. When I was fading during tempo workouts, I still pushed myself to do my very best. I ran as many hills as I could. During my taper I wore more clothing to get acclimated to the heat in Ventura.

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Mountains 2 Beach race start with Kenley and Monica.

Was there more I could do? Yes. But I went into the race truly believing I had done everything.

Most important, I had really loved training for this race. I was getting stronger and faster, I looked forward to the tough workouts, and I got to run through beautiful places with fun people.

I didn’t make my goal … so what? I still fought for that 3:40. I went down swinging; I held on for as long as I could. And that’s a performance I can be proud of.

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Deep in the pain cave! I can laugh at this now. :)

Other thoughts:

1. I finished the first half of M2B in 1:49. Twelve months ago I was busting my ass to break 1:50, so to run a 1:49 now and still feel energetic? (OK, my I.T. band was hurting at this point, but my energy levels were still high.) Pretty damn good.

2. Since the race my I.T. band has hurt twice. The first was during a 6-mile fun run with my group. The band started to cramp within the first mile, so I don’t know why I kept running. Stupid, but this run didn’t feel as painful as the marathon.

The second time was during a drive to Mountain View. I remember feeling shocked because I wasn’t even running. Once I reached my destination I took out my mini Grid foam roller (my cousin Adrian bought me one for Christmas, and I keep it in my car) and went to pound town on my leg. I had a track workout later in the evening, and by then the leg felt decent. I still felt something in the band, but I was able to push myself without pain.

3. Still doing my PT exercises! Lunges, squats, stretches, rolling … I even did pool running last Monday, and I do my group’s core and strength-training workout every Thursday. I’m not going to pretend I enjoy doing all of this stuff, but I know it will make me stronger.

What’s next?

The downside to all of this extra exercise is that I’m too worn out for running. My legs are tired all of the time.

Running 9:30-min miles is tough for me right now. I think back to my 5K PR and wonder how I ever ran sub-7:30 pace. Was I really that fast?

Right after the marathon I wanted to go after a new 5K PR. 5Ks are really hard for me, but after my last one I felt like I could have finished earlier if I hadn’t run so hard in the beginning. I know there’s a faster 5K in me, and I would really like to break 22 minutes.

At the same time, I need a break. I spent five months training for a marathon, and that was too long of a cycle. I peaked in April, and in May I noticed I was “fading,” in that my tempo workouts were getting slower. Running was feeling harder, even during my taper.

For my next marathon I’m limiting my training cycle to four months. Cycles are supposed to end, and I don’t think we’re supposed to jump into another cycle right after one is completed. I would love to go all out for another PR, but if 10-minute miles are what feel good right now, that’s what I need to run.

Yesterday I talked about this with Shawn, who was going to train me for my big 5K PR this summer. He reminded me that I really ramped up my mileage last August, and other than a few weeks after CIM I haven’t given myself a break. That’s ten months of training! No wonder my body feels busted.

Shawn said I should take two weeks off. Which I would totally do, except I am helping my sister train for her first half-marathon, which is only a month away. So I’m going to take five days off, run my sister’s long run this weekend, then take the following week super easy. No speed workouts.

This is going to be somewhat difficult for me, because I really do love training and pushing myself. At the same time, I need to be nice to my body and give it some rest. Running will always be there, but I only get one body and need to treat it right.


1. I need to stretch. My flexibility is next to nil.

I could barely touch my toes this morning, which was shocking considering I used to be so flexible during my martial arts/yoga days. Then again, I never stretch now. I just roll The Stick over my legs and call it a day.

Jin, my PT/chiropractor, demonstrated lateral and dynamic stretches, which I’m supposed to do after every run.

2. I need to strength train.

We went over lower body exercises that I’ll do on my rest and easy days. Mostly squats, which were really effing hard. The doctor straight-up told me I’m weak. Which was wildly obvious during our 90-minute session.

I may be strong in other ways, but my body basically has little power to support itself over longer distances.

3. I need to foam roll.

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I have The Grid. Do I ever use it? No.

When I first bought it, I tried it out for a few minutes, found it rather useless in that I wasn’t feeling any pain or discomfort, and set it aside. Jin taught me how to properly roll out my quads and IT band. It was uncomfortable (to put it mildly), but I think I can eventually build up to rolling for longer periods of time.

He also did some release therapy on my right leg. The pressure was, according to him, light. He wanted to go deeper, but it was my first time going through ART and I couldn’t handle it.

Good News

1. I don’t have to pay for an x-ray. I asked for one, but after completing Jin’s tests with no pain, he said it was unnecessary.

2. I don’t have a stress fracture.

3. I can run whenever I want, as hard as I want.

Bad News

1. The pain and discomfort I felt during the marathon could have all been prevented.

2. I dropped out of a race because of a shin splint.

3. Since I wasn’t feeling a sharp pain in the shin, there’s a good chance it wasn’t even a real shin splint! I was just sort of pounding the area. If I had stuck to the middle of the road I may have felt much better.

At the end of the appointment I asked Jin if I could have finished the race. He said that yes, I could have finished. By dropping out I could have prevented an injury … I could have not been bordering on an injury.

He couldn’t tell for sure — all he knew was that I am fine now, I was an idiot for neglecting my body so much, and I can run today if I want to.

There is a lot of relief in not being saddled with medical bills and a long recovery. At the same time, I really wish I finished the race. On Sunday I was truly frightened about injuring myself. Had I known what I know now I would have stopped at Mile 16, stretched a little deeper, calmed down and kept running.

I probably wouldn’t have PRed, but I would feel much better about the whole experience.


Yesterday I dropped out of a race for the first time.

After my last post, I began to feel better about Mountains 2 Beach. It was as if pressing the publish button released a whole lot of steam that had been building up. I told myself that everyone would run through the same conditions; I couldn’t control the weather. All I could do was do my best and enjoy the race.

My friend Monica emailed me the next day and told me to look back on my training log. As soon as I went through Strava I saw her point. For the past five months I had hit most of my workouts, scored two PRs in the half and 5K, had gotten so much stronger and stayed injury-free.

I was faster — and, most important, I was a smarter runner. I made sure my easy runs were super easy so I had the strength for tougher workouts, I mixed up my terrain and hit my weekly mileage. During my training for CIM last year, I was really flexible in that I would go over my assigned mileage so I could run with friends. I would do a tempo on Thursday mornings, then do a marathon-pace run that evening with my group. Looking back I don’t think that was very good for my body. So for M2B I followed my plan to the letter, and I found myself with less aches and pains than six months ago.

The Wednesday before the race my running friend Jennifer, who owns her own massage business, gave me a deep tissue massage. Jennifer is an elite runner and the fastest woman in our group. She has many athlete clients and knows what we need. The massage was perfect — she had the right amount of firmness and kneaded the knots right out of my legs. She also used hot stones and this roll-on stick of Bengay-like formula that felt heavenly.

I had been pretty lazy about rolling out my legs (in that I hadn’t used the stick or foam rolled for weeks), and I really noticed a difference during my run the next day. My legs felt so fresh, like I’d just thrown in an extra two weeks of tapering.

On Saturday morning my friend Leila picked me up for our trip to SoCal. She had volunteered to drive me to Ventura and run the last 10K of the marathon with me.

I didn’t want to run the marathon by myself. There was no 3:40 pace group. Jenny and Steven were running the marathon at an even pace, which I was uncomfortable with. The weekend before the race I unloaded my marathon anxieties to Leila over dinner, and right away she said she’d join me. A 3:40 marathon pace would be like a recovery slog for her, and she is a really chill runner with tons of race logistics experience. So I was confident about having her pace me for the last 10K.

During our drive I carbo-loaded with two bagels, Powerade, Swedish fish and sea salt potato chips. Leila let me listen to country radio, and we had a fabulous five-hour drive to Ventura. Once we reached bib pickup, I was happy to see the weather was mild. Occasionally I would feel warm on my back, but the skies were gray and I didn’t break into a sweat.

After we grabbed our bibs we joined Monica and her friend Kenley for an Italian pasta dinner. I had the same dinner I had before CIM – pasta with marinara sauce and meatballs. I usually avoid vegetables, fruit and dairy the day before a long race because the fiber and lactose can cause bathroom issues while running (TMI). Kenley had run Mountains 2 Beach two times, so he was able to give me good tips about the course.

A few times a look of horror would cross my face, like, oh gosh I’m really running 26.2 miles tomorrow. But I was mostly excited to see what I could do after such a strong training cycle. I believed in my training and was confident I could pull off a 3:40. It would be a lot of work, but as long as I paced myself properly and stayed focused I could do it.

Leila and I returned to the hotel by 7 and were in bed by 8. I was out like a light.

Once my alarm went off at 3 a.m. I shot out of bed, ready to run my marathon. I was so happy to run! I ate a blueberry bagel with maple almond butter, ate some Honey Stinger chews and drank some Gatorade and coffee. Mixed a small handheld bottle of Nuun. I had to carry my own electrolyte drink because the race drink, Fluid, had led to some cramping during runs.

Monica and Kenley showed up at 3:50 and we were on the road at 4. I’m sure it must have not been easy, driving three runners to Ojai in the dark, but Leila was a champ and got us to the start with an hour to spare.

We hit up the porta-potties twice and did a short warm-up jog. After the jog I had to pee again, and the lines were long so Monica and I went into the orchards (we tried to go farther for more privacy, but a park ranger kicked us out). There were many people “watering” the trees and no coverage at all, and I was laughing so hard as I squatted and peed into a ditch.

Then we walked into the corrals. I looked for the 3:50 pacer (since I planned on running the first mile at 8:50 pace), but there was only a 3:45, 3:55 and 4:00 pacer. I planted myself behind 3:55 and checked my pace band:

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I created this pace band using the race calculator on FindMyMarathon.com. The calculator takes the course, goal time and pacing strategy (in this case, “Aggressive Negative Split”) to build the times. I was nervous about running Mile 11 at sub-8:00 pace but figured that mile must be really steep.

Mile 1 8:36, Mile 2 8:31, Mile 3 8:33

Two miles into the race I felt a “tenderness” in my right shin. It wasn’t painful so I kept running. I saw Jenny and Steven up ahead, both looking strong and steady. I wanted to join them but told myself I would probably run the whole race without seeing them, and that would be OK. I had to focus on hitting my splits, which was pretty difficult with all of the energy going on around me.

Mile 4 8:24 (gel), Mile 5 8:15

My pace band said to run these miles in the 9:30s. Kenley said to run them 30 seconds slower than marathon goal pace, which would have been around 8:50. But these two miles didn’t feel like hills at all. Looking at the course map, Mile 5 was definitely going up and I ran way too fast. At the time it felt sort of effortless. Chalk it up to my runs up Sawyer hill I guess.

The first six miles of the race went through Ojai’s cute downtown area. There were so many locals lined up, cheering for us. So many cute shops! Once we hit the bike trail I was sorry to leave them behind. I could definitely spend a whole day in Ojai.

Mile 6 8:33, Mile 7 8:28, Mile 8 8:17

I was way faster than my pace band, so I eased up a bit and just focused on running at a relaxed pace. The weather was overcast, just perfect. I stayed on top my hydration. I also had salt pills on me and was going to take one every hour, but it was still cool and so I decided to hold off until the two-hour mark.

Mile 9 8:08 (gel), Mile 10 8:09, Mile 11 8:12, Mile 12 7:56

We started rolling down the mountain, and it felt so effortless. Like my foot turnover was pretty much clockwork.

What was not cool was my right IT band, which started to tighten around Mile 10. My right shin was also worrisome. … It was taking a real pounding on the hills. I should have eased up (especially since I was over my pace band by a lot), but then I saw Jenny and Steven and really wanted to run with them.

I reached them after the Mile 12 marker. They both looked really good, and I was happy to have some company.

Mile 13 8:15

“What was your half time?” Steven asked.

“1:49,” I said. Three minutes ahead of schedule.

At this point I decided I would try to stay with Jenny and Steven. My IT band kept tightening, my shin was still getting pounded. I was starting to feel really scared. I probably should have pulled over and stretched, but I didn’t want to run the next seven miles on my own.

Mile 14 8:20 (gel), Mile 15 8:21, Mile 16 8:23

The views were gorgeous in the mountains, so I did try to enjoy the view. I thought of Leila at Mile 20.

I thought the salt and electrolytes in my gel would loosen my leg up, but it was starting to feel painful. It was like I was being given less and less rope to work with.

When my eyes started watering up I knew I was being ridiculous; I had to make a decision. Ride out the next four miles with Jenny and Steven and stop to stretch at Mile 20. Or stop right now to stretch out my leg and run the next four miles on my own.

Once I saw the water station I stopped. It sort of happened mindlessly, and once my friends were out of sight I focused on my leg right away. I took a salt pill, drank the electrolyte drink, stretched my leg. I tried to remember the IT band stretch my friend Gabe had showed me months ago, but at that moment I couldn’t remember it so I twisted my leg into whatever felt right.

I knew I still had a lot of banked time so I tried to be patient, tried to be analytical about the whole situation. I also felt my shin. While it still felt stressed, it wasn’t painful, so it couldn’t be a stress fracture (that’s what I told myself, anyway). I felt like I could run 10 more miles at 8:23 pace, I just had to make sure my leg was OK.

After my flash stretches I began to run again. And that’s when my IT band seized up.

The pain was mostly concentrated in my lower thigh. I pulled over again, stretched, rubbed, tried to run again. Pain. White, hot, tear-inducing pain.

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I read that IT band pain can happen whenever the knee is bent at a 45-degree angle, so I tried to minimize my knee movement and just swing my legs forward. Nope, still throbbing. … Walking felt OK. Then the pressure at my shin began to build up. I wondered if I was just panicking my body into feeling these things, but since the shin was already tender early in the race, I knew my concern was valid.

By the time I reached the Mile 17 marker I was toying with the idea of dropping out.

Now, if I had just hit the wall, I would have been OK with walking. I ran/walked the last miles of my first two marathons. I don’t make a lot of money, this was only my second destination race, and I hate wasting money! If I pay for a race I am going to finish, even if I have to crawl.

Four things came to mind:

  1. I had promised myself that I would stop running if I was bordering on an injury. No goal or race is worth even the possibility of getting injured.
  2. Can I afford weeks or months of physical therapy? An x-ray??? No. STOP NOW.
  3. I had promised my sister Marbs I would run the San Francisco half-marathon with her. It will be her first 13.1. I want to be there.
  4. What if my sister was in my shoes at this moment? Would I tell her to suck it up and finish? Or would I tell her to stop?

It was a long walk to Leila. She offered to walk the next six miles with me, but I was done. I burst into tears.

I felt humiliated, angry and terribly heartbroken. My IT band and shin had never kept me from running before, and I was pain-free during the entire training cycle.

I really did feel like I was going to nail a 3:40 that day. To stop at Mile 16 just tore me up inside. I knew it was the right decision, but I was inconsolable. I cried on the curb, in the taxi, in the med tent.

Leila asked if I wanted to go back to the hotel, but all I wanted to see was Jenny cross the finish. She had worked just as hard and long as I did; following her progress had really inspired me. And seeing her make a huge PR made me so happy.

I had seen Jenny overcome foot issues early in her training cycle. Watching her run so brilliantly gave me hope. By pulling out early, I had a better chance of recovering quickly. I would bounce back from this.

Once I congratulated my friends Leila steered me back into the med tent. She made sure I downed Advil and several cups of electrolytes (as I was still crying and she was worried that I was going crazy from dehydration). A volunteer wrapped ice to my shin and thigh. Leila wanted to get her car and drive me back to the hotel, but I didn’t want to be around runners anymore. The hotel was only half a mile away, so we walked back. The IT band was no longer hurting, but my shin did feel weird. Once we were back in the hotel I tried to keep weight off it.

After my shower Monica and Kenley joined us. I started crying again. Monica had guided me throughout my marathon training, I look up to her so much, and I felt like I had failed her. But she assured me that I had nothing to be ashamed of — I had still pulled off two good PRs in this training cycle. My work had still paid off.

Leila and I then got into the car for the drive back to NorCal. I was rather sullen and didn’t want to talk. Leila was so generous. When we went to a diner for brunch and I said I wanted a Bloody Mary, she made sure I had one by the time I returned from the bathroom. She bought me an ice cream Snickers bar and a six-pack of Corona. She let me sit in silence and listen to country music. She was so patient and nurturing, and I am so lucky to have her in my life.

So while Mountains 2 Beach didn’t end with a marathon PR, I still had fun (during some parts). I’m mostly grateful because a) I’m not injured (as far as I know – will see PT this week); b) I have such wonderful friends.

I’m a work in progress. And as I chase faster times I’m going to have setbacks. I’m not going to make my goal during every race … and that’s OK.

If I got everything I ever wanted, I wouldn’t value anything. I’m going to fall short many, many times. Those failures will make the victories taste even sweeter. :)

Thank you for reading.


I was feeling pretty dang confident about this Sunday’s marathon in Ventura.

Then I saw this post in my Facebook news feed:

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THANKS A LOT, BROOKE.

I’ve never dreaded a race so much. I live in Pacifica, and the temperature rarely breaks 70 degrees.

The idea of running in 75-degree weather is upsetting.

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Look, I can’t even drive in that weather without breaking into a sweat. I’ve thrown up during hot races. And after the 2012 Kaiser half in San Francisco, I passed out in the finish chute. It must have been only 65 degrees that day!

Given my history, I shouldn’t have signed up for a summer marathon in SoCal. But I did, Mountains 2 Beach is happening, and I am going to run a marathon in Ventura in five days.

As I refreshed the weather app on my phone over and over, I thought about my expectations for Sunday. The reasonable thing to do is nix my 3:40 goal. A 7:15 PR is not going to happen in that kind of weather. If I run for, say, just a PR, I would feel better.

I can’t let the weather affect my goal, for the following reasons:

  1. Ventura is an expensive trip for me. Do I want to spend $$$ for a halfhearted PR attempt?
  2. My parents have weathered way worse. (Might go into this in a future post. For now I’ll say their own hardships – which are way more painful and real than a 4-hour fun run – have driven me through my own training.)
  3. So much heart, soul and guts went into Mountains 2 Beach.

For the past five months 90 percent of my life has been work and running. Fortunately I enjoy both. However, there were a few times when running felt uncomfortable, inconvenient and lonely. I stayed in the game because I wanted to work hard.

I believe in hard work. I enjoy it, admire it, respect it. When I commit to something, I’m going to invest all of the time and energy I can manage. And I invested a lot in this marathon.

So I’m still shooting for a 3:40 marathon on Sunday, as hopeless as it may seem. I don’t expect to enjoy it, but I want to cross the finish knowing I fought to break that number.


On Friday night I watched “The Sound of Music.” It really helped me with my long run the next morning.

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16.07 miles in 2:21:34. Miles 12-15 at goal marathon pace (8:23 for a 3:40 marathon), and Mile 16 in 7:43.

My average pace for the entire workout was 8:48 — which was my goal marathon pace last year. It’s crazy to think how much I’ve improved in the past five months. On April 6th I ran the same exact route at 9:46 pace. How does one shave off a minute in five weeks?

Short answer: the hill at the end of Sawyer Camp Trail.

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Stats for 2014. Well on my way to climb 70,000 feet this year!

A while back I said I have two speed workouts a week, track and tempo. What I should have included was my hill work.

I’ve done most of my long runs on Sawyer Camp Trail. A 16-mile workout includes four miles of going uphill; a 20 includes six miles.

Then I will do a 6- to 10-mile trail run the next day … which includes more hills.

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My friend Sakura took this photo during our epic 16-mile run on Mt. Tam. Around a 3,500-ft elevation gain. Took us over five hours, but man.  … What a view.

Just give me ALL of the hills.

The hill on Sawyer used to overwhelm me. I used to stop in the middle of each climb to rest, suck down a Gu and water, gaze at the hill, think about the hill, take pictures of it … anything for a break. Now I just charge up and down Sawyer, with no stopping.

I climb that hill faster with every attempt. I love it.

A few friends have expressed boredom with Sawyer, but it’s the ideal long run spot for me, for the following reasons:

  1. It doesn’t get crowded (like Golden Gate Park, where I used to do all of my long runs).
  2. I don’t have to stop because of lights (like San Francisco). Breaks aren’t a bad thing — especially if you need water, have to go to the bathroom, or are with friends — but I’d rather go without stops unless I have to. After all, during races the clock won’t stop, why should I?
  3. I always see at least three friends running there, no matter when I go. On Saturday my Relay friend Sam saw me and we ran the first 4.5 miles of my long run together.
  4. It’s beautiful. Deer will roam right next to us on the trail! I also see mini waterfalls when it rains.
  5. Hills, hills, hills.

Next weekend I’m going to Yuba City to celebrate my parents’ anniversary, and I’m going to miss Sawyer as I pound sidewalk.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Sawyer and its hill. It has made me so much stronger.


Next month I’m running the Mountains 2 Beach marathon with my friends Steven and Jenny. Our goal is to get a 3:40, which would be over a 7-minute PR for me.

This training cycle has been going really, really well. Last month I ran a 3-minute PR in a half-marathon in Sacramento. However, according to McMillan’s calculator, my 1:45:25 half-marathon meant I could run a marathon in 3:42.

Now some people may say race calculators aren’t totally reliable, but McMillan was only FOUR seconds off my marathon time for CIM. I’m a believer.

I wanted to run a 5K before Mountains 2 Beach for two reasons:

1) to run a 5K time that would predict a 3:40 in the marathon distance (22:35);

2) to update my three-year-old 5K PR (24:50).

Spoiler alert: I got both.

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Big Bunny 5K

Cupertino, CA

Official results: 3.1 miles, 22:17, 7:11/mile

Garmin time: 3.07 miles, 22:19, 7:17/mile

1st in my age group, out of 51 women

(My first time placing since I turned 30!)

7th woman out of 255

Miles in 7:07, 7:17, 7:30. 6:21 pace for the last .07.

Yes, my watch read the course was short by .03 of a mile. According to Coach Shawn I probably ran the tangents really well. My watch was wonky around the start at the Cupertino Civic Center during my warm-up miles (it read 1:00-2:00 min/mile pace until I was away from the building), so I accept that it may have not read the course accurately.

Enough with the Garmin details, on with the race …

Obviously I pulled a positive split. Shawn had advised me to run the first mile conservatively, but I wasn’t sure what to shoot for. I’d run a mile repeat in 6:55 during track a few weeks ago, and my mile repeats usually fall in the 7:10-7:20 range. So I guess I should have aimed for a 7:20, maybe even slower.

Since the field was so small, I mentally latched on to a woman and tried my best to hold on.

By the time my watch beeped the second mile she was the only woman in sight. I focused on catching up to her. It was rather exciting; at the time I thought we were duking it out for first and second woman. (I had missed the lead women, who were much farther ahead.) I was fading fast, but she was getting slower, too.

Eventually I was able to run right beside her, and that was the time to push.

Then she shot off, and I tried to follow her. To my surprise there was nothing left in my arms. My legs felt fine, but my arms felt depleted and I couldn’t swing myself forward.

By the third mile I was just fighting to stay in the game. The distance between us was growing, but fortunately she was able to pull me across the finish. And I had PRed in the 5K by two and a half minutes!

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After crossing the finish.

The woman in pink, Dalila, was the runner I tried to beat. The woman in the middle, Simonetta, was drafting off of me. Dalila is 43 years old, and Simonetta is 52! Just amazing; I hope I can still run a sub-23:00 5K in 10+ years.

At first I was a little bummed that I had faded so hard in the last mile. Then I told myself that I would be ecstatic if I’d run the exact same 5K time with a negative split. I still got a 2:33 PR, which is ridiculously large for the distance.

I also beat my goal time by 18 seconds, which means a 3:40 marathon can happen if I continue to train smart and stay healthy.

I believe races are best run strategically; however, a negative split is not always going to happen. I’m going to run stupid sometimes. As long as I can learn from these races I’ll get smarter, stronger and faster.


The Click

14Apr14

There’s a point in every training cycle when I feel that click. That moment when I feel like all of the miles and all of the crazy workouts have come together and are starting to pay off — generously.

I felt that click on Saturday.

I had killer workouts leading up to my long run. On Tuesday the fast guys in my track group invited me (some would say cornered me) into doing their workout. “You do mile repeats every week,” Adam said. “You’re getting faster in the mile, but not other distances.”

Their scheduled workout? The ladder. 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800 and 400, with 400 recovery jogs in between.

That evening was way too intense and tiring to press the lap button on my watch, but all you need to know is that I got a major positive split. I ran the first 400 at 6:18 pace and the second at 6:45. Adam had advised me to shoot for 7:00 pace for the entire workout, but I got caught up in trying to keep up with the fellas and ran the first intervals way too fast.

Yet it was still a really solid session. My friends were very encouraging, waited for me before their recovery jogs and even made me a cheer tunnel. And finishing that ladder — the toughest track workout I’ve had in a long time — with a fast pack made me feel fast by association. :)

On Wednesday I ran seven easy miles, which included a trip to Kinko’s to check a banner for work.

Thursday was a rest day, since I spent a few hours manning a booth at an expo. I spent the afternoon standing (not sitting — I believe expos are most successful if I stand in front of the table, not sit behind it) in thin, non-cushioned shoes. I went to bed with aching feet.

But I still had to get up early the next day for a 6:30 a.m. tempo workout with my running partner, Ron. As I pulled my shoes on swollen feet I thought, “I hope he texts me to cancel!”

I’m glad we both kept our word, because it turned into my best tempo yet. I ran my tempo miles in 7:55, 7:47, 7:49, 7:42, 7:37 and 7:39!

On Saturday I drove to Sawyer at 7 a.m. for my second 20-miler of the training cycle. I averaged 9:50 pace during my first 20 two weeks ago, so I was planning on running 10-minute miles — especially since I’d done a tempo only 24 hours ago.

Didn’t happen. Twenty miles at 9:08 pace, over an 1,198-foot elevation gain.

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A few people have asked me why I run my long runs mostly on my own, and now you know why. I want that negative split.

Long runs are, well, freaking long, and I’d rather start slow. Warm up the muscles a bit. Then I may push the pace if I feel decent during the middle miles.

My goal is to have enough energy during the last five miles to finish strong. And my strategy worked, with miles 15-19 in the 8:30s and 8:20s, and mile 20 at 7:47 pace!!!!!! I don’t think I’ve ever run a long run mile at sub-8:00 pace.

My legs felt really strong throughout the whole workout; it was simply the best I’ve ever felt after a long run.

Yesterday evening I implemented this strategy during my sister Marbs’ first long run.

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My sister and I are training for the San Francisco half-marathon in July. It will be her first half-marathon. She has two 5Ks and two 10Ks under her belt, and we will do a 10-miler in Sacramento later this month.

As you can see, our conservative start paid off again, as she was able to clock her fastest mile since her 5K last summer!

This picture makes me so happy.

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We are coming for you, San Francisco.


Last week my Tuesday night track group exchanged emails on whether we could still meet for our workout. The track was apparently a Slip ‘N Slide after 24 hours of rain.

I considered dropping out of the workout as well, but I threw on my rain jacket and made the drive to Millbrae.

Listening to my gut paid off. I broke seven minutes in the mile for the first time ever.

breaking seven

April 1, 2014

Since this was my first track workout after the Shamrock’n half, I had planned to only clock my mile repeats between 7:15-7:25. But the second and third intervals felt effortless, and I knew I could go under seven easily. So I just went for it.

If you told me I’d see a 6 on my Garmin a year ago, I would have called you crazy. After all, I hated track. Everyone knew I hated track. I was notorious for what my friends called my “track face,” which is a very nice way of saying bitchface. My mug would automatically shift to a look of wet, wretched anger whenever I stepped on a polyurethane surface.

While I enjoyed my track group, I didn’t enjoy the actual workouts. They were hard. Unnatural.

Back then I was struggling to break 1:50 in the half, to no avail. It didn’t seem like my speed workouts were helping, and I was very frustrated.

My friend Jenny suggested I start doing mile repeats to prepare for the Giant half marathon. The idea of sprinting for a whole mile seemed awful, but I knew I had to change my training to dip under 1:50.

I ran hard, got a positive split.

track 072313

July 23, 2013

After the Giant race, I taught myself restraint. Now that I was doing my own workout, I no longer had to keep up with the pack. I also had to save some gas for my Thursday night tempos. So I focused on finishing my repeats in a certain range.

I figured out my goal 1600 time on McMillan, which was surprisingly not that difficult. It was faster than 10K pace, sure. But it was still easier than running a 5K.

Every week mile repeats got less difficult. Less daunting. I eventually began to look forward to them. After all, they were the fastest miles of the week, and I loved running fast.

I loved looking down at my watch and seeing 7s. I started daydreaming about running longer distances at sub-8:00 pace, and the very thought made me giddy inside.

When my group moved their track workouts to the streets (since the high school students needed their track back for the winter and spring), I moved my workouts to Tuesday mornings. Every Tuesday at 6 a.m. I would drive to the track, a grin on my face, telling myself, After this workout you will be four miles closer to that seven-minute pace.

Before I began tapering for CIM I finished my four mile repeats under 7:10. I was ecstatic. Within a few months I had shaved 28 seconds from my mile time! Two days later I ran a six-minute PR in the 10K.

And now I can run a mile in 6:55.

Snapshot 1 (4-8-2014 5-26 PM)

After that golden mile I jogged up to the guys and told them I’d broken seven minutes in the mile for the very first time. I remember feeling tingly all over; I was drifting in and out of shock. I had never, never thought I’d break seven minutes in the mile.

“The thing about track PRs,” Adam later told me as we walked it off, “is you’ll now want to run all of your miles that fast.”

I felt a smile spread across my face.


Last Thursday a Hoka One One sales rep visited A Runner’s Mind with demo shoes. I ran five miles in the Conquest.

From the moment I started running, I knew I wouldn’t like them. The shoes felt like blocks; running in them felt like too much work for every muscle below my waist. I was able to throw down my last mile in 7:28 – which is the fastest mile I’ve ever clocked in Hillsborough – but I didn’t feel driven to fork over my debit card.

That said, I know runners who swear by their Hokas, and I think the company gained a few fans last night. Definitely try them on if you get the chance.

So which shoes are working for me right now?

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As I noted in an earlier post, I first came across the PureCadence 2 after I forgot to bring shoes to a fun run. I have girlfriends who loved the original PureCadence but hated the 2s, so when Dawson recommended them I hesitated. But those reservations slipped away once I tied my laces.

I know the PureCadence 2 is a polarizing shoe – it received unfavorable reviews online, and it was on sale long before the PureFlow 2 and PureGrit 2. So before I go any further, let’s get some details out of the way.

  1. With the exception of the Kinvara, I have mostly worn stability shoes. After inspecting my shoes and stride, Dawson said I can get away with neutral shoes as long as I wear my SuperFeet.
  2. I run between 35-55 miles a week, mostly on road.
  3. Most of my runs are between 6-8 miles.
  4. I have high arches.
  5. I am a smallish runner.
  6. I land mostly on my midfoot.

Now, if I had my way I would wear the Newton Distance U all the time. But they’re expensive, and I needed a backup shoe that was cheaper and could take a decent number of street miles.

The PureCadence 2 is a solid alternate for me. I’ve almost run 100 miles in mine since January, and I still enjoy them as much as the day I bought them.

Pros:

  1. They wrap close to my foot. Am I the only runner who likes the burrito-style upper? Because it sure seems that way.
  2. They support my arches. They are the only shoes I can wear without my SuperFeet.
  3. The “kinky” laces have yet to unravel during a workout.
  4. Perfect amount of cushioning.
  5. The huge, reflective Brooks logo.
  6. Now that the PureCadence 3 is out, the 2 is on super discount.

Cons:

  1. They may be too corrective for me. There are times when I feel like the shoes are forcing my feet to land a specific way. And duh, that’s what stability shoes do. However, I really don’t need this much control.
  2. Can’t go without socks. Tried it once and ended up with a long, nasty blister.
  3. Because of the amount of control, I don’t wear the PureCadence 2 for speedwork or runs longer than eight miles.

Will I buy the PureCadence 2 again? If I find a pair for $50, yeah. I like them for easy runs and recovery runs. But there’s no way I’d buy them for the original retail price.

For your reference I’ve also included a video of myself running in the PureCadence 2. Enjoy!




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