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.

Image

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!

Image

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.

Image

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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?

Image

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!


Junk Miles

21Mar14

Last night Kevin and I ran my first six-mile tempo workout of the year. Miles clocked in 7:57, 8:04, 7:50, 7:54, 7:54, 7:42.

After I finished I was really proud of myself for completing a tempo on heavy legs. Tempos are becoming less and less overwhelming the more I do them; running them on the same route and having company helps. I remember when I first joined A Runner’s Mind and found the 5.3-mile fun run route in Hillsborough SO hilly. I clocked my first run on that route at around 9:45 pace and I felt like I was dying. Now it’s my tempo place!

A friend recently asked how I improved my running. What was the big game-changer?

Despite my growing love for tempos, I only started seeing faster times after I adopted a steady diet of junk miles.

With Teruko at Steelhead Brewery, eating my junk food of choice. May 2012

With Teruko at Steelhead Brewery, eating my junk food of choice. May 2012

I typically run between 35 to 55 miles a week, depending on where I am in my training cycle. Most of my workouts are “conversational-pace” runs between 9:10-10:30 pace (and sometimes much slower if I’m on trails and/or a hilly course). I do have one track and one tempo workout a week (resulting in 8-10 fast miles a week), but most of my runs are still easy, which I’m sure has kept me pain-free — knock on wood.

Even though I’ve managed to run for the past few years without being sidelined with injuries, I’m not invincible. In college a torn hamstring kept me from getting my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and even after months of PT I was never the same, physically or mentally.

I’ve really hit my stride in running, but a part of me is also scared over having to take another long break from what I love because I hurt myself.

Of course there is always the risk of getting injured, and I’m sure I will have setbacks in the future. But I would like to do whatever I can to keep myself healthy so I can keep getting faster and feeling stronger. Easy runs definitely play a part.

So far this year I added new elements to my training, all meant to keep me from getting injured. Making huge changes can be daunting for me, so I just changed the game bit by bit, month by month.

  • January: Trails
  • February: Stick rolling. I started rolling my muscles with the Stick after I started feeling tightness under the arch of my right foot. My chiro checked it out and said it wasn’t plantar, but a rather large knot that I should massage after every run.
  • March: Cross training!! I’m actually late with this one. “Coach” Shawn is my new gym buddy, and I look forward to working out with him and building huge muscles. Ha.

I will also start eating better ………………… in December. :)

I’m pleased as punch over the gains I’ve experienced so far. Last October it took me three weeks to recover from the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose half-marathon; yesterday I was able to do a six-mile tempo only four days after the Shamrock’n half! I was going to take all of this week easy, but next week is scheduled as a drop back week with no speed work.

Which is fine by me. I know that drop back weeks — weeks consisting solely of junk miles — are essential to my training.

Junk miles are definitely not for everyone. I have friends who fare just as well or even better by running less mileage at a faster pace. But I plan on sticking with my junk mile diet … at least until I hit another plateau.


I stopped running around the Mile 10 marker. “Leila,” I called out.

She turned around and walked back to me.

“What’s wrong? Are your legs OK?” she asked as I shook them out.

My legs were fine. I just felt … heavy.

I had started the Shamrock’n half with the goal to go under 1:45. My plan was fairly simple: run the first miles in 8:30, 8:15 and 8:00. Run 7:55 for the rest of the race.

Considering I was struggling to maintain an 8:23 minute-per-mile pace this time last year, my plan was rather ambitious, to say the least.

Yet I was optimistic. Three weeks ago I had approached Kevin, one of the fastest guys in our group, about pacing my tempo runs on Thursday nights. My goal was to run five miles in the 7:45-8:00 range, without stopping. A jog in the park for a sub-3:00 marathoner like him.

Before that night Kevin and I had run together twice. He is what I like to call a “low-maintenance running partner”: He can run at any pace, for any amount of time, with very little-to-no speaking from my end.

Most important, I respect and admire Kevin’s discipline and positive energy. They’re traits I want for myself, and I believe that the more time you spend with someone the more likely you’ll adopt his or her strengths. Even though I had been running ridiculously well in my last few races, I knew I still had to work on my mental game.

Our first workout together was a bust. I stopped after four miles. Kevin managed to get me to resume and complete the workout. I was bummed but determined to do better the following week.

And that second tempo run was perfect. A hard effort for sure, but perfect.

tempos

After that workout I hugged Kevin, bursting with confidence, certain that sub-1:45 was mine.

On Sunday morning I stood in the Wave One corral, wearing a green singlet with “ARM Elite” stamped across the front.

Leading up to the race my friends and I had suspected the ARM Elite singlets were cursed (as many of us had run lackluster races in them). The last time I’d worn it I had crashed and burned. And, to be honest, I felt like a poser for wearing anything with “Elite” on it. Mine should have said “ARM Middle-of-the-packer.”

It was one of the three green running shirts in my closet, and with the temperature climbing to 81 degrees in Sacramento, I had to wear it.

As I stood in the 1:50 pace group and listened to the countdown, I thought back to that last tempo workout. While those five miles had felt uncomfortable, I had hit them perfectly, and I had tapered perfectly.

The thought of running sub-8:00 minute miles terrified me. … And, at the same time, I looked forward to it. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, making my way up before the long ride down.

Mile 1 8:12, Mile 2 8:13, Mile 3 8:05

The first three miles were all about holding back. I figured the 1:50 pacer would be running between 8:20-8:30, so I stuck with that group … until I looked down at my watch and realized we had clocked the first mile in 8:12 – 18 seconds faster than I’d planned.

I let them float ahead, telling myself I could go slower for the next two miles.

By the third mile the fatigue was starting to set in.

Mile 4 7:54 (gel), Mile 5 7:51, Mile 6 7:54

After I locked into goal pace I started feeling better, as if I’d just torn off the breaks. There were some hills on the course, but nothing compared to what I’d climbed in the Bay Area.

We ran along a paved path near the river, which was lovely and shaded by the trees. I tried latching on to a few runners, but they kept drifting back. It didn’t seem like anyone was running at a set pace. I thought of Leila waiting for me at the Mile 8 marker. Once I reached her I could sit back and let her do the work.

Mile 7 7:45, Mile 8 7:49, Mile 9 7:53 (gel)

“How are you feeling?” Leila asked when she jumped in.

“Tired,” I told her. Tired and scared. I couldn’t speak more than one word at a time. By then the trees were gone, and I’d been baking in the sun for a while.

That and I couldn’t believe I’d clocked a mile in 7:45. I’d shot my wad way too early. I was certain doom was just around the corner.

Mile 10 8:24

I looked down at my watch and saw 8s. I began to panic. I was putting in the same amount of effort – how could I be running slower?

Finally I handed Leila my watch, asking her to run ahead of me and keep an 8:00 pace. I was sure I’d banked enough time to make a 1:44, as long as I didn’t blow up.

“We’re running too fast,” she said, but a few minutes later she started drifting farther and farther away. It was distressing. I felt like I’d never catch up to her.

Then I stopped and called out for her.

Seeing her walk back to me was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was giving up. Oh, I had given up in races before – many times. Yet this still shocked me, because going into the race I had truly believed I was going to run this race in 1:44. I had done all the work, and looking back I couldn’t pinpoint what I’d done wrong with my training.

For 20-something seconds we were silent. I stared at the dirt. The disappointment sunk in.

“We can run 8:30s,” Leila finally offered.

I straightened up. “Let’s go,” I said.

It was time to dig deep. Yes, I had lost a good chunk of a minute, but I had to believe I’d banked enough time during the first half of the race.

Mile 11 7:59

“If we reach Mile 12 in 1:33 we can still make 1:45,” Leila told me.

We got there in 1:35.

Mile 12: 8:03

Kevin had told me I had the guts to run the last mile in 7:30, and I clung to those words with all my might.

Leila offered me water and I declined. I was willing every bit of energy to my legs, and nothing could be spared.

Mile 13 7:48, Mile 13.23 1:34 (6:50 pace)

We climbed over the bridge. I pumped my arms, staring straight ahead. We finally saw Raley Field.

Surging forward, I looked down at my watch and saw it click from 1:44 to 1:45.

I didn’t have the energy to process it, the feeling of not making it. By then I’d seen the finish line; the roar of the crowd had reached my ears. The announcer stumbled over my name.

shamrock'n result

I stopped my watch, walked to the fence and leaned over it, trying to catch my breath. Leila reached me and I hugged her, grateful to have such a devoted friend.

“1:45:25,” I told her. I sighed. “I can’t believe I stopped.”

The disappointment didn’t last long. After all, I had just made a 3-minute PR! I hadn’t run a PR that big in the half for at least two years.

Even though I didn’t make my A goal, I hadn’t given up on myself. I had managed to pull myself together for that final 5K. A year ago I couldn’t bounce back like that.

I’d like to thank the following people:

  • The City of Sacramento
  • The Shamrock’n race organizers (for a perfectly executed event)
  • Kevin
  • Leila

And, as always, thank you for reading.

While I still have a lot to learn about running and races, I’m excited to see my work pay off. I took some time off after my last marathon, and within just a few weeks of this training cycle I pulled a big PR!

As for my sub-1:45 goal (which is my big goal for 2014), I’m sure I will get there soon. I’m not going to make my goal at every race, but with every run I am gaining ground and getting closer. I’m becoming comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, and that alone will help me kick major butt this year.

10013094_10153917934285508_1581703355_n


Last Saturday I ran the Rattlesnake Ramble trail half-marathon in Castro Valley.

1508599_10153787340665508_842118633_n

As the rain pounded my windshield that morning, I began to feel a little nervous. Considering I’d just started my love affair with the dirt, roots and rocks of our gorgeous local trails, I wasn’t sure how I’d do that day.

“You’re running the race for fun,” a friend stressed a few days before the race. Actually, she said it in all caps.

YOU’RE RUNNING FOR FUN, NOT TIME.

This bothered me.

Look, I get that everyone has different goals. I enjoy getting faster; not everyone runs with that purpose, and that is fine. Great, actually. We all have different reasons for being out there — some of us train for PRs, some of us run to explore new terrain, some of us run to relieve stress. Some of us run just because we enjoy the act of running.

I run for all of the above. If I didn’t genuinely enjoy running, I would find another hobby. Because people either love running … or they think it sucks.

Life is short. Running isn’t the only way to get fit or stay healthy. If I ever get to the point that I dread running, I’ll stop, because I’m committed to doing what I enjoy.

At the same time, I’m results-driven. I’m a researcher and marketer, and I love data. I love looking back at my Garmin files and realizing hey, I am faster than I was three months ago!

Of course races can measure progress, but they can’t be the only way. I can get a side-stitch, I can hit the wall, I can get my period. The weather can be hot, rainy, freezing. All of those things have led to lackluster races, but they didn’t reflect my level of fitness. Everyone has disappointing races, and I’ve grown to accept that anything can happen on race day.

All we can control is our training. And I freaking love training. I love easy runs, long runs, track, tempos, hills, and now trails.

But most of all, I love running fast. I love getting faster.

Which brings me back to the point of this post. Over the past few months, I have received flack for running races hard. As in racing during races. I know! It’s a novel concept. Apparently there is no way I am enjoying a race if I’m pushing myself.

Fuck that.

Because when I started the Rattlesnake Ramble, I did hold back a bit. (It stopped raining right before the race, to my relief.)

I watched as the lead pack drifted into the distance. I rolled around the lake at a silly-easy pace, taking time to take in Lake Chabot, refill my water bottle at aid stations, hike the steep parts. I took a wrong turn and got lost for a few minutes — but whatever! I was doing this for fun.

And then I was on my own. I couldn’t see anyone in front of me, and I couldn’t hear anyone behind me.

I began to pick up the pace. After a few minutes two runners in Camelbaks entered my line of vision, and I could feel a grin spread across my face. It was time to start picking people off.

I tore off the breaks and began to chase.

I passed the Camelbak runners, and that’s when I saw a woman wearing headphones. “Why are you wearing headphones in a trail race? I’m gonna get you!” And it actually took a few miles to reach her, because the lady was a mountain goat. She glided across the route with ease, while I stumbled around rocks and had to pull my shoes out of the mud.

Once we hit the paved road, I made my move and passed her. I passed quite a few people during that last mile! And I crossed the finish in two hours and six minutes, sixth woman, all smiles.

Here’s the thing: Even though I ran hard and became competitive, I still enjoyed myself. There is something terribly romantic about speeding through the trails.

I still took in the trees, the dirt, the mist, the mud. Oh, especially the mud. Yeah the mud sucked the shoes clean off my feet, but I laughed with the other runners and volunteers. I just went with it. Ran hard, had fun.

There isn’t much more to say, other than once I crossed the finish I headed straight for the beers. Leila (who finished second in the 10K!) and I rushed to a nearby cafe to exchange war stories over our well-earned race liquor and coffees.

1601263_10153787549690508_1736943357_n

As I tucked into a bacon sandwich, rain hit the trails. Good thing I didn’t run the race easy. Running through that mud, in the rain … now that would have truly sucked.


My 2014 runs have been fantastic so far. I feel like I’m getting my legs back!

On Wednesday Lucy, Anna, Adam and I ran through Phleger Estate.

1497738_10152150622214328_47182834_n

After ringing in the new year with beer and vodka tonics, 10 miles and a 1,900-foot elevation gain was what I needed to sober up. It was a tough workout — I ran/walked the uphills — and I probably should have eaten more than a handful of Swedish fish for breakfast. But the trails were beautiful, and I loved my friends’ company.

One of my goals is to log some trail miles this year, for the following reasons:

  1. My upcoming training cycle has more miles, and mixing up my terrain will keep my limbs healthy.
  2. I would like to spend time with my running friends, and a few of them are avid trail runners.

I will always prefer the street over the trail. However, I strongly believe I improved as a runner last year because I finally committed to the scary workouts — hills and tempos. Those runs were never easy for me, and they never got easier. But they made me faster, stronger and tougher.

Yesterday my quads felt tight, which is typical after a trail run. I met my running group at A Runner’s Mind for our weekly fun run through Hillsborough. When I arrived I realized I’d forgotten my shoes. The store was filled with boxes of updated running shoes, so I figured older models were on sale.

photo (1)

I’d read mixed reviews about the PureCadence 2, so I was wary when Dawson recommended them. He said they were close to the Newton Distance U, which is what I usually run and race in. (I also do easy runs in the Kinvara, which feel sloppy sometimes.)

I ran in the PureCadence 2 that night, and I was pleasantly surprised. Even though the shoes are light they provide a lot of support and guidance. I didn’t wear my SuperFeet, and my arches didn’t hurt at all.

new kicks

I hadn’t run a sub-8:00 mile during a night run in months. I am so happy with this workout. Won’t be long before I start doing tempos again!


Here’s the third CIM photo I bought:

Image

I had to buy three photos to get the discounted rate from SportPhoto. And since my jacket sleeves covered my bib, the website didn’t have that many photos of me.

At least I like the ones posted! I don’t photograph well, so any picture that doesn’t make me cringe is an A+.

So it has been three weeks since my 22-minute marathon PR. I’m currently writing posts on my CIM training and new running goals, but until then I will let you know how I’ve been running lately.

Honestly, running has been hard, for the following reasons:

1. I got sick.

Someone told me the immune system shuts down for two weeks after a marathon, and I was no exception.

Trying to breathe through several layers of phlegm while running was not pleasant. I am a lot better now; just coughing up snot every now and then. (Savor that image for a moment.)

2. My legs are done.

No big surprise. I did run 26.2 miles after all! It took me 3-4 weeks to recover after the Giant and RNR San Jose half-marathons, so I didn’t expect to bounce back from the marathon right away.

Image

During my family’s Christmas party. I’ve looked like this for the past three weeks.

Right now 9:30- to 10:30-min/mile pace feels comfortable; any faster and I’m sucking wind.

Shawn told me I can return to the track this week. I’m itching to get a speed workout in, but I know it will be a while before I throw down 7:10 mile repeats. That’s OK. I’ll return to my old self soon.

My mileage dropped a ton after the marathon.

  • December 9-13: 15.4 miles. Took three days off after the marathon.
  • December 16-22: 19.6 miles. This included my first long run, 10+ miles at 9:01 pace around Lake Merced with Sam, Jenny and Gabe. So tough! I definitely would not have run that fast on my own.
  • December 23-29: 28 miles. Including one whole mile on Christmas.
Image

Christmas mile with my cousin Janica

Yesterday I returned to Sawyer Camp Trail for a 12-mile long run. I’d worked a Picnic Dash race from 6 a.m. to noon, so I was wiped out and just wanted to get the miles in. The first eight miles were over 10-min pace.

I didn’t begin to push myself until a man got caught in my crosshairs.

This is sort of silly, but I can get predatory on the run. I like to latch on to a guy, gradually cut the distance between us, make him feel nervous.

When I’m on my target’s back, I’ll match his stride and chase him at his pace for a good mile, until his form breaks.

Once he’s down I’ll make the pass and sprint to the finish.

Image

Running a 7:40 mile at the end of my long run actually felt … not terrible?

During my cool-down walk my rabbit tried to lock eyes with me. I pretended I didn’t see him. I dunno, I felt triumphant and embarrassed at the same time.

But mostly triumphant.


635236787013965685

Seven days before the marathon, I drove through Sacramento. The thermometer in my car read 70 degrees.

Seventy degrees would suck! I thought to myself. I hope I get cooler weather for the race.

That wish bit me in the ass. Weather.com predicted temps in the low 20s for race day.

I told myself not to panic; that living in the Bay Area had made me invincible to the cold. On Tuesday I wore my race day outfit for my final speed workout, and the singlet/shorts/compression socks combo felt fine. I felt fine. Fine!!!

Monica, my taper coach, had assigned this last track workout:

  • 1600m at goal marathon pace (8:43 min/mile)
  • 1200m at 10K pace (7:45 min/mile)
  • 800m at 5K pace (7:20 min/mile)
  • 400m at “fast — not too fast — pace”

By my last lap (which was under 7:00-min pace), my legs were done. I wondered if I’d ruined my taper. “Maybe you aren’t fully recovered from Berkeley,” Monica wrote.

My confidence took a nose dive that week, which was spent refreshing Weather.com. I ran five miles at 9:30 pace the next day, and I felt like I was running 90 seconds per mile faster.

I was supposed to run two miles at goal marathon pace on Thursday. It was so cold that I just did three easy miles with my group.

“No matter what happens,” I told Lucy as we jogged around Hillsborough, “I’ll have no excuses. Whether I finish this marathon in 3:50 or way later, that’s the time I trained for.”

I’d read about how cold weather negatively affects running performance, and I should have adjusted my goals. Changing my goal time to a 3:55 would have given me so much relief.

I couldn’t do it. I was going to shoot for a sub-3:50 on December 8th in Sacramento, no matter what.

Image

On Saturday I drove up to Sacramento with Yihui, Silvia and Craig. CIM would be Yihui and Silvia’s first marathon, and they were buzzing with pre-race jitters and excitement. Meanwhile I dragged my body through the expo and our running group’s pre-race dinner.

After dinner we returned to the hotel. I laid out two race outfits, prepped my race bag, drank a bottle of Powerade and went through messages on my phone.

Teruko had text me encouragement, as usual. I wished she was running the race with me. My worst fear was hitting the wall and walking the last 10K in the cold by myself.

I can’t do this on my own, I fretted. I need someone beside me.

Then I went through my emails and found Shawn’s last message to our group.

Image

I thought back to seeing Shawn after the breakup ten months ago. I had been strung out from crying, not eating and spending all my free time in bed. I thought back to Teruko consoling me when I broke down in a bar; I remembered my sister Marbs watching me as I cried in bed and shouted at my ex over the phone.

They had seen me at my very worst. Yet they had still believed in me; they had wanted to be with me and see me through.

And it wasn’t just them — so many had helped me. Friends had paced me in races and tempo workouts. Others had slogged through my recovery runs. People had driven me to races. My phone and email was filled with encouragement and praise.

My friends did those things because they cared about me and wanted me to succeed. Their faith had taken me far.

Even though they wouldn’t run with me on December 8th, the mere thought of them — the memories we shared — was enough for me.

There is something else you should know.

Over the past few weeks people asked me why I’d changed my race goal. I said it was because online race calculators had me at a sub-3:50.

Honestly?

I didn’t want to chase my ex anymore.

The breakup had been a great kick-start for my training. I was a better runner because of it. And sure, I could run a marathon in 3:55.

But as long as I defined my goals by my ex’s accomplishments, I would keep him with me. I didn’t want that for myself.

I am better than a 3:55, I told myself, and I believed it.

Image

The next morning I woke up at 4 a.m., shoved a bagel with almond butter in my mouth and pulled on my running clothes. I felt so good. Crazy good.

I learned Steven had run a fantastic time in his first 50K in the Marin Headlands the day before. Knowing the weather hadn’t affected his performance lifted my spirits.

Our ride arrived and took us to the start.

Once I stepped outside I was surprised by how decent I felt. Yes, it was cold, but not painfully so. I removed my sweater, dropped off my bag, used the porta-potties twice and walked to the corrals. Since I was supposed to run the first mile at 10-minute pace I planted myself in the 4:00 group.

The race started, and a roar of excitement filled the air. I threw up my arms and cheered.

Once we started running my toes began to freeze. I had to wiggle them around. I also covered my mouth and ears with a neck gaiter; breathing into it kept my face warm.

My pace band said to run the first mile at 10-minute pace. Running 9:30 on a downhill was rather difficult. The 4:10 pacer soon passed me, and seeing her sign bob by reminded me of last year’s CIM.

I told myself to hold back. Shawn and Teruko had instructed me to start slow. “If you run easy in the beginning, it’ll be easy to run 30 seconds per mile faster in the last 10K,” Shawn had told me before the race.

And I knew I could make up for the slow miles. I could run strong on tired legs. I just had to race smart.

Mile 1-4: 9:41, 9:07, 8:56, 8:57 (gel)

The route was congested and there was ice around the water stations. I saw runners slip and fall while trying to grab water. Fortunately I was carrying a small bottle of Nuun. We were all trying to avoid the ice, which made the course more narrow.

After Mile 3 my toes loosened up. However, my jaw was beginning to hurt — breathing around my neck gaiter was rather difficult. So I uncovered my mouth and ears. I could see my breath, white and thick, in front of me. Yet I didn’t feel cold at all.

I checked my pace band at every mile marker. On schedule, I told myself when I finished my fourth mile in 8:57. Now it’s time to work.

Mile 5-8: 8:39, 8:40, 8:44, 8:41

Hitting goal marathon pace was easy.

(Those first miles are always easy, right?)

I passed the 4:10 pacer and began to look for the 4:00 signs. I wanted to go faster; I reminded myself that this was a long race and I’d feel grateful for holding back in the first half.

At the pre-race dinner Andrea had told me our running group’s spectators would be near the Mile 8 marker. I kept an eye out for their signs, and once I saw them I took off my gloves and began hollering at them. I was so excited to see them cheering for me!

Image

I wanted to give them my jacket and gloves (as I was feeling quite warm at that point) but they told me not to stop, to keep running. So I wrapped my jacket around my waist and went on. I was floating.

I passed the 4:00 pacer.

Mile 9-13: 8:37 (gel), 8:33, 8:29, 8:31, 8:30

Around this time I heard someone playing “Gonna Fly Now” on a boombox. That jam is my No. 1 power song, and as soon as it entered my ear canal I sped up with no effort. Once it was out of earshot I saw that I was running sub-8:30 pace!

I was about to slow down when I saw the 3:55 pacer. I heard my name. I looked back and saw Dan, who had managed to stick with the group while doing a run-walk. We chatted for a few minutes before he began to walk again.

I left the 3:55 group and kept an eye out for the 3:50 pacer. I had around a minute of banked time, and I feared I was running too fast for my own good. I was supposed to run no faster than 8:36 pace, but “Gonna Fly Now” kept playing in my head and I couldn’t hold back.

During the 12th mile I saw Susan. Thrilled to see another familiar face, I ran to her side. We managed to keep 8:30 pace while chit-chatting about the weather and icy water stations. When we passed the 13.1 timing mat, I looked down at my watch and realized I had banked around 80 seconds of time.

“I’m going to slow down to 8:45 pace,” I told Susan. I never did.

Mile 14-20: 8:27 (gel), 8:30, 8:27, 8:32, 8:32, 8:36, 8:34 (gel)

you are going too fast you are going too fast you are going too

I saw Julie around Mile 15. Julie is another fast runner I admire, so seeing her out there gave me another boost.

you are going too fast, you just need to run 8:36 pace to go under 3:50, why are you running under 8:30 pace!!!!! pull back

this feels great, my legs are fresh, i’m not tired i can run for days

do not break 8:30 pace do not break 8:30 pace do not

1476603_10153580314210508_18106093_n

At this point I decided to run by effort. Run no more than 70 percent effort, I told myself. I was also beginning to feel really excited about my finish time.

There was so much internal back-and-forth that I forgot to take my gel at the Mile 19 marker. I ate it seven minutes late.

My left hip began to feel a little “off” during these miles. I wasn’t in pain or uncomfortable, but it was like an extra part I had to carry. I leaned forward and tried to push off on my right foot, and I eventually forgot about it. False alarm.

As I approached the Mile 20 banner and timing mat, I saw a young woman running in a ruffled skirt. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and she had a manic grin on her face. Clearly she was stunned by her own performance and was having the time of her life. Our eyes locked and I realized I had the same dopey expression.

Mile 21-24: 8:29, 8:30, 8:28, 8:37 (gel)

The thing about starting so far in the back is that you’ll pass everyone, and no one will pass you.

Which can feel freaking amazing. But I love chasing runners, and I couldn’t latch on to anyone.

Runners were dropping like flies. Those who had passed me in the early miles were stopping to walk. There were looks of exhaustion and pain all around me.

I felt uneasy. My body was great, running was effortless.

However, I had never run farther than 20 miles in this training cycle. I could hit the wall at any moment.

Just run one mile at 8:40 pace, I told myself.

My mind kept drifting back to my past two marathons, and I did not want to hit the wall again.

Then I made a mile in 8:37, and that felt too slow and easy.

Mile 25-26.2: 8:27, 8:15, 2:45 (0.36 at 7:38 min/mi pace)

After the Mile 25 marker I saw Vu and Minnie. Vu was pacing Minnie for a Boston Qualifier.

Vu motioned for me to go ahead, so I ran past them. Just seeing them gave me the extra motivation I was looking for. I knew I could run the rest of the race at 8:30 pace.

I then saw Monte running on the sidelines, looking for his trainees. I began yelling his name, and he turned around to run with me. “Don’t leave me,” I told him.

“What?”

“Don’t leave me,” I shouted. I was beginning to tear up. All sorts of emotions were rolling in. I couldn’t believe I could run so strong this late in a marathon! Monte pushed the pace.

Someone called out my name. I turned and saw Jessica in the crowd. I remembered seeing her at Mile 26 last year; I remembered shaking my head at her because I’d hit the wall so early.

A lot can change in 12 months, I guess.

After we passed the Mile 26 mile marker Monte left. I pummeled through.

I saw Todd, shaking his fist at me. “Sesa!” he shouted. “Sub-3:50!!!”

I turned a corner and picked more runners off. I saw the race clock in the distance. It ticked to 3:50.

Do not let it pass 3:50.

635236786966776977

California International Marathon
December 26, 2013
3:47:14

I began crying as soon as I stopped.

I saw Monte beyond the finish chute. I walked up to him, hugged him and began sobbing into his shoulder.

Then I saw Kimberly. I joined her and began crying into her shoulder! And this wasn’t pretty crying, this was full-out ugly bawling.

I was so swept up in the race, I couldn’t control myself.

My mom was suddenly there with a pile of clothes. She and Monte helped me into a sweater, sweatpants and coat.

As I climbed into the pants, I saw her give Monte a look of admiration and gratitude. Over the past year she’d asked me to dial back my running. At that moment I think she realized how much he and my running group had done for me.

I cried as my mom buttoned up my coat; I cried as we collected my bag. I was in shock.

I am a 3:47 marathoner.

Holy shit. That’s fast!

I’m fast.

1491560_10153565474940508_1625137964_o

And I’m only going to get faster.

***

A week later I met my group in Belmont for an easy six miles on the cross-country course. Many of us had run excellent races on December 7th and 8th, and we were eager to hear about the others’ experiences.

I learned that many people in my group had been tracking me online during the marathon. Gabe had even watched me via a live feed at the finish line. Seeing me run faster and faster, they told me, had been very exciting.

As I rolled around that dirt course on heavy legs, I found it hard to believe I’d run 26.2 miles at 8:40 pace only seven days ago. I felt so out of shape. The others waited for me and encouraged me to power up the hills.

“Keep at it,” Stan said. “You’ll be in the 3:30s soon enough.”

I broke into a grin as he said it.

I later treated Shawn to a coffee in downtown Burlingame. We sat at the window and people-watched, only two blocks away from the place where we had first met to discuss how I’d break my ex’s PRs.

“How big was your PR?” Shawn asked.

“Twenty-two minutes.”

“And you beat his PR by how many minutes?”

“Eight minutes.”

We smiled at each other. I laughed.

Looking back, I had worked so hard and given so much to CIM. But the race itself had been so easy.

“That guy was the worst,” Shawn said. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Yeah.” I was over it. There was nothing more to say.

“I want to break 1:45 in the half,” I told him. “Is there anything else I can do? Like, different workouts that will help me get faster?”

175209_10153572374985508_2012645262_o




Archives

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.