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Race Recap: Big Sur Half Marathon

November 18, 2010 Fitness, Friends No Comments

Well, the last race of the season is finally behind me. It feels so good to not have anything hanging over my head! It has been sunny and in the 70s this week — perfect for leisurely bike rides with no agenda. Ahhhhh, the off season!

But let’s talk about the final race.

The Big Sur Half Marathon is a great race that is reasonably flat and fast. The course takes you along the wharf area of Monterey, through Cannery Row, around Lover’s Point, through Pacific Grove, around Spanish Links, and back. It’s beautiful!

Greg is stressed about work and the van project and his upcoming trips and the dog and his IT band and and and… so he wasn’t really in a road trippin’ kind of mood to begin with. It was all I could do to cajole him out of the house so I could have more time with Claudia! And her son Nic could have more time with Argus! We arrived in Monterey around 4 PM on Saturday afternoon. We saw Claudia and her family on their way out of the convention center as we made our way in. After packet pickup, we took Argus to a beach to romp for awhile. No go. He just doesn’t feel good and we suspect he’s in a lot of pain. It further brought the mood down.

We stopped at Whole Foods to pick up some provisions for dinner and got ourselves settled in the Motel 6 (NOTE: it is exactly this kind of quick overnight trip that will make the van invaluable). We ate an early dinner and drove a couple of miles down the road to hang out with Claudia at the Hyatt. It’s dog friendly! Nic was thrilled that Argus was there and I was thrilled to see a boy who is not afraid of a gentle dog that stands as tall as he does. Greg had a beer and I shared two bottles of wine with Claudia, Steve, and her dad.

People make fun of me for all the drinking I do before a race. Perhaps I’ll “get serious” about my racing at some point, but it sure as hell ain’t before the last race of the season that I scarcely trained for.

We were back at the Motel 6 by 9:30 where G and I assumed our alter egos: stim machine junkies. I got our breakfast items set out and got my race gear ready to go. I’m usually not up before the sun and this race requires a 5:45 AM wake-up call. Best to have everything set out!

Despite it being an early evening and having everything laid out, Greg (yet again) underestimated the time it would take him to be ready. We needed to pick Claudia up and then find street parking near the race start. We said we’d pick her up at 6:15 AM. We left our hotel at 6:20. I was antsy enough myself. If I had been Claudia, I would have been panicking! Luckily, we got there in enough time to use the potty and get into our designated corrals with a few minutes to spare.


It felt considerably warmer this year than last. In fact, there were a couple of guys in Corral A who were shirtless. I wasn’t ready to go topless myself, but I was much more comfortable than last year.

Claudia and I ran together last year and both finished just under 1:53. Neither of us trained specifically for this event this year, but we both came into it with a decent amount of fitness from earlier training and racing. On one hand, a PR haunted us and we jokingly threw out 1:50 as a would-be goal time. On the other hand, we were both ready to be done with racing and hurting and looking forward to a nice run along the coast and the chatting that would accompany the scenery.

Can you guess which hand won?

I didn’t get into a groove until Mile 5. My body was “fine,” but my head just wasn’t there. I didn’t want to be running. I didn’t care. Claudia kept trying to say, “Look how beautiful it is!” This worked last year, but I couldn’t be bothered this year. Also at about Mile 5, my knee started bothering me. I hadn’t had trouble with my left knee all season UNTIL that silly 9K race the Sunday prior. I pushed the pain and fear away and just kept running. Thankfully it didn’t seize up on me!

As soon as we saw the leaders pass, I began looking for Greg on his return trip. We saw him at our Mile 7, his Mile 9. I looked at my Garmin and felt confident that he was on-pace for the 1:30 finish he was pushing for.  At the turnaround a mile later, I felt we were on-pace for the 1:50 finish. I purposely hadn’t looked at the overall time prior to this, not wanting to know how close or far we were. Now the switch was flipped and my competitiveness kicked in. I took an AccelGel and hoped I had timed it appropriately.

We hit the marker at Mile 9 and I really wanted to be done. I wasn’t having fun. I wasn’t out to prove anything. I just keep telling myself, “This is the last race of the season. Go out on a high note.” After an eternity, we got to Mile 10. From here, the self-talk turned to, “I can run a 5K in my sleep” and willed myself to believe it. At Mile 11, we had 16 minutes to finish in the coveted 1:50. Could we run 2.1 miles at that pace? I was going to try. Believe me, I gave it my all. Just before Mile 12, I checked my Garmin and saw my heart rate was at 180. I power walked up the hill right by the Aquarium, just to bring it back down to a reasonable level.

The last mile was like an old war movie in slow motion. Claudia was pulling ahead. I begged her to go: “Leave me! Save yourself!” But she wouldn’t leave her comrade behind. Claudia pulled me in. She kept reaching her hand back for me to grab it. If I’d had any energy left to lunge forward and grab it, I would have. She was alternating between tough love and encouraging rah-rahs all the way through the finish line.

We did not finish in 1:50. But we did beat last year’s time by 40 seconds. I’ll take it!

In addition to the standard fruit and bagels, this race offers cold beer and hot minestrone at the end. My kind of race! Greg had gone to rescue Argus from the car and Claudia’s family finally found us (though they missed us coming across the finish line). Greg finished in 1:33 and was slightly disappointed, though grateful his IT band didn’t force a DNF as it had threatened to. All in all, a great finish to a great racing season!

Race results:
Half Marathon (13.24 by my Garmin) – 1:52:18
48/579 in age group
896/5794 overall


I’ll have the Burnout (with a side of Guilt)

October 7, 2010 Fear, Fitness 2 Comments

I’ve been on a pretty steady training plan since February. When I was building up for my Olympic distance and Half Ironman triathlons, I was working out roughly 25 hours a week. I’ve cut back since then, but still work out six days a week and usually average somewhere around 15 hours a week.

It’s October now and I’m burned out.

Don’t get me wrong — I fully recognize that I live in a beautiful place where there are ample places to swim, bike, and run (most of which are accessible from my house). And believe me when I say I’ve seen them all. I’ve done them all a zillion times. In the thick of the training, it was all I could do to make myself ride Crystal Springs Road and Canada Road one more time. Even now, I really have to talk myself into a workout on the most beautiful day of the year. Sometimes, I’ll drive to San Francisco to run at Crissy Field or on Ocean Beach, just for a change of scenery. I’ve even been known to drive to El Dorado Hills (about 2.5 hours away) to ride with a friend there.

I have one race left this season — the Big Sur Half Marathon on November 14. Then I’m home free! Well, maybe.

I know I am well-trained and I can rely on “maintenance training” for this race. I have heard about the importance of rest. I can rationalize the importance of down time. And yet, there is guilt. I am really trying to turn over a new leaf and take things down a notch, but it isn’t going so well. Here’s an excerpt from a conversation overheard in my head this week:

Me: “Whew! This is a rest week. The folks over at Slowtwitch Forums said to take it easy. And besides, Self, you deserve it!”

Self: “This only looks good on paper — just like a few ex-boyfriends (including the one I had to get a restraining order against). There is no way that NOT working out is better than working out. Have you seen how much wine I drink?”

That day’s workout included a 20-mile speed ride, including 2000 feet of climbing.

Me: “Ah, a new morning. Today should be a day off. I owe it to my Self to rest.”

Self: “Day off? Who am I kidding?? It’s beautiful outside! Why would I want to waste a beautiful day like this? I’d feel horrible knowing I was willing and able to workout and didn’t. Plus, I’m having dinner with a friend tonight and want to partake with zero guilt.”

That day’s workout included a 5.5 mile power walk with a friend + stroller and then a 5.5 mile run at an 8:15 m/m pace.

I’ll spare you the rest of the week… I know I need to stop the insanity (though this is pretty much the polar opposite to the insanity that Susan Powter fights against). I NEED TO REST AND DON’T KNOW HOW.

I have read a lot of research talking about the importance of rest. I’ve read other athletes’ blogs that talk about their struggle with resting and coming down from the training high. I know. I know. I know.

But I don’t know how.

Even if I am tired and I don’t “feel it,” I talk myself into going and I end up feeling great as soon as I’m out there. I love being out there. I love feeling the wind in my hair. I love knowing my body is strong and can take me anywhere. I don’t know what my body feels like at rest (unless it is injured). That unknowing doesn’t feel good. I don’t know how good rest can feel. So I keep seeking the goodness of going and doing, and I continue to be rewarded.

Is there a support group for this? Athletes Anonymous, perhaps??


My First 13.1

November 17, 2009 Family, Fitness, Friends No Comments

I didn’t let myself fall off the workout wagon after the Santa Barbara Triathlon on August 23 and Claudia talked me into one of her favorite races of the year: Big Sur Half Marathon. At the time, we decided it would be a fun way to stay in touch over the miles this fall, keep each other motivated, and enjoy a fun weekend in Monterey. Sign me up!

I’ve been training pretty diligently, adding running mileage every weekend and cross-training during the week as usual. I am very thankful for being able to call on my friend Heidi to do long runs with me at the drop of a hat. Sawyer Camp Trail offers beautiful scenery, and it’s always nice to run with someone since iPods aren’t usually allowed at races.

Race weekend arrived and I was admittedly nervous. I had set a goal for myself to finish under 2 hours. Claudia was going for a personal record to beat her previous year’s time of 1:50. Greg and I drove down with Argus and met Claudia near Cannery Row to pick up my race packet and otherwise hang out the day before the race. We enjoyed lasagna take-out from Whole Foods and camped out in our hotel room with our carbs and wine, chatting as late as we dared before an early wake-up call.

The race start was 7 AM, so Claudia and I made our way in the cold, dark morning to the starting line. It was very cold — ~45 degrees Fahrenheit. I was actually glad to start running to get my body heat up. I was wearing my CW-X compression tights, a tank top with built-in sports bra, and a long-sleeved shirt over it to keep warm. The first couple of miles were through downtown Monterey and by Mile 2, things had warmed up significantly. The rest of the course largely ran along the coast with a short detour through downtown Pacific Grove. Chatting with Claudia and taking in the beautiful scenery, I almost forgot I was running and the miles passed quickly.

We saw Greg and Argus cheering us on just before Mile 7, which was near our hotel. The turn-around for the 13.1 is just past the actual halfway point, which helps me mentally to know that the return trip is shorter. We were approaching Spanish Links Golf Course along Asilomar State Beach and the views were spectacular. The morning had really warmed up and I felt great. I had to stop for just about five seconds at the turnaround point to stretch my right hip, then we were off again. I stretched it again at Mile 10 and Claudia urged me on with, “You can run a 5K in your sleep.” It was just the eg0-push I needed to keep going.

At Mile 11, I proudly announced that, “I am officially running farther than I have ever run before!” and several women turned to congratulate me. I was tired, but kept to my mantra that I Can Do Anything For Two Miles. I felt that familiar flutter of anticipation as I passed the Mile 12 marker and gave it all I had into the finish line.

I finished in 1:52, which greatly exceeded my expectations. I was so proud that Greg and Argus were there to cheer us on twice on the course and were there at the finish line. While my stomach was upset about an hour after the race and I my leg muscles stiffened on the drive home, I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction to have completed my first half marathon.

As the last race of the 2009 calendar, I feel like George Costanza “leaving on a high note.” I look forward to 2010 for the challenges and accomplishments that await me.


Fear Management

November 4, 2009 Fear No Comments

It’s 11:34 PM. I am an in-bed-by-10 kind of girl and I found myself lying awake wondering, “What if I do nothing with my time as an unemployed person?” How many calories am I burning just thinking about this? Enough to offset that last glass of wine, I’m willing to bet…

I have all of these ideas of Things To Do When There’s Nothing Else To Do*:

  • Wash the windows.
  • Write a book.
  • Organize the linen closet.
  • Write a chapter.
  • Visit family.
  • Write an outline.
  • Run a half marathon.
  • Start a blog.

* “Nothing else to do” does not include napping, looking for jobs, stalking people on Facebook, or midday drinking.

So. I laid in bed tonight with all of these thoughts running through my head, as they have over hundreds of training miles in the last few months. What is stopping me from writing all of it down?


Let me be more specific. I am not afraid of what will happen if I don’t wash the windows (because I already did wash them, only to have it rain. Life goes on.). I am afraid that if I write a book/chapter/outline about my life and why it “matters,” no one will read it. Worse than that? People will read it and not like it. My life’s work (literally) will be a failure.

But worse than that? I am terrified of NOT writing it. Of not trying at all.

My book, a memoir. That’s the main idea. I think about it all the time. What would I call such-and-such chapter? How would I characterize my fear during the accident, during the ultimatum-before-engagement period, leaving the nest? I have so many common experiences that others face that I can bring with a fresh eye and a witty perspective. At least I hope I can.

It’s time to write it down and see if anyone cares or relates or notices. Because as I’ve learned, those experiences that are the scariest are the ones that are most rewarding — and burn the most calories.