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Because of Boston

I never thought of myself as a runner
I don’t have a runners physique
And I move rather slowly
Even though I had completed numerous 5ks and short races
I was just dabbling, I was a jogger
I thought, “After I finish my first half, then maybe I’ll be a true runner”
But I completed my first half, and I was still the same
So I thought, “Maybe after my next half, then I can call myself a runner”
I completed four half marathons in six months
But I remained the same
Then I got a golden ticket and began training for my first full
In April 2011 I slowly but surely crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon
And it was as I crossed that finish line that I was forever changed

I am a lot of things
I am a daughter
A sister
A friend
I am a student
A designer
An engineer
But if you ask those close to me about my defining attribute
They will tell you
I am a runner

Because of Boston

Never give up, never give in!

Back in July I (naively) registered for the Oakland Half Marathon. The San Francisco Marathon had a fantastic special going and I couldn’t say no (I’m a pushover and cheap). I almost forgot about this race up until two weeks ago when I started talking to Maggie about logistics. And I’ll be quite serious, I didn’t train properly. The longest run I had done prior to the half was 8 miles at a decent, but not optimal, pace.

Then last weekend the day had come and I readied myself (as much as I could). Maggie, her boy, and I went out for a serious carbo loading session before hopping into bed early. On Sunday we rose a bit late and sauntered over to the start line (a 1.5 mile walk away). We showed up just in time to make good use of the porta-potties and get into the corrals. I decided to stick with Maggie for the first few miles and maintain a steady, smart pace. My initial goal was to go slowly for the first four miles, take it up a bit for the next four, and then go even quicker for the last. Although I also recognized that my goals were a bit lofty and I wasn’t exactly prepared…

Oakland Half MarathonAfter two and a half miles Maggie she shooed me off to pick up my pace. I’m so grateful that she kept me consistent for the start. By avoiding my tendency to go out of the gate fast I was more energetic for the rest of the race.  It was around this point I found a mother, father, and daughter that were running together (this is why I need to date a runner). I kept my eyes on the family unit and let them set the pace. My favorite race tip – find someone who is going your speed and make friends (or just awkwardly follow them).

We were going at a pretty steady speed, one a bit faster than I had hoped for in the middle miles. By mile 8 I realized that I was keeping a pace faster than my PR. My body was feeling good and my mind was focused. I knew that I needed to keep it up to set a new record, and that was something I desperately wanted. I pushed on, following the cute little group.

Then mile 10.5 hit and I wanted to pull back. I was feeling a tinge of pain in my knees and out of breath. But at the same time I realized that slowing down meant I would give up everything I had worked hard for. It would mean giving up my PR. That wasn’t something I was interested in. I wouldn’t let that be an option. I put my head down and put my everything into those last few miles.

I thought of how great it would feel to see a new, lower number on my Garmin. I thought about how much I’d wanted this for the past few years. I thought of all the chocolate milk I would drink afterward as a reward. I used every trick in the book to make sure my mind stayed positive and focused on continuing hard.

I can’t deny that it was tough and took most of what I had, especially up the damned hill they put in the last stretch. In races past I would sprint the last tenth of a mile, but this time I didn’t have the energy to pick up the pace to a sprint. It was a great feeling to know that I gave it my all.

In the end I couldn’t be happier with how I did.  Looking over the data I found out that I took four minutes off of my previous record!! This deviates a bit from my chip times since, according to my Garmin, I completed 13.3 miles over the course. Either way it is a new personal record and that gave me a great runners high. Now I’m stuck imagining how I could have done if I’d trained properly. I’m definitely looking forward to doing even better in June at my next race.   :)

What are your thoughts on finding a pace rabbit? How do you react when you are feeling beaten in a race?

Change of Plans

I had every intention of running the New York Marathon yesterday. That is, up until Monday of this past week. I’d trained for the race and declared that it was my last marathon for a year. So much of my focus went into this one race and I was mentally (and somewhat physically) ready to rock it. Not to mention, it would be the first time that my family would be there to support me.

But Sandy had other plans. When I heard about the damage in New York, I was troubled. So many of my friends and family members were affected by the storm. It just didn’t seem right to be eager about the race when others were displaced from their homes. My emotions went haywire as I questioned my plans. Many parts of me wanted to go to New York, see my family, run the marathon, and honor my grandparents. While others didn’t want to add to the chaos of the city.

Eventually my father, the most logical person in my life, helped me to make the decision. On Thursday of last week I decided to cancel my trip and defer my entry. I was upset, but I knew it was the best choice for me. Fortunately I was able to get a full refund on my flight, which eased my mind a bit. And a friend promised to take me to Big Sur for a relaxing day trip to take my mind off everything, which was a sweet gesture.

Friday rolled around and I decided to run the US Half marathon in San Francisco with a friend so that I’d at least get in a few miles on Sunday. I was still frustrated, until a friend sent me a message about the marathon. They finally made the decision to cancel it. I was shocked and (I know it is selfish to say this) relieved. I feel for all the individuals who traveled to New York only to find out it was canceled and my heart goes out to all of the New Yorkers who were affected by the storm.

Saturday was a gorgeous day. Although I ran the Big Sur marathon a few months back, I didn’t really experience the area. My friend and I drove down the coast and had a lovely brunch at Nepenthe while enjoying the beautiful view. We did some short hikes and sat on the beach. It was glorious to have such a relaxing day in a beautiful environment. If you’ve never been, I definitely suggest taking a trip there.

It was a long day and I tried to get to bed early for the half, but that didn’t happen. Getting up at 5:30am I was exhausted. I debated if it was the best decision, and then I kicked my derriere out of bed. I met up with friends at the start line and decided that we would run together for as long as we could. Starting up a hill, I realized that she may be more prepared for the elevation changes than I was. We trekked it together for four miles, up and down hills to the Golden Gate bridge. I was feeling good, but she was feeling better. We bid adieu and I trekked alone for the rest of the race. Every time I run in San Francisco I am reminded that I need to do more hill training. You can’t imagine how much my glutes were feeling it afterward…

As I came sprinting across the finish line, I realized that this was my slowest half marathon in years. Not my favorite fact, but it makes me realize that this is the distance I want to focus on for the next few months. This week I’m going back to speed training and considering smaller distances. In fact, I may even attempt a timed mile to record where I am at this point and then run another in February before my next half. (You have no idea how scared I am by this idea.)

Although I was not able to complete the run for my grandparents and the Holocaust survivors I had raised money for, I donned my Blue Card shirt with pride. It isn’t just when I run, but everyday that I am thankful for the strength, determination, and spirit of the individuals that paved the way for me. They have given me the opportunity to do anything my heart desires and I cannot thank them enough. I look forward to running in their honor  next year in New York

What are your thoughts and feelings on the situation in New York?

Nike Women’s Half Marathon

Two Sundays ago I was lucky enough to join in on a San Francisco tradition, the Nike Women’s Marathon. I’d heard stories of this race, but didn’t really understand how large of an event it would be. Friday afternoon I went into the city to the “expotique”.  Fortunately I arrived early and was able to bypass the huge lines. It was a madhouse on Friday, but I hear it was significantly worse the next day. As for my feelings on their expo format, I wasn’t impressed. There were five vendors and huge lines to interact with each of them. Perhaps I was a touch bitter because I wasn’t able to get my legs taped, that or I’m just a traditionalist and missed the onslaught of running vendors.

As I was waiting for a friend, I foolishly decided to walk to the Nike store to find my name on the wall. My name was located just at eye height so it wasn’t tough for me to locate. Still having time I wandered into the store and tried to avoid purchasing any swag. They didn’t provide us with the race shirt until crossing the finishing line, so I somehow justified the purchase of a new sweatshirt. I deserve a new one, right? (Don’t answer that…)

On Sunday morning I woke up bright and early to walk a mile to the start line. Being the punctual individual I am, I arrived seven minutes before the starting gun. Not that it mattered, my wave didn’t cross the start line until 7:26am. I kept thinking that I could have slept longer, granted that wouldn’t have allowed me to be overwhelmed by all the of the individuals at the starting line. Seriously, it was madness.

The first few miles involved a lot of weaving in and out of clusters. Unfortunately the pace groups were very large, so it was easy to get stuck behind slower individuals. Not that I cared much, my only goal was to finish and hit on some firemen… We ran down a similar path as the San Francisco Marathon, so I knew what was coming my way. This meant that I’d tackle some of the same hills and this time I hoped I’d be more prepared for them. And I was!

NWM added some interesting stops along the way and they brought out quite the crowd. There were huge groups of fans along the way which added a lot to the experience. Nothing feels quite as good as having people cheering you on for the entirety of the race (unlike other races I’ve run recently). This definitely motivated me along the course.

Of the entire race, I’m proudest of the fact that I pushed up some hills that I wasn’t able to previously. Granted I didn’t race up all of them.  SF has some serious hills and I know better than to push too hard or I’ll be grumpy and frustrated later. Initially I thought that I’d slow down because of the elevation change (over 1000 foot gain), but I managed to complete the race just three minutes slower than San Jose. I don’t know how I pushed it out, yet that won’t stop me from being happy with my performance. Hopefully I can take this newfound energy with me to New York City next weekend when I run the marathon.

Have you ever considered NWM? What awesome races would you suggest?

Rockin San Jose

This past Sunday was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose half marathon. Last year I came within thirty seconds of my half marathon PR on this course and this year I initially had hopes to break that record. Sadly it came to my attention recently that this wouldn’t be possible. My legs have been grumbly for the past few weeks. Of course it didn’t help that it had been almost two months since my last double digit run. But I’m not the type to back down (especially after I’d already registered).

So I did everything possible to ensure a good race. I carbo loaded on Saturday with a simple bowl of spaghetti and marinara sauce. Went to bed uncomfortably early. I even had my legs taped up for the first time to help with calf/shin cramping. By the time I woke up on Sunday I was feeling fresh-ish.

I departed from Palo Alto early to avoid traffic and found that it was incredibly easy to find parking near the start and finish line. With time to spare I went to find Maggie, the awesome chick I met at Fitbloggin. We had discussed the possibility of running with one another and, although she didn’t know it at the time, I had hopes of using her as a pace rabbit.

At the halfway mark my lower back began to ache. I’ve never felt something like that before and I didn’t know how to react. All I knew was that Maggie was kickin’ butt and I wanted to keep moving. She had mentioned that 50-75% of the way through the race was her toughest point, so I did my best to move along smoothly. And we did. And it was good.

Each time we passed a stage, I did my best to rock out with them. There was a lot of 80s music, which was fantastic. I may not have been alive when the songs were topping the charts, yet I know each and every one. I haven’t always loved the performances on a race path, but this time it really helped keep my spirit up.  By mile 10 I was letting everyone know how awesome they looked. When spectators said, “You can do it!” I replied, “We are doing it!!” It was probably the  most glorious race I’ve run. And as we reached the end, I made sure everyone knew what I was looking forward to the most. Chocolate milk. *

We crossed the finish line three minutes slower than my PR. Perhaps we could have pushed to make it, but I’m not dwelling on that. Maggie set a new record for herself and I am so glad I was there to run with her. Scratch that. I’m so glad she was there to run with me. I learned quite a bit from this race and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Expectations and goals change naturally overtime. No, I didn’t set a new personal record, but I did finish the race with a huge obnoxious smile on my face. I pushed my body to move faster than I had planned and didn’t let myself slow down for any small excuse.  I worked hard and felt great. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

What is the craziest thing you’ve seen someone do during a race? How do you handle a change in goals or expectations?

*Dearest fellow runners, I apologize if my enthusiasm was distracting or annoying to you. Sometimes you have to psych yourself up to push yourself harder.