18 May 2015

Eugene Half Marathon 2015 Race Recap

Once again, the Eugene Half Marathon was wonderful! I love traveling to Oregon and the PNW and truly enjoyed my long weekend in Eugene. I headed up on Friday morning, flying to Portland and then driving the 2 hours to Eugene. Although I was running the half, my reason for this trip was more to visit friends and to partake in great beer than to run it as a goal race.

The obligatory PDX carpet photo.

I went straight to the expo to see Laurel (who was working the event) and to grab my race packet. I like the Eugene expo because they have fun booths but it's still small and inviting. After that, I drove over to the newest Eugene running store, Run Hub Northwest, to meet the owner and to plan for the Oiselle shakeout run that was the following day. The store was great and it was their very first day open! In the afternoon, I began my quest to have great beer by going to Oakshire and Hop Valley; Hop Valley has awesome food by the way.

On Saturday morning, we had the Oiselle and Run Hub sponsored shake out run on Pre's trail. Run Hub opened its doors earlier than usual for us that day, and Oiselle sent a few items to win during trivia. I'd never run on Pre's trail before, so that was definitely a treat. We ran 3 miles and then headed to the 5th Avenue Market for coffee and breakfast.

 The group!

Pre's Trail.

The rest of the day was very low key; Cafe Yumm (my fave!) for lunch, a trip to the Bier Stein bottle shop for take home beer, and dinner at Elk Horn Brewery. The race start was at 7 am so we went to bed pretty early on Saturday night.

Our random photo booth fun at the expo. Matt, Joy, Laurel, and me. 

I woke up feeling excited to run on Sunday morning, so despite this being a 'non-goal race' I figured I might as well give it what I had. My newfound confidence that I can run a half in under 2 hours stayed in the back of my mind and I thought hey, let's do it again! I met up with a few of the Oiselle ladies to say hello and good luck before the race. Chatting and walking to the start line with them was a nice distraction from any race nerves that existed.

 Morning meeting.

Stopping for a quick Hayward Field photo op - Ali, Marilyn, Sarah, and me.

 Corral A went off at 7 am, and I started with Corral B a couple of minutes later. I stuck to the 2 hour pacer for the first mile or so because I figured they knew the course and could help me get out of the crowd a bit. I ended up passing them soon after mile one and staying just a little ahead of them for the rest of the race. It's very comforting to start next to the pacer and to know that you'll meet the goal as long as you don't let them pass you back. It's a helpful way to gauge time even if you aren't running beside them the whole race.

Because this was my second time running Eugene, I knew what was coming along the course and when. I remembered miles 4 to 7 being mentally challenging last time and prepared myself for that. It's a long slow climb, but even more I think the mental issue is that it's fairly boring and residential. Once we came back into the downtown and University area I was much happier. I stayed strong on the climb in mile 8 and let myself take the following downhill hard. We hit the paved riverside path around mile 9, a part of the course I love.

By this point I knew I had another sub-2 hour half in the bag as long as I held at my current pace. I also knew I was going to be close to my PR if I could pick it up, and I gave the last couple of miles what I could but didn't quite make it.

Race splits.

Finishing on the Hayward Field track is a real treat and I loved hearing my name announced as I crossed the finish line! My final time was 1:58:45, not too far off my PR of 1:57:51. I'm very happy with that time, especially because I improved on my recent time from the SLO Half and ran under 2 hours again. It's funny how in SLO I didn't think I could make it, but in Eugene I had faith the whole time. I'll get that half PR again someday - I finally believe I can do it.

Laurel greeted me at the finish. (Photo from Long Run, a friend of Laurel's)

The finish! (Photo from Laurel)

After I finished, I ran my cool down out to mile 24 to cheer for friends running the marathon. I stayed there for about 2.5 hours and then ran back to meet people and to finally have my finish pancakes. Yum. Note: the finish line pancakes are a big bonus to the Eugene events!

 Jess pushing it up the incline at mile 24.

Marilyn and Molly hitting mile 24.

As you may guess, the post-race festivities included beer! We went on a brewery tour of Ninkasi and had drinks with everyone. It was a great end to the day and I'm ready to go back to visit Oregon again already. 

 Touring Ninkasi.

 The beautiful Ninkasi gate.

Tanks in the new brewhouse.

Overall, I highly recommend the Eugene Marathon and Half events and hope to return again in the near future. I'll leave you with one last important photo, the race swag. Happy running!

30 April 2015

SLO Half Marathon Race Report

This past Sunday I ran the SLO Half Marathon, my spring goal race, and it was fabulous! We headed to SLO on Saturday morning and went straight to the race expo for the Ambassador meet up. The expo was held outdoors in the grassy field by the Madonna Inn, which was also the finish line area for the races. I enjoyed meeting more of the Ambassadors and seeing fellow SFM Ambassadors as well! We stayed with Erin, Erica, and Meryl in their Cayucos beachfront condo about 25 minutes from SLO (thank you so much Erica!) and had a blast hanging out with the group on Saturday and Sunday.

Most of the SLO Ambassadors in our new matching half-zips.

Dual SFM + SLO Ambassadors (Photo from Erin)

On Saturday afternoon, we hung out at the condo, visited the amazing Brown Butter Sea Salt cookie bakery (a serious highlight of the trip), and then had an early dinner at Sidecar in downtown SLO. Sidecar had the best brussels sprouts ever, not to mention a good beer list that helped me discover Libertine Pub sours. 

We went to bed around 9 pm because we had to be at the shuttle parking lot by 4:45 am, or so we thought based on the directions from the event. We woke up at 3:30 am (way too early!) and drove ourselves to the Cal Poly parking lot to catch the shuttle. This put us at the start line waiting area at 5 am for the 6:45 am half marathon start time; I wasn't as prepared as I should have been for the long wait in the wind and I was cold. Luckily, Erica is from Chicago and didn't think it was cold at all, so she gave me her pants. The frustrating part of this is that if we'd actually looked at the map, we'd have realized the shuttle parking lot was only 1.5 miles from the start line - an easy walk or warm-up jog - and we could have slept in significantly longer. Remember this if you ever run this one and you'll be a much happier camper than I was that morning. 

During our long time at the start area, we made the best of it by chatting and cheering for the marathon start. I met Travis, a twitter and Untappd friend, at our Sidecar dinner and he was running the marathon that day. 

Marathoners starting to line up.

Finally, it was time to start the half. I found the 2 hour half marathon pacers before the start and asked them about their pacing strategy. They said the first bit was downhill so they'd go out fast and bank some time for the climbs later. They mentioned the Johnson hill and that they'd slow way down, then take it pretty steady the rest of the way. Ok, that sounded like it would work as long as the 'going out fast' didn't leave me in the dust.

The race started and they weren't kidding about going out fast! We hit paces around 8:20 per mile for the downhill part of the first mile and I immediately had my doubts. I let them go a little somewhere in mile 2 when we started going uphill, annoyed with myself that I couldn't hack it but keeping myself around 9 minutes per mile. The course is hilly for a road race with a total climb of ~700 feet, so I knew I had to have something left in the tank for later.

Elevation profile via Strava.

Mile 1 - 8:31
Mile 2 - 8:54
Mile 3 - 9:10

All of a sudden I came back up on the second of the 2 hour pacers, Larry. He said the other pacer went ahead a little but he was staying on the 2 hour mark. I was able to pass him up the first big hill, aka Johnson hill, and then stayed just about 30 seconds in front of him for the next few miles. I had a small buffer but could still hear his encouragement, which was perfect. The climb starts at mile 1.2 and you hit the first peak at mile 3.4, the last 0.5 mile being decently steep. 

Mile 4 - 9:24
Mile 5 - 8:32
Mile 6 - 9:12
Mile 7 - 9:33

Mile 5 takes you downhill and then back into the rolling hills starting in mile 6. The rest of the course continues to roll up and down through the countryside and it's very pretty. I struggled with mile 6 to 7 because it's another long climb and the turnaround brought us a decent headwind, but I didn't give up. I was quite a bit ahead of Larry at that point, and a few of us who had been with him joked that we were safe as long as he didn't catch us. 

Mile 8 - 8:50
Mile 9 - 9:28
Mile 10 - 9:09

On the uphill part of mile 9, Larry caught me when I was fading and losing mental toughness fast. He said we have 35 minutes to get home, so let's do it. I stuck with him for a while, then managed to pull ahead a little again and stayed there for the rest of the race. I could hear him saying something like 'this is the 2 hour group coming through' and enjoyed the extra push. Around this time, people also started cheering for 'Grizzly' and that was nicely distracting to me. I think Grizzly is a running group, or maybe it was a person I was near? Whatever it was, it kept me entertained.

Mile 11 - 9:03
Mile 12 - 9:24
Mile 13 - 8:57

My legs tried to give up in mile 12. The elevation chart looks like you go downhill for the last couple of miles, but let me be clear that it does NOT feel like it. We went onto a bike path and then crossed a footbridge with winding ramps that felt terrible and caused a lot of crowding. The hills, although small at this point, kept trying to get me. About 0.5 miles from the finish, we went up this little overpass type hill and I felt like I just couldn't do it at that pace anymore, but I told myself 2:00:30 at the finish would feel a lot worse than that short little hill did at that moment in time. I was too close to let go.

After we crested that hill I could see the finish and it really was a slight downhill from there; at that point I knew I had it. Yes! I gave everything I could for the rest of the run and crossed the finish line at 1:59:31, a bit dizzy. I waited for Pacer Larry to finish and gave him an excited but sweaty hug for getting me to my goal. I was ecstatic I had managed to run a sub-2 hour half again, especially considering the hills on the course. I trained hills and track, and it paid off!

One very happy finisher!

I ran in my Team EMC singlet in solidarity with the many Team EMC runners who were doing the London Marathon that day. This is the charity I fundraised for with the NYC Marathon last year, and I love continuing to support their efforts. You can read more about my reasons for choosing them in my post from last April.

We stayed at the finish area for a long time to hang out with everyone and to watch the awards. Erica received 2nd in her age group, which was awesome! Steph and Ben Bruce took 1st in the half marathon; Steph is noticeably pregnant and ran a 1:23 half to take home the win!

Top Females in the half marathon.

Post-race group: Meryl, Jen, Travis, Erica, Kevin, Charles, Me, Erin. (Photo from Erin)

Now for the race details.

The Expo. The expo was held in a large tent near the Madonna Inn. It rained unexpectedly so it was a little muddy, but overall it wasn't a big issue. There was plenty of free parking in the open field and it was only a short walk to the tent. The expo had a number of vendors, including a large section for race sponsor Left Lane Sports to sell merchandise. There was no line to pick up my bib or shirt and everything was very easy from start to finish. That's definitely a benefit of small town races. 

The Course. As I'm sure you figured out from the recap, there are some hills on this course for a total climb of about 700 feet. I tend to do better on hilly courses and I love them, but I know it's not for everyone. The race starts out going through downtown SLO and then heads farther out where you have a view of the foothills; it's very pretty and definitely my kind of scenery. The hardest miles for me were the Johnson hill around mile 4 and the hill up to the turnaround in mile 6-7. Also note that the turnaround is past the big Clif arch; you can see the arch for a long time and I heard many people say they were sad it wasn't the turnaround due to the mental game. Overall, I really enjoyed the course and the scenery at this race.

The Support. The start area had water and coffee, and the porta potty lines looked intimidating but went pretty fast. As noted above, the start area is only 1.5 miles from where the shuttles pick up so you don't necessarily need the shuttle service if you prefer to sleep in and walk! Aid stations had both sports drink and water and were about every 2.5 miles on the course. I found it to be more than enough and didn't take water at all of them. They had Clif gels at multiple spots, including just before the half marathon turnaround. The only real feedback I have from the course support is that I'd rather see paper cups (they were plastic) because they are so much easier to pinch-and-drink when running. 

The Swag. I really like the design of the shirts and the medals. The half marathon shirts were a heather burgundy color and the full marathon shirts were gray. Both were long sleeve and unisex. The medals were a barn, very cute and unique. They also gave out Race SLO spike bags for all of the expo goodies. 

I really like the medals.

The other fun part of this race was staying out in Cayucos and visiting Libertine Pub in Morro Bay. We always love finding new breweries, and this brewery full of sours was a real treat! The scenery at both beachside communities was amazing, so I'll end this with a few photos. Happy running!

View at the Cayucos condo.

 Inside Libertine Pub.

Morro rock, our view from our table at Libertine.

24 April 2015

Goal Race on Deck

The San Luis Obispo half marathon weekend is upon us! This is the one I designated as my goal race a few months ago, and I'm pumped to travel to SLO this weekend to run the course. The weather forecast is great and aside from being incredibly tired from all of the painting and moving, running has been good. I'm still hoping to go for it on Sunday!

The last few weeks of training have gone well; I have been doing regular track workouts again since January and increased my trail running (and hill climbing!) distances again. I'd say I'm where I want to be for now, and if things don't work out I have the Eugene Half on May 10 for another shot this spring.

The majority of my training runs for this event have been with the Go Far run group, which I'm loving. I have always been a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to run groups (am I good enough? Can I keep up?), but this is no longer true! Everyone is very welcoming and my fears were completely unfounded. I've loved having the support, advice, pace buddies, and challenging group track workouts to keep me going.

 Go Far on a Saturday Rancho San Antonio run, top of PG&E trail.

Go Far enjoying more hill climbing in Quicksilver!

And of course, post-track strength work. (Photo from Meghan)

Let's do this!

17 April 2015

Oakland Half 2015 Race Recap

On March 22, I ran the Oakland Half Marathon and I'm finally posting the race recap. This was my third time running the event and fourth year attending it; last year I deferred because of my hip injury but went to cheer on Kevin and friends. My big reason for liking the Oakland Half is that the logistics are easy. The half starts at 9:15 am, making it possible to take BART to the start and avoid parking hassles. It's local, so I can sleep in my own bed and get home quickly. In addition, I love the post-race beer in Snow Park and relaxing in the grass with friends.

Kevin and I went to the expo briefly on Saturday to pick up our packets, although we didn't stay long or meet up with anyone because we headed home to paint our bedrooms. We painted primer on two whole rooms that day, perhaps not the ideal day-before-a-race activity but something we needed to get done.

We took the first BART to the start line on Sunday morning. I love seeing all of the runners on the train heading to Oakland. It's an easy 10ish minute walk from the station to the start and we still had plenty of time to wait in the long gear check line. It was already pretty warm that morning, but then again the race start time is later than others so it has time to heat up.

I hadn't been planning for this to be a goal race, partly because it is early in the spring and partly because we've been busting our butts with the house stuff and I'm so tired! That said, when it came time to run I figured why not give it all I could that day? I started out at a pace of 9-9:15 minutes/mile and was happy that I held on until about mile 8. I knew going in that my fitness wasn't at PR pace and I'm ok with that. Doing weekly track workouts and running hills has been helping a ton though.

By mile 9 my legs felt like they wanted to stop cold turkey and were incredibly heavy. I tried to forget about it and slowed down but kept running. The backend of this course always feels warm and that day was no exception; there is a lot of sun exposure and the miles around Lake Merritt are especially brutal every time. I finished at 2:05:08 and I'm happy with that time for now. Other recent half marathons have been in the 2:10 range, so I consider that progress. I hope to someday get back below 2 hours again but we'll see.

The highlight of this race is that I felt the best I have fitness-wise in a half marathon since the hip injury in January 2014 - and that's a big deal to me!

After I finished, I met Kevin in Snow Park. Oakland had an interesting change in beer choice this year to Erdinger, including both the non-alcoholic version and the alcohol version. I love Erdinger so no complaints there, I just thought the presentation of the non-alcoholic one was interesting. They offered it pre-race as well as immediately post-race as a 'recovery beer with vitamins' and were marketing it specifically to runners. They also served it at the expo.

Kevin was a fan.

We grabbed our non-alcoholic Erdingers and then drank them while waiting in line for our real Erdingers, of which each person could get two. Oakland does a great job with the post-race festival and free beer or wine. 

Waiting in line...

We sat in the park for a while and I finally got to hang out with Cathryn and Jen and to meet a few other runners and Twitter friends in person! It was great to talk and enjoy the sun for a while. They ran the relay together with the most awesome shirts

Overall, it was a really fun race day and I'd recommend the Oakland half to others. The course is flat, it's a small race (about 5K people), it's well-organized, and they have nice medals and shirts. Check out my past race reports for more experiences and details too: 2012, 2013

 Medal close-up!

Long sleeve shirts.

Have a great weekend and happy running!

03 April 2015

I'm still here!

Life has been extremely crazy lately, hence the little hiatus from the blog. But I'm still here and trying to get back to it soon, at least to post more often than I have in the last month. So why has life been crazy, you ask?

We bought a house!

We have porch!

It wasn't easy, but we were pretty lucky when it comes to buying in the Bay Area. We had our first offer accepted and even beat a cash offer, which is pretty much unheard of. Despite some lender delays due to the snowstorm in Alabama, we closed fairly quickly and then began the long road to getting the house ready. Our realtor team was awesome and I'm pretty sure their connections and negotiation skills won us the bid.

We have been painting up a storm but still have a long way to go before we are done. Many of our non-furniture items have been moved at this point and we've had a couple of new furniture pieces delivered, but again we still have a lot of work to do. Living in two places is hard (let me state the obvious, right?)

I'm in love with this house for its older home character, tall ceilings, and the beautiful kitchen. It's the kitchen I've always wanted and I can't stop feeling incredibly lucky to have found this house! Tonight will be our first official night there with the whole family - me, Kevin, Akai, and Willow. I can't wait to bring the cats over and to see if they like the extra space as much as we do.

And although I haven't been blogging or tweeting much, I've most definitely still been running! In fact, we've had quite a few amazing trail runs lately. I'm feeling stronger on the hills again, which was tough coming back from the hip injury and basically no trail running in 2014. I'm signed up for Skyline to the Sea 50K in October and I hope everything works out this time.

To end this post, here are a few of the epic trail running photos from recent runs. Cheers to the weekend!

 On the way to Pirate's Cove during the SFRC group run.

Kevin, Sophia, and Christy heading down to Pirate's Cove.

 Bridge beauty during our Oiselle Ninja loop meet up.

 Robin and Ayesha at my favorite part of the Ninja loop.


The whole gang. (me, Robin, Kate, Michelle, Ayesha)

Tuesday morning trail run with Go Far Run Group at Rancho San Antonio.

Sun-washed but fun Go Far photo on a Rancho Saturday run.

08 March 2015

Run-Seeing in London, Part Two

The second part of my London trip was just as great as the first! I was finished with the work portion on Friday, but I stayed until Sunday morning to have more sightseeing time over the weekend. On Saturday, I headed out on another run to the Tower of London and passed by a few landmarks on the way. After arriving at the Tower of London, I went inside to tour the area and to see the Crown Jewels. Absolutely amazing.

Again, I'll use photos for the rest of this post to share my time in London. I'm happy I had the opportunity to go and hope to visit again sometime.

St. Patrick's Cathedral.

 Chapel for the College of London

 My hotel - such a pretty building.

 City statue.

 Tower of London.

 Side of the Tower plus the Tower Bridge.

 With the Tower Bridge, my favorite.

 'Elephant' inside the Tower of London.

 Oh no! This was along the outside walls where they would defend the Tower from enemies.

 Inside the armoury.

Regent Street at night. Beautiful.

Although the trip was fun, I'm glad to be back in California and finally feel caught up on jet lag now that it's a week later. I enjoyed some fantastic trail running this weekend - look for it on the blog later this week. Happy running!