26 August 2014

Guest Post: The Town's Half Marathon Recap

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Paulette’s husband, Kevin. This is my first guest post on the blog and I’m writing it to share my experience last Saturday at a cool new race in Oakland – The Town’s Half Marathon. Paulette was offered a free entry to the race, but it conflicted with Bird Camp, so the race director gave her a free entry for a friend or family member instead. I’ve typically had good experiences running in the East Bay and jumped at the chance to run this inaugural event.


I like to take transit to Oakland, when feasible, and I was happy to learn that I would be able to take BART to both the race expo and the race itself. On Friday, I caught a VTA express bus near my office in downtown San Jose and took it to the Fremont BART station, where a horde of Raiders fans and I caught a BART train to Oakland. The race expo was outdoors in Palm Plaza at Jack London Square, which is less than a mile from the closest BART station in Lake Merritt. I arrived towards the end of the race expo, so I basically just stopped by to pick up my bib and shirt. The race expo was right next to the iconic Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (est. 1883) and I was tempted to stop in for a beer, but I knew it would take me some time to get home and I wanted to be well rested for the race.

On the Saturday of the race, I was able to park for free at the Fremont BART station and take the first BART train at 5:54 AM directly to the start line at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, which is adjacent to the 12th Street Oakland City Center BART station. Taking transit allowed me to get there about 30 minutes before the race, which was enough time to use the porta-potty and take a few pictures.

It was cool and foggy on the day of the race, which was ideal. I was recovering from a cold and decided to run with my hydration pack. It was convenient to have extra fluids with me and taking the pack allowed me to carry additional GU Energy Gels and a Picky Bar.

Since this was an inaugural event, Mayor Jean Quan was on hand to say a few words and participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony. This was followed by a jazz keyboard rendition of the National Anthem and the much anticipated start of the race.

Ribbon cutting ceremony.

The start line.

Several friends have asked about the course, so I’ll take you through it. From the start, the course headed toward the waterfront and made a loop past the Port of Oakland and Jack London Square. From there, runners went back through Downtown and up Broadway towards Piedmont. The course then took runners up Piedmont Avenue and around Claremont, before looping back towards Lake Merritt. Runners then made an extended loop around Lake Merritt before returning to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza and the finish line.

The course map.

I’ve run a few races in Oakland in the past and this was easily the most scenic. I enjoyed seeing both the Fox Theatre and the Grand Lake Theatre movie palace on the course. I ran a training pace for most of the race and finished in 1:50:31.

The Fox Theatre.

The Expo: As I mentioned above, the race expo was the Friday before the race in Palm Plaza at Jack London Square. Volunteers were helpful and I didn’t have to wait in line to get my bib or shirt. There were a small number of vendors selling their wares out of tents on the plaza and, of course, free samples of Nuun.

Course Support: There were an adequate number of volunteers on the course and I felt that the Oakland Police Department did a good job directing traffic. I saw a few angry drivers who were upset at being diverted by the race, but generally people were cooperative. There were about six aid stations with water and electrolytes.

The Finish Line: The enthusiastic volunteers at the finish line promptly gave me a medal and swag. Instead of bottled water, finishers were given reusable water bottles and directed to a water station where they could fill them. Food at the finish included bananas and “PB & Awesome” sandwiches from the folks at Oakland Juice & Co.

The finish line.


The Swag: As advertised, the race shirts were gender-specific technical shirts with a cool design. The medals were also well done and incorporated the oak leaf logo from the race. Finishers got a Brita filtering water bottle in the color of your choice and a mason jar for complimentary beer and wine. Strike Brewing had a tent in the beer garden near the finish and I enjoyed a jar of the Blonde, which was perfect for post-race recovery at 4.5% ABV. Did I mention that there were free race photos!?

Nice shirts

Check out the mason jar full of beer!

Overall, I had a blast at The Town’s Half Marathon and would recommend it to anyone looking for a late summer half marathon in the San Francisco Bay Area.

24 August 2014

Weekly Recap: NYCM Training and New Trails

What I discovered over the past 2 weeks: I'm not very good at using Run Coach. I suppose it's been a strange couple of weeks with traveling, but I need to get better about following a plan. I didn't write a recap for last week so I'm documenting it here too.

August 10 to 23

Last week in Bend, I ran a little extra because I wanted to enjoy the terrain and trails while I could. It's not every week I have the chance to run in such a beautiful new (to me) place. It also didn't help that I had to move my long run from Saturday, August 9, to Sunday, August 10; Run Coach doesn't like any schedule switches and gives me big fat exclamation points. This is one of those times I REALLY wish it would give me Monday to Sunday total instead.

My other frustration with Run Coach is that it changed the schedule after I entered workouts last week. Perhaps because it thought I ran too many miles (due to the long run day change) it tried to back me off? Originally my August 23 long run was 13 miles, and then it changed to 9-10 miles. Hello, confusing.

For this past week, I started with Sunday off to enjoy the last day of exploring Bend. Saturday's long run was really tiring and I was feeling the altitude, so the rest day seemed like a good idea. Monday is my normal rest day, and I took that too. I don't think it's uncommon to need some catch up time after travel.

Tuesday I ran my planned 5 miles on trail at Rancho San Antonio, a new route for me. I'm glad I found a 5 mile route I like there and will be using it again. I felt decent except for super tight calves that warmed up after a couple of miles. 

Wednesday ended up being 3.5 miles instead of 4 miles because I had GPS issues and had no idea how far I was going. Considering I was guessing, 3.5 miles really isn't that far off. The most frustrating part is not having the Strava data!

Thursday brought a 2 hour long dentist appointment for fillings and a very sore mouth, so I went out for soup and pushed the run to Friday. I had nothing left after such a long time in the dentist chair that evening. Although Thursday would have been speedwork in the form of 400s, I knew it wasn't smart to run two hard days in a row and instead ran an easy 5 miles on Friday. Correct distance, just not the speed paces. On the bright side, it was a gorgeous day and I felt great. 

That brings me to Saturday; I had an amazing and beautiful long run at Rancho San Antonio. I generally don't like running trails alone, but I felt pretty safe going to a busy park and did it anyway. Kevin had other run plans and I didn't feel like slogging on pavement for 13 miles. Side note: I ran the old scheduled mileage because I didn't understand why Run Coach changed it. 

I did the outer loop at the park, starting with a big climb up PG&E trail to almost the top of Black Mountain. I've done this a couple of times partway up, but never to the top. I was pleasantly surprised how nice it was up there! After about 4 miles of mostly uphill climbing, you come to the edge of the park where the trail turns into single track with tons of switchbacks. Another mile or so climb takes you to the top of that foothill, at which point the trail splits to go back down into the park or up to the summit of Black Mountain. I wasn't prepared for the summit mileage-wise but should do it someday. The total climb to the trail split was about 2400 feet.

Looking across to the other side, where I was heading (eventually...)

Many tree-covered switchbacks on the way up.

My favorite view from the upper trails.

After starting back down on some steeper terrain, the trail becomes gently-sloping-downhill-single-track-bliss for a few miles. Nice views, shaded tree cover, and soft dirt made me a happy girl. I considered taking photos but was enjoying the run too much to stop. Eventually the trail curves around the back of Rancho and into the park back towards the parking lot. It was a tough, but really enjoyable, route. The full loop is 12.5 miles, not 13 miles, but I decided my time on feet for the day was plenty thanks to the climbing. 

The lovely elevation profile.

For next week, I'd been expecting a 15 mile long run until Run Coach changed again. It now says 10-11 miles, which seems too short. I'm feeling like it's behind where I prefer to be in training for NYC and think I might stick with the plan it had set originally. I have no idea what to think of the constantly changing mileage right now. As someone who tends to plan ahead, it's driving me crazy.

In other weekly news, I decided to buy the Anatomy for Runners book by Jay Dicharry. We heard him talk in Bend, plus I read a review of the book by Jen and decided to go for it. His talk on mobility and activating muscles was great, and I could tell it would go well with my recent hip issues and exercises. I can't wait to read it!

Happy running!

18 August 2014

Bird Camp

I returned from Bend, OR, last night and I'm ready to go back. Oiselle held a team running camp, aka 'Bird Camp' there last week and over the weekend, and it was spectacular. I'm so happy I was able to experience the scenery of running in Bend and the camaraderie of the ladies on the team.

I headed to Bend first thing in the morning last Wednesday, and after a long layover in Portland I arrived at Seventh Mountain resort for camp around 1:45 pm. The resort property was beautiful and also happened to connect into the Deschutes River trail. What?! Trail running out my back door? I'd love to have that every day of my life. A few of us went out for to run and explore the area almost immediately, and I was pretty much on a giddy runner's high for the rest of the evening following the trail run.

We have arrived!

Happy runners. 

Attempting a selfie of everyone. 

Deschutes River view from the trail.

The following day started with activation exercises taught by Little Wing, which I should really do more often or at least once a week. Many people headed out on a run after that, but I held myself mostly to a hike with friends because we had a 5K race that evening.

Hiking with Ayesha and Jessica.

Camp included a number of sessions around topics like goal setting, nutrition, training, mobility, and yoga. I feel like I learned a lot and really enjoyed it too. Meeting Stephanie Howe, who recently won Western States, was a big highlight.

Stephanie Howe!

Later Thursday evening, we headed to the Deschutes Twilight 5K. I used this event as a tempo run and kick off to marathon training speedwork. It was harder than I thought it should have been for the pace - likely due to the altitude - but I feel like I did ok. It was really fun to have so many Oiselle singlets in one place!

Before the 5K started.

 Post-race they gave us Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale! My kind of race.

 Hanging out with Farron, Sophia, and Laurel.

 With my camp roommates Tracy and Jill.

We ate at Cafe Yumm after the 5K which was awesome; I'm a big fan of Cafe Yumm! I really like the edamame bowl with tofu, so I even bought my own to satisfy that craving. Yumm sauce is the best. 

Friday morning brought a trip to Smith Rock, a park with tons of rock climbing routes and trails to run. Friday is generally an off day for me, so I did the shorter 4 mile-ish route up Misery Ridge. I'm not sure why it's called Misery Ridge because it's absolutely beautiful. The climb up was tough but much shorter than I expected, and after that we could run the rest because it was down and flat. I hope to go back there someday.

 The overall view.

Taking advantage of the photo op.

Looking back on the climb up Misery Ridge.

 With Laurel at Monkey Face rock.

 Running the flat.

 Farron on the trail by the river.

With Christy, Mel, and Farron after the run.

The rest of Friday brought yoga, pool time, form drills, and core work. I was tired but extremely happy by the end of the day. We had burgers for dinner on Friday and then a Q&A session with elites Kara, Lauren, Stephanie, and Kate. I love listening to their stories!

Next up was Saturday morning, the long run I'd been waiting for. Running along the Deschutes River trail was gorgeous as always, and I was able to see so much more of the river on the long run. My 12 miler was full of great scenery, slightly rolling trails, river rapids, and Dillon Falls. I have to note I was much more tired at the end than I expected with the lack of climbing, likely due to the other activities and the altitude. 

I didn't end up running with a big group because I didn't find anyone going my distance at my pace, but I was content to enjoy the trails on my own anyway. I chatted with people as I ran into them. I somehow got off trail on the way out and took a dive on my knees trying to duck under a low tree, but I luckily didn't find that spot on the way back. Note to self: don't try to run while ducking way forward, you will lose your balance. I admittedly dilly dallied a bit and took photos; there was so much new scenery to enjoy.

 Group running by on the trail.

 View of the falls.

 View from the mountain bike trail I climbed accidentally. Worth it!

More Deschutes River.

Robyn and Jess coming up behind me.

On Saturday afternoon we headed to downtown Bend for sightseeing and a dinner party. I went with a group to 10 Barrel Brewing and then to Deschutes Brewing; Bend has some great beer! 

Hanging out at 10 Barrel.

Last but not least, Oiselle put on a party with tacos and donuts at a local bar called Crow's Feet. Dinner, dessert, beer, dancing, fun people - it doesn't get any better than that. It was hard to say goodbye on Sunday morning, but alas it was time to go home.

Bend, I hope to visit again soon!

And finally, a photo with the banner!

10 August 2014

Weekly Recap: NYCM, Anniversary, & Music

Today ends my first official week of NYC Marathon training, and I did ok considering how many other things have been going on. As mentioned in my previous post, I'm using the RunCoach.com website for my training plan and I'm logging my workouts there. My biggest pet peeve with the site so far is that it runs Sunday to Saturday, and I prefer training weeks to run Monday to Sunday. Monday to Sunday weeks allow me to switch my weekend long run day every once in while (like this weekend) without making the weekly mileage look strange. I emailed them to ask if I was missing it somewhere in preferences, but it isn't an option so far. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that change.

Anyway, my training week looked like this. I like how I can see what was scheduled against what I actually did.

August 3 to August 10

Sunday through Wednesday I did pretty well on the plan. I felt great running 6 miles on the Los Gatos Creek trail Sunday and ran fast during my Tuesday run in San Jose. Wednesday I ran trail at Arastradero Preserve with Sophia and felt crappy, but I'm pretty sure it was allergies. I felt way too out of breath and ended up coughing a ton after.

Thursday was our 10 year wedding anniversary and we hiked Mission Peak that day, which was much harder than the speed workout listed on the training plan. The 5.8 mile roundtrip doesn't sound like much, but the 2000+ foot climb over 3 miles combined with rocky terrain and steepness left my feet, ankles, and glutes pretty darn sore. It's ok though, the views were awesome and we had a great time! At least in my world, sometimes living life gets prioritized over a specific training day.

 On the way up.

 At the top!

 Summit post.

Pretty view of the hills.

Friday was a planned rest day, and I spent the afternoon and evening in SF at Outside Lands with my team from work. I've never been to a music festival before so I was excited to check it out. We mostly stayed at the VIP area near the main stage to take advantage of our fancy passes, plus the bleacher seats were great. I enjoyed listening to Holy Ghost, Chromeo, and Disclosure, but honestly I wasn't into the Kanye show at all. Yes, he's the headliner, but in hindsight I should have ventured to the other stage for Arctic Monkeys (hard to do when everyone you are with is somewhere else.)

 VIP Area entrance and food. Loved the decor.

 Fun glittery wristband.

Our view of the main stage.

I must say my favorite part of Outside Lands was Beer Lands. Who knew they had a Beer Lands, complete with a special Outside Lands Saison by Sierra Nevada? It was awesome! They also had the Almanac Saison Delores, a draft-only new release that I'd been wanting to check out. We definitely made a few trips this direction.

Beer Lands!

After the music, we hung around a bit longer with coworkers so it was really, really past my bedtime when I got back to San Jose on Friday night (Saturday morning...) I knew there was no way my lack of sleep would translate to meeting the group for a long trail run at 6:45 am Saturday, so I bailed. I felt crappy and was pretty useless as a person on Saturday; I let myself have the recovery day for rest and to get over the ankle and foot soreness too.

Today's long run was 9.5 miles during the middle of the day, and boy was it hot. This was my fault - I actually planned to run mid-day because I feel like the heat training helps. I run much better in cold and am trying to improve in heat. I did ok, but it felt rough for sure!

This week I'm working 2 days and then heading to Bend, OR, for lots of running with Oiselle team ladies. I can't wait to check out Bend and to see friends! We are running the Deschutes 5K on Thursday evening and otherwise the schedule will be pretty flexible, although I'm most excited for the Saturday long trail run. Bring it on!

05 August 2014

Time to Focus: NYC Marathon

Thanks to the hip flexor and adductor injury in January, the year didn't start off the way I'd hoped it would. My races have been pretty random and without any time goals. 'Training' has more or less been doing what I can to get myself back to running while mitigating the hip tightness. I didn't run the 50K in June because I couldn't yet climb, and there hasn't been a half marathon PR attempt since last October. However, the hip now seems to be doing ok (knock on wood) and I need to let myself stop worrying and move on.

It's time to focus on an actual goal race: the NYC Marathon.

My training plan is set up on RunCoach.com, which I've been using off and on for the last three months to see if I like it. There is a membership fee to access their training plans, but I was lucky enough to have a really good discount and decided to give it a try. The site uses an algorithm to create a training plan based on things you enter: preferences, past race times, logged workouts, and so on. You can recalculate the plan at any time if you have new race times or after a few weeks of logging workouts. I'm not yet convinced I can run the plan as it looks pretty aggressive for my abilities, but I suppose I'll never know if I don't try.

August Training Calendar

The most overwhelming part of the plan is the speed work. I'm incredibly scared of speed work in general, and the days with 11-12 or 12-13 miles of it after work don't feel remotely doable to me. Really, those workout are mile repeats and probably not that bad, and if I need to I could cut some of the repeats down to my ability level. We'll see how it goes. I'm telling myself not to give up until I at least try it. Confidence, right?

Example of a long speed workout. More of those come along in September.

What I DO really like about RunCoach.com is how interactive it is for logging workouts and for changing preferences. You choose how many days per week you want to run, plus it's really easy to set what days you prefer rest, cross-training, long runs, and speed work. I have always struggled with taking plan outlines and deciding how to move things around to fit my schedule, and this program does it all for me. 

Preferences and Pace Chart page.

My main race goal for NYC is to prepare well and to finish feeling strong (unlike last year at CIM where I fell apart), ideally under 4:25 for a small PR. My current PR is 4:28 from December 2013 and I think I can beat it, but I also know that NYC isn't generally a great PR course and that it'll be very crowded. And even more, this is the NYC Marathon we're talking about - a once in a lifetime event - I want to enjoy the experience without a crazy time goal!

One last thing to mention: I'm running NYC on the Every Mother Counts charity team and I'm at 48% of my fundraising goal. Any amount helps, and I'd love you're support if you are up for it! You can find my donation site here.

Now tell me, what is your fall race? How is training? What is your favorite marathon training plan?