Tag Archives: Races

Weekly Workout Recap: Jan 12-18

A photo posted by Naomi (@njnsf) on

{the above photo is part of the race course taken three months ago on a routine run}

I debated writing a race recap for the Foster 10-mile Race. The race didn’t go well for me. But since I’ve decided to resume these weekly workout recap series, I’ll use this post for my race recap.

Pre-Race

The days leading up to it were a little stressful. When I saw my doctor last week she confirmed what I had suspected. I was showing signs of increased cortisol (stress) levels. My IBS symptoms had returned. It was likely due to the stress of marathon training and indulging in sugar during the holidays. With my gut health taking a step back, I’ve decided to do the Low FODMAPS diet for the next 4-6 weeks. Its the best thing to do when having an IBS flareup.

I also need to be cognizant of how much stress I put on my body and that includes workouts. I discussed my upcoming races with my doctor. She felt it would be okay to proceed as planned, provided I didn’t run or do hard workouts on consecutive days.

The workouts leading up to race day were easy or complete rest days:

Mon, 01/12: Rest
Tues, 01/13: 5-mile Run + 40-min Foam Roller Yoga (online video at home)
Wed, 01/14: Nothing – Pilates instructor had the flu
Thurs, 01/15: 5-mile Run – alternating speeds in 2 and 3-min increments
Fri, 01/16: Rest
Sat, 01/17: 2-mile Shakeout Run + strides

While Saturday’s shakeout run felt good, later in the day I spent four hours on my feet at the doggie meet-up. By the time I got home from that I felt exhausted, hungry and dehydrated.

Alone the Low FODMAPS diet is a difficult program to follow. But add in the fact that I also can’t eat soy, dairy, corn, grain or nightshade foods and it feels maddening.

I didn’t have anything to eat during the day on Saturday and that evening I had a mostly veggie with some protein dinner. In hindsight I realize that I didn’t eat a lot of carbs because there’s not a lot of carb options that I can eat right now.

Race Day

I woke up, got ready, then took Coco Pop out for her morning walk. As soon as we got home I put her in her crate. It would be the longest block of time she was left home alone (and she did fabulous!).

My only carb-related option for breakfast was a banana, but at the time I wasn’t hungry. There were four aid stations on the course which would be plenty for a 10-mile race so I opted not to bring a water bottle and carried the banana instead.

I ran 1.35 miles to the Start Line at Leo Ryan Park. It was the perfect distance for a warm-up.

When I got there I picked up my bib and then used the restroom in the community center. Real bathrooms with no lines! A few people from my neighborhood had signed up for the 5K so I walked around looking for them but never found them (I think they no-showed). It was a warm morning so I hung around outside and did some dynamic stretches.

Since I still wasn’t hungry and I decided to use the banana as my mid-race fuel (since my usual Honey Stinger gels aren’t Low FODMAPS compliant).

The race was small. Everyone (5K and 10-milers) gathered at the Start Line and started together. They gave some instructions before we started but everyone around me was talking so I didn’t hear a word of it.

The race started with little fanfare. The first couple of miles had us running across Foster City toward the Bay Trail. I felt great during the first three miles.

Once we got to the Bay Trail things went south. I knew this part of the course (the bulk of it) would be a mental struggle because I hate running there. Its exposed, usually crowded and quite boring. And I’ve run here for YEARS.

What I didn’t expect was my legs to give out on me. I underestimated the toll that Saturday’s excursion took on my body. While my lungs felt great my legs failed me. Its a good thing the Finish Line was closer than my house was because I would have just made a beeline home.

And while I did eat that banana over the course of Miles 4-8, I think the lack of pre-race fuel was also a contributing factor. The rest of the race was just one long slog with lots of walk breaks.

As for the race itself, it was well-organized. The volunteers at the aid stations were supportive and fantastic. The course was well-marked with signs, course marshalls and policemen directing us where to go.

But the race lacked personality. There was nothing exciting about it. As little fanfare there was at the start, there was none at the finish. When I crossed the line, I walked over to the table to get a water bottle (they did have snacks but I didn’t take any). Then I walked to the volunteer table to get my Finishers Shirt (no medal). And then I slogged the 1.35-mile journey home. I was home within 15-20 minutes. It was all anti-climactic. There’s more excitement at a $5 DSE race.

The bulk of the race course is where I do most of my running – for free. So while I’m glad I experienced this race once, it goes on my list of “races I don’t feel the need to run again.”

2013 Big Sur Half-Marathon

I have such mixed feelings about this race that its taken me over a week to write this post on it..

Being that this race was the first one I ever ran, it holds a special place in my heart. That first race five years ago was such a great experience and I so wanted this year’s race day to live up to it.

Pre Race

The beauty of staying at the Portola Hotel is that it is literally two blocks away from the Start Line and mere steps from the Finish Line.

With the race starting at 7 am, I set my alarm for 5:30 am so that I could have time to eat a {gluten-free} bagel and let it digest. I lounged around for 45-min, got dressed in five minutes and headed downstairs to the lobby at about 6:30 am to check out the scene. As expected, it was packed with happy runners of all age, shapes and sizes. I took a step outside to gauge the temps. It was chilly, but not cold enough for gloves, so I went back up to my room to drop them off but decided to keep my arm sleeves on.

go_prerace

When I got to the Start area there were rows and rows of port-a-potties and no lines. I easily found my corral. There were people checking bibs to make sure you entered the right corral – if I recall correctly, this was something different from 2008. As we got closer to the start time, the corrals began filling and I stood there taking it all in, listening to the conversations going on around me. I deduced that names printed in red on bibs indicated it was the runners first half marathon. And there were a lot of those – about 1700 of the registered 7000 runners – in other words, its a great course for first-timers. :)

Race

The first couple corrals started 3-min apart, and corrals after that started 30-seconds apart so my corral didn’t start running until about 10-min after the gun time. I make note of this because I ran without my Garmin.

At the expo I had inquired about clocks on the race course and was told there wouldn’t be any. I debated if I should wear my Garmin, but decided against it. I knew I wasn’t in PR condition (this was my longest run since SFM) and really wanted to enjoy the race. I didn’t want to get sucked into watching time so left it behind.

But right from the start, things didn’t go well.

Just a few steps after we started running a guy in front of me stepped on a gel packet and it splattered ALL OVER me. There I was, not even two minutes into the race and was covered in an apple-flavored gel.

Terrible shin splints and GI distress also showed up early too. But I fell into a pretty good rhythm and hoped that things would work itself out. But by Mile 2 I was already stopping for my first of three potty breaks. I thought after that first bathroom stop I would feel better, but I really didn’t. My body felt like it was at Mile 22 instead of Mile 2. It scared me – I had never felt that fatigued that early on in a race before.

For the first time ever, my local aunt, cousin and Jasmine were cheering me on at a race. I was so excited to see them at Mile 3 that it took my mind of how lousy I felt.

The great thing about this race is that it is very spectator-friendly. So much so that all my family had to do was stand outside their hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel on Cannery Row, to watch the race. They had packed soccer-mom (i.e. folding) chairs and were bundled up holding signs and ringing cowbells, cheering for everyone. I knew exactly where they would be so I ran on the side of the street where we could see each other from “a mile” (not really) away.

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I ran up and threw them my arm-sleeves {because it was so warm by then} at them, stopped for a pic and yelled, “Things aren’t going well” and then continued running.

go_fam

Confession: it briefly crossed my mind to drop out from the race right then and there (how much more convenient could it get?) but this was one race I wasn’t going to DNF. Not even if I was dying – which I would soon think that I was.

I don’t know why but in my head I always thought that this race was flat. Well I wouldn’t call it hilly, but I its definitely NOT flat. There are modest inclines throughout the entire course.

go_feetofftheground

By Mile 5 my shin splints disappeared but at Mile 7 my L hamstring decided to remind me that I had pulled it two weeks earlier. That combined with my continued GI distress and heavy fatigue just wasn’t fun. I ran when I could but walked most of the course. Its a good thing we ran with views like this, otherwise it would have been downright miserable.

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And although I flirted with going to a dark place a few times, I ran mostly feeling so grateful to live and run in such a beautiful area of the world.

When I hit the turnaround at Mile 8 I was convinced that I was looking at a personal worst time and thought it would be around the 3-hour mark.

So you can imagine how utterly shocked I was when the 2:10 pace group passed me at Mile 10. With the amount of limping I had done I wondered how was this even possible?! I made an attempt to run with them but it was so crowded, and the pacer kept talking (a pet-peeve of mine), that I couldn’t take it. I dropped back and let them go.

I continued my shuffle, and watched the 2:15 pace group pass. I felt sad because that meant I wouldn’t beat my original time of 2:15, but yet I also felt good because I wasn’t going to finish near 3 hours.

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The last few miles are on the recreational path along the water. I ran on the dirt on the side of the path which helped my hammy a bit. The crowds were gathered along both sides of the course for the last mile (even impeding the course on the last half mile). Hearing people yell my name and cheer me on was a nice push to the finish, with my finishing time being 2:22:35.

Nowhere close to my PR or my course PR, but definitely not a personal worst.

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Post-Race Thoughts

While I am disappointed in how this race turned out for me, I can’t help but be grateful for all that it has given me.

If this beautiful race course had not been my first race ever, would there have been a second race?

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Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to run this race the way I wanted to I appreciate the fact that it was this race introduced me to something that I now love to do. I’m proud that five years after running my first half-marathon, I finished my 21st half-marathon, with four marathons in-between.

And I was thrilled to have my family there cheering me on. It meant the world to me to see them there and I love these signs that Jas made for me.

go_goomi

go_goodluck

I’m not sure why I waited five years to return to Big Sur, but I plan to make it a regular part of my race schedule from now on.

go_medal

The Giant Race 2013 – 10K Edition

Today I ran my third SF Giants Race (the 10K this time) after taking last year off. (In case you’re interested, here’s my 2010 and 2011 race reports.) I must say, the race has really grown since that first year, but I guess like everything else, when the team wins suddenly everyone is a fan.

The Expo

I went to the expo on Saturday to pick up my race bib. It was held in the areas behind center field and Triples Alley.

I thought I could be in and out of there in a flash but it took about 20-25 min to enter the ballpark through the Marina gate. Then it was another 15 minutes or so of waiting in line to get my bib. There was a lot of inexperience with the “picking up the bib” process both by volunteers and participants.

When I finally got my bib I was also received a band to which I asked what it was for (since there was no instructions accompanying it). I was told it was a “pace band.” To me, a pace band is something a runner wears with pace times listed on it for the purpose of running for a specific time. Apparently the purpose for this “pace” band was to indicate which corrals to be in at the Start Line.

With my bib I also got my race shirt. When I registered I requested a Medium, which turned out to be the equivalent of a Small. *Sigh*, yet another too small race shirt that I will never wear…

However I did get my Sergio Romo bobble head which is very cool.

On my out I stopped to take a photo with my favorite Giant of all time…

Oh, and one last thing on the expo – parking was available in Lot A, which is right behind the ballpark… for $4.

The Race

Apparently I missed the memo on pre-paid parking for race morning, so I figured I would park at my gym which is a mile from the ballpark. But then last night I realized that it would be dark on race morning and the area is sketchy. So I opted to park in Lot D for $10. Being my father’s daughter I was paranoid that the lot was going to fill up early so I was parked by 5:15 am, just 15-minutes after it opened. (And just so you know, I wasn’t the only Type A’ers there at that hour…)

I sat in my car for a while, then made my way over to Gear Check which was at McCovey Park behind the ballpark. After checking a bag I ran a lap around the ballpark in search of a real bathroom. My stomach was acting up and I needed the real thing, not a port-a-potty.

Not being successful, I made my way to the front of the ballpark on King St. where the Start Line was and met up with Alyssa (she ran – and PR’d! – the half marathon).

As soon as the race started I immediately knew that my stomach was going to be a problem. It was all I could think about during the entire race which was such a bummer because my legs and lungs have been feeling really good lately. I’ve also been in a good place mentally, something that I’ve struggled with.

While I said that I didn’t have any goals, that wasn’t completely true. Over the summer I attended a webinar series by Coach Dean Hebert (which I will elaborate more on in another post). So while I had no time goals, I did have two non-time goals that were based upon things I learned from Coach Dean’s bootcamp:

1. To stay focused: To only think about the current minute, the current mile – not how many miles are left, not what went wrong in the past miles – just the present. Certainly I could manage this for just ONE hour.

2. To learn composure: So that when I get off-task and lose focus, or if something goes wrong, I know how to reorganize, regroup and refocus.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for. Because of my stomach issues it was really, REALLY hard to stay focused on the task at hand.

With the race being such a short distance I thought I could manage the discomfort. But by the time we ran past the second water stop I was frantically looking for a port-a-potty. There wasn’t any, but across the street was one of the public bathrooms. The first one I ran into was broken so I had to run to another one on the opposite side.

When I hopped back into the race I was positive that my pace had slowed down considerably, although I didn’t wear a Garmin so I had no idea what it was to begin with! When I passed the turnaround the clock read 28:46 which was not bad at all for me!

After the bathroom stop I thought the second half of the race would be better but my stomach continued to churn. I had to make a second bathroom stop at another public bathroom just past the Ferry Building. I have never made two bathroom stops in a race before.

Once the ballpark came into view I just put my head down and kept telling myself, “Just one more mile, just one more step” until I got to the Finish Line inside the park.

When I crossed the Finish Line I was completely shocked to see that my gun time was 1:01:36-ish. I thought it would be much slower with the second bathroom stop.

After crossing the Finish Line, I stretched out in the outfield, took a couple of photos, then made my way to the exit.

Later in the morning I checked the race web site and my official time was 1:00:54. This is only 35 seconds slower than my PR. While I was bummed about narrowly missing a PR, I am pleased with my time given the challenges.

I’m also really happy that I was about to stay focused and composed. It’s not easy to do when you’re worried about crapping your pants during a race! (overshare?)

Thoughts On the Race:

* Being that this is the fourth year of the race, I thought pre-race communication could have been better. There were a lot of things that could have been explained in a simple email that could also have been posted to the web site AND included as a printout with the race bib.

* For example:

– What the “pace”/corral band was for?
– Where was the timing chip? (it was on the bib)
– Where was the Start Line? (I scoured the web site for this and did not find it anywhere)

* If you’re going to do things that different from the “norm”, over-communicate it to your audience.

I keep all the emails from the races that I register for and the only one I can find for this race was dated a month ago on July 1st. Most of the race’s emails were about fundraising (which was for a great cause!) but other important logistical details should have also been included.

Later in the morning, after the race was over, I saw that most of this information was posted to the race’s Facebook page this morning. The problem with that? – when the race starts at 7 am, who’s looking at Facebook? And, not everyone is one Facebook. So while social media is a great way to promote (and communicate) the race details, I think important details like this need to be sent in formal communications. The SF Giants do so about ticketing, promotions, game times, etc. (I get the emails), so it would be nice to see the organizers of the Giant Race do so too.

All this being said, I thought that the race was very well-executed. The best things were:

* The volunteers: they were fantastic and really cheered on runners on the last mile – I certainly appreciated it.

* The Finish Line: it was SO MUCH BETTER THAN 2011 (which is why I skipped 2012). There was room for people to move after crossing the Finish Line to cool down and stretch out. I even heard volunteers asking people to clear out of the immediate finish area to prevent congestion. Good job!

* The 5K not starting until 11 am: It wasn’t nearly as congested as it has been in previous years because of this.

I thought it was very cool to open the ballpark to the public at 7 am to allow spectators to sit in the stands and cheer. However, I don’t understand why limited sections of the park couldn’t be opened at 5 am for runners so that we could sit in a warm area, and use real bathrooms.

All things considered, I had a great time and depending on the timing of next year’s race plan will plan to run it again. I mean, it only has the best medal ever!