Do I look happy? Yes, yes I do. This is me, seconds after crossing the finish line at the California International Marathon (CIM) 2011. Responsible for that grin on my face is the fact that I just earned a 4 1/2 minute PR, and my second qualification for the Boston marathon (2012 & 2013).


Can’t see my silly grin (emphasis on “silly”) ? Here you go. I’m a dork.

That was the best/worst 3 hours 46 minutes and 19 seconds of my life, thus part of me can’t wait to do it again, while the other is hoping to get her legs crushed by a runaway garbage truck so she can live out the rest of her days, sitting on her butt while eating bon bons and watching cable television.


I’m not ready to hang up the sneakers just yet. In fact, I’m already plotting my training strategy for Boston 2012, since training for that begins (for me) January 1. Still, there were many moments during my race when I thought, “This shizzle is hard. It would be easier to just stop right now.”

Where was I and how did I get there?


It was Saturday, and I was keeping a close eye on the weather reports, as marathoners will do in the final days leading up to their race when the hay is in the barn, as they say, and we’re in the final throes of Taper Madness. We are antsy for lack of running, and need something to obsess on. So we check and re-check the weather forecasts. We talk about it, we analyze it on forums, we dwell, we conjecture and we lament, fret and project. We find several contingency outfits suitable for all possible weather, and then go back and check the weather some more.

Making things worse (better?? depends on whether you are trying to feed or quell the beast), my sailing friend Dorsey gave me two (phenomenal) links allowing me to drill down to some crazy weather minutiae, so really and truly not much was left to surprise (I’d post those links but then she and I would lose our competitive edge, right? heh heh).

WOS (weather obsession syndrome) is especially in play for a December race in California, when the weather patterns can be brutal or mild on any given year. CIM starts at Folsom Dam and ends at the steps of the State Capitol in downtown Sacramento. The race is located off Interstate 80 and on the approach to the mountains, which makes it susceptible to the colder temperatures, if chilly is the hand the weather gods are playing that day.

Note: I know even as I write this my friends in chillier parts of the country – and the world (hello Europe!) – are rolling their eyes at this Californian and her talk of “cold weather”.

The weather issue this year was: wind. Yucky, ucky, sucky wind. The kind of wind that collapses buildings and knocks down trees and stuff.

ABC news: Strong winds knocked down this tree in Arcadia, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011.

And just to be cruel, the wind was in full force the day before the race when I went on what was supposed to be a little loosen-upper jog.

It was windy, as you can tell by the way my hair is defying gravity by its vertical pose across my face. Another key indicator: The "this is not cute" look on my face.

Weirdly, despite the (super annoying) wind, the temperature was quite warm (and lovely). Seventy-five degrees in December is unseasonably warm, even for California. But I wasn’t complaining (well, yes I was but it was about the wind, not the temps).

I blame Taper Madness for this next episode, which was a bit ragey. There is a section of this trail that cuts through a golf course. They put up a chain-link fence to protect runners, cyclists, walkers, roller bladers, etc. from wayward golf balls. It doesn’t work. The balls fit between the holes.

For the second time, I was nearly clobbered by a golf ball. It came whizzing into the cage, having defied the odds by sneaking through one of the chain loops, and came close enough to me that my hair got fluffed.

Behold, the offending ball. (Oh yes I did pick it up and chase down the golfers who hit it in my direction and threw it at them while lecturing them on how to aim right).

Ragey episode done.

Having finished my last training run, it was time to shower, dress and pack the car.

To the untrained eye, this would seem like lot of stuff to be bringing for one night. But for me, a Classic Overpacker, this was packing light, and I was actually quite proud of how well I showed restraint.

Off to Sacramento we go.

Being the awesome hydrator that I am, I was having to tinkle constantly during the entire week prior to the race. Translation: Drive 1 1/2 hours to Sacramento without stopping? ha. So we stopped for a pee break at a CVS Pharmacy.

I texted this photo to my friend Emily, who said that I would ruin my intestines (read: get blow out diarrhea) if I ate that. I pointed out these were pre-race carbs, not for during the race.

Candy counts as carbo loading, right?

Then I sent this photo of the boyfriend to prove that we were on a road trip while eating our candy (hard Lifesavers for me and sour chewy things for him).

Which brings me to my next point. Note where the boyfriend is sitting? For the record, my training program specifies the following for pre-race week:

  • Avoid having major deadlines at work or other energy-draining undertakings [CHECK]
  • Wash our hands frequently to lower your risk of catching a cold [CHECK]
  • Get plenty of sleep early in the week [CHECK]
  • Minimize the amount of time you spend at the prerace expo [CHECK]
  • Save sightseeing for after the marathon [CHECK]
  • Spend a few minutes each day in a quiet spot visualizing a successful race [CHECK]
  • Let others do the driving [um … ]

It was warm enough to wear shorts to the Expo, but the boyfriend didn’t think very highly of my outfit – shorts, sweatshirt that was too short in the waist and arms after shrinking in the dryer, a drab reusable-faded-red-bag-come-purse … and the pièce de résistance … dorky compression socks. (since you asked, what I think is people who want to be given compression socks for Christmas shouldn’t throw stones. Just sayin’).

Note the typical garage/stairway pee in the corner behind me. Occupy State Capitol was located just outside this parking garage door. Think the two are related?

I ended up wearing that sweatshirt at the start of the race and tossing it in the early miles for the clothing collection. I feel good about the donation, but running with a metal zipper against bare skin in 34-degree weather = #FAIL.

The expo was fine, as expo’s can be. I bought a water bottle for the boyfriend to hand me on the race course, and a new kind of energy bar (Bonk Breaker), but nothing else tickled my fancy. However, this was a good find: Running tutus for my friend Debbi who is doing Disneyworld’s Princess 13.1 as her first Half Marathon. (Go Debbi!)

So from the expo, we met folks from our running club for dinner. There was a surprisingly long list of club members running this race and one person had kindly reserved a table for all of us at a place called Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant, which specializes in family-style dining … and portions that surely represent the cause of our society’s ever-growing largeness. Let me just say, the placed was jammed. JAMMED. Throngs of people were waiting to eat (and eat, and eat).

The food was fine, though not what I would normally eat before a race (of any length). Or the hour that I would eat it before a race (of any length). My usual go-to is simple carbs, like a bowl of rice. Or a potato. And maybe a small piece of grilled chicken. Certainly I’d go light on the veggies, if at all, and certainly I would avoid that nortious high-roughage food group: salad. And I’d be done eating it by 6pm.

What we got was a “small” (read: enormous) bowl of salad to share and a “small” (large) pizza (that came late because they forgot to make it). It was at least 7:30 by the time we ate, which for me translates to food in my digestive track right up to my 7am gun time.

If you understand runners’ GI issues, particularly with how “those” issues relate to endurance events like, say, a 26.2-mile MARATHON, this (what/when I ate) is not ideal.

Behold, a photo of me after 7pm, still not eating.

I went to the bathroom a couple of times while waiting for my food – clearly I had done an excellent job of topping off my fluids over the past week – and took some photos of the photos that were hung all over the restaurant. This restaurant’s theme? You tell me:

Next on the exciting rolleroaster that was pre-race day: our hotel. Located adjacent to the Arden Mall (this seems to be a big sales point in the Sacramento hotel literature and on yelp), our hotel was fine, if not spacious and clean. But was it quiet? No, it was not.

The problem was our neighbors – a gaggle of girls around … 20yrs old? oy.

From the minute we dropped our bags, their door was opening, and closing, and being knocked upon, and talked through and opened and closed and opened again. These sounds were peppered with intermittent girl squeals, and random thumping.

Considering we are both light sleepers, and we had a 4am wakeup, trouble lurked.

I did the neighborly thing and caught one of them as she was leaving (for the 100th time)(wearing a towel …) and asked if they could keep it down because we had an early morning, and that opening and closing the door was making a lot of noise. At first she looked at me like I was nuts, and then softened and said “sure.” OK, that went well, right? In hindsight, I think what she heard me say was, “blah blah blah blah blah” to which she mentally replied, “whatever.”

Well, guess how long that quietude lasted? Not. I finally wound down and fell asleep around 11, but was awakened every … I don’t know … every so often.

By 1:45am we couldn’t take it any more. It was  the congregating in the hall that finally tipped us both over the edge. What possessed them to hang out and yak in the hall is beyond me. So we called security. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it earlier, I guess because we didn’t fully wake up. But security handled it and the crowd dispersed.

But not before cutting deeply into what was already going to be a short night’s sleep per pre-race night. The buzzer goes off in what felt like a blink, and we were up. I was grumpy (see :46 of the video at the bottom).

I pound 32-ounces of water and a cup of coffee, and I (stupidly) ate this entire bar. It – a Bonk Breaker – was way too rich for my needs and I made the rookie error of eating something for the first time on race morning.

The boyfriend swears by Bonk Breakers, but he’s a triathlete and I think they are better for a super very long bike ride than for a just very long race where you are jiggling up and down and messing with your innards. Plus, let’s be real, I was still content from my hearty meal of just a few hours earlier. And I had worked diligently for the three previous carbo-loading days – my glycogen stores were pretty well topped off at this point.

Strike # 2 against pre-race intestinal happiness.

We called for a late check out and decided to leave our bags and return to the hotel for a shower before going home the next day. #FAIL This would later prove to be a bad decision (that has been dealt with in our race post-mortem on teachable moments). The hotel was just too far away from the race to think it would be convenient to return there for a quick shower.

I had paid for a bus ticket, but opted to go in comfort by having the boyfriend drive me to the race start and drop me off. I wasn’t the only one with this (apparently fabulous) idea. There was a HUGE traffic jam on the one-lane road leading to the start. There is very little information published about the drop-off. In fact, we never found any but simply followed a map. I think they do this to discourage us from being driven vs. taking the bus, but what that resulted in was a giant cluster-fushizzle and a total log jam. We were only moving at -1MPH, but I was white-knuckling the dashboard like were going 160.

Cars were not moving.

Minutes were ticking by.

My bowels were talking to me.

I popped another Immodium just to be sure.

I get dropped off with (literally) minutes to spare, and so I dash into the first porta potty I come to – which is also the porta potty farthest away from the start line.

Porta Potty lineup photo posted by CIM earlier in the week. Vantage point: Heading AWAY from the start line. My honeybucket is at the far end.

Once inside there, I can hear the announcer rallying the runners. And I am sitting there (atop a massive pile of toilet seat covers). And I am debating my options, and I decide that it’s either take care of business now, and risk starting the race a bit late. Or alternately risk having to stop at a port potty after I cross the starting line chip-mat (with the timer ticking away).

No brainer. Thanks to chip timing it doesn’t matter when I cross the start line. Best take care of business now. (TMI? Then you shouldn’t be reading a runner’s blog because bathroom business is part and parcel with this lifestyle :))

Next I hear the National Anthem and I’m bummed because I LOVE that pre-race ritual. But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, which is to go when a girl’s gotta go.

The gun goes off just as I’m getting out of there and I head to the start. I am in back of literally 10,000 runners, but I flex my assertive-muscle, cutting through the masses and gaining a little bit of ground. The problem at this point is that it’s a very thick crowd (see the video at the bottom if you don’t believe me) and the slower runners, of course, are in the back. This makes for a slow start, and a lot of dodging and over-taking – which can be exhausting.

But I decide, hey, it’s OK if I start off slow, because it simply means I won’t be burning myself out. And I will get that energy savings returned to me later in the race.


For the weather record:  The conditions were excellent after those few nail-biting days of extreme wind conditions leading into the race. The wind died down in time and became a non-isssue. And while the race started off in the low 30s, thanks to adrenaline I didn’t even notice the cold and was plenty warm in shorts, tri-jersey (tank), arm warmers and gloves. It warmed up nicely and it was pretty much a wind-less morning, even at mile 15 where there can be a pretty strong head wind.


After dodging slower runners for about 5-6 miles, things thinned out, as they always do. And I was carrying my throwaway bottle so I didn’t need to stop at any of the early water stops. So it was all good.

I made one mistake with my throwaway Gatorade bottle – also hashed out in the post-mortem. I should have gotten the kind with the squeezey-squirty top, but it didn’t occur to me because I never drink out of the bottle (I just pour it in my hand bottle)(another teachable moment). I had to come to a full stop in order to drink the Gatorade due to the sloshing of the wide-mouth bottle. I drank the 10 ounces of (orange) Gatorade over three separate stops, which frankly was worth missing the first 6 miles of water stops, which are so crowded I might have been forced to stop anyway given the crowd I had started out with.

Another change in the morning that I didn’t really plan for – starting off with carbs/calories (Gatorade). I had a sort of backlog of calories that tripped up my race-day nutrition plan. The Bonk Breaker made it so I didn’t need my pre-race Gu.

The original nutrition plan:

    • Dinner (potato and a small piece of chicken): 5pm
    • Breakfast (clif bar)
    • Gu at start
    • Gu at 5 miles and 10 miles (every 45 minutes)
    • Gatorade at 15 miles and 20 miles
    • Water and Ultima (like Nuun tablets) intermittently along the course (last fluid 20m)

What actually happened:

    • Massive dinner (bottomless salad and pizza) 7:30+pm
    • Breakfast (rich and heavy Bonk Breaker)
    • No pre-race Gu
    • Gatorade miles 0-6
    • Gu at 7 (60 minutes) and 14
    • A few sips of Gatorade at 20
    • Water and Ultima intermittently along the course (last fluid: 20 miles)

When I found the boyfriend at 15.5 (and I do mean I found him … I was waving wildly at him while he was looking up the road for me), he was all ready to hand me my bottle, but I was giving him the cut-off sign, indicating I didn’t want anything. He chased me into the road, offering me choices of bottles, just trying to make sure I got what I needed. Such a good support person! (1:29 of the video at the bottom)

What I needed was to throw up, which he couldn’t help me with. Between the jostling and sweet calories, marathoning, for me, is sort of a constant of wanting to puke. And that last Gu wasn’t sitting all that well. I was frankly just too full of fluid and calories. I had done a really, really good job of hydrating and carbo loading and needed far less on the course itself.

Also, my program has us “teaching” our bodies to run on very few calories, and this technique was working. Another Teachable Moment that I pocketed for my Boston race.

At the same time, I tried to indicate to the boyfriend how right on pace I was. I had just passed through the half marathon (13.1) mark and I was seconds (10) off of my goal time for that split. That was really something. He was too wrapped up in Gatorade duty to hear what I said, but I also knew that my friends were watching me via the Athlete Tracker and I was hoping they were aware of how close to pace I was keeping things. Because I sure was! Races don’t always turn out this way so this was very encouraging.

And I was able to monitor how close I was to staying on pace using this pace band from that was customized for my pace and goal time on the CIM course.

Printed off, and specially designed for the CIM course + my specific pace, but made race ready by the boyfriend

I had the thing, now crinkled and sweat stained, stashed in my bra and I would whip it out and scrutinize what time I was supposed to hit mile by mile.

I was actually right on pace for the entire race (once I caught up after my late start), but alas that calculation was a bit off because I was running according to my Garmin, which was about 1/10th-mile ahead the course mile markers … and that translates to about a minute (which ultimatley is how far off of my goal time I was).

Still, I was close enough to goal pace to feel like the outcome of an approxiately, ballpark, give or take a minute 3:45 time was becoming a foregone conclusion. Anything in that range was fine by me because it would be a huge PR and another Boston qualifier.

Along those lines – the foregone conclusions.

I did a lot of self talk along the way. A lot. And I credit this (in addition to my Pfitz 18/55 training program) for getting me to the end. Here’s how:

You know how when you see somebody throw up, it can make you barf? Well, when you get to mile 16 of a marathon, the number of people falling apart becomes pronounced. It’s hard to keep from getting psyched out by their problems. For me it’s infectious, and I have to ward off “catching” their issues.

And it only gets worse as you get to 18 miles, 20 miles, 22 miles, 25.5 miles. It’s like a war zone with people puking their guts out on the side of the road, while others lie down in a contorted pretzel, desperately trying to remove the cramp from their legs or feet. You see people running along and then come to a dead stop, seized by a full body cramp. I saw a dude at 22 miles, splayed out on the pavement, done. It’s not uncommon at mile 20 to see folks who had been zipping along in the earlier miles, suddenly walking along like zombies from Night of the Living Dead.

Remember when I said, eh, I can start out behind the slower runners, and it will come back to me like good karma? That is exactly what happened for me. But not for these contorted, barfing, walking, splayed out victims littering the side of the course from 16 miles on. They had set out too fast, lactate had built up in their bodies faster than they can expel it, and their limbs were rebelling by seizing up like a statue. (you can see the Walking Dead at 2:31 of the video at the bottom)

Despite what people think, this is not dehydration, or bonking (from not eating enough calories). It’s more likely that they started out at a pace they couldn’t sustain for 26.2 miles.

As the say, it’s a 20 mile warm up for a 6.2 mile race. They also say, if you hit the wall there’s no reversing it: You can’t uncook a goose.

This is also why I say it’s a race of restraint. You must race intelligently, not eagerly.

When I see these people doubled up, curled up, puking, splayed out and contorted into strange stretching positions, I tell myself one of several mantras:

    • I earned the pace I am running
    • This pace is me
    • I feel good
    • I feel the blood flowing through my legs
    • It is my right as an obnoxious American to run this pace
    • I trained at this pace
    • I am right on target for goal time
    • I feel good
    • I feel great
    • I feel strong
    • I look strong

I visualize myself:

    • Writing a Facebook post updating friends and family about my accomplishment (this time it was “I PR’d by 5 minutes!” which btw, I nearly did)
    • Calling my mom and telling her, “I did it! I am so happy!”
    • Crossing the finish line and how I will look (strong)
    • Crossing the finish line and how I will feel (proud & happy)

Strangely, for me, the mental exercise and feeling how I am overcoming obstacles as I run along, while others are succumbing to them, is very empowering.

This is quite possibly my favorite part of a marathon.


Speaking of pace. I consulted my handy-dandy wrist band, which I initially kept in my bra but eventually ended up running with it. I would find a downhill, sunny spot where I could read it reasonably well and see what my mile-point time should be. Every single time I hit a mile marker, I was within seconds of my goal time – and my pace was in the ballpark of 8:35 each time. I was a few seconds over that (8:37mm pace) which added up to that extra 1+ minutes over my 3:45 goal time. Here is what CIM has me at:

Gender: 484/2484

Age group: 51/375

5.9M split: 50:24

1st 13.1 split: 1:53:03 (2nd 13.1 split: 1:53:16)

20M split: 2:52:42

Gun time: 3:48:14

Chip time: 3:46:19

Here is my Garmin link, showing a blow by blow of what I did on Sunday. Remember when looking at this, that course is accurate but the Garmin is always shows a bit over the course distance.


I felt really strong as I pushed toward, and then past The Wall (20 miles). And I had just had someone on the course (a woman running near me) actually tell me how good I looked while running. People, that made my day :D.

So I made sure my posture was up, held back some tears, thanked my dad for making me jump off that boulder into the pond back when I was 13 (I always do this at this point during a race), and ran strong up to meet the boyfriend at mile 19.4.

He asked how I feel, I said great (truth) and he said I looked great (truth) and I kept pushing.

Looking at my watch during that last 10K, I really had thought I was picking up my pace, but in hindsight that didn’t really happen. You can see it in my pace averages. In fact, I ran almost even half marathon splits – they were just 16 seconds apart with the second half being a hair slower (a slightly positive split).

I think what was happening is that I would feel good and be running at 8:10 and less, and then distractions would come in and bump me off so I wasn’t being consistent. The water tables (and there were too many at the end of the race) were just crazy with people.

The end of a race is also a weakness of mine that I need to work on. I could have run faster, or at least held my faster pace through to the end. But I let myself get psyched out, and let go. Next time.

One of my club mates passed me in that last mile and a half. He was originally going for a much faster time than I was, but had some foot problems so having trouble getting to the finish. We were within feet of each other for that last half mile. I heard them call his name at around the time they called mine – him going through his chute, and me going through mine. There are separate chutes for girls and boys, which is a nice touch that a lot of people LOVE, but I feel pretty indifferent about it.

my little victory wave for the cameras

Truth: I kind of want to know what goes on over on their side. Is there some secret man ritual that I should know about?

My friend of a million years, Charlotte, greeted me at the end along with the boyfriend. She is such a good friend to have come out (3 hour drive!) and supported me.


she's a keeper

my best friend & me (and the state capitol)

My mom and stepfather unfortunately didn’t make it this year, but they tried. And they would have if they could have. But health issues prevailed. My childhood friend also ran the race, and finished with something like a 15 minute PR. She felt pretty crummy afterward so we didn’t take a picture, but I’m pretty sure she’ll do another one. Marathons are like childbirth – you never want to do it again immediately after the fact, but the pain fades with time. And the next thing you know, you’ve signed up for another one. (hello overpopulation!)

Our last adventure, and also a #FAIL, was the trip back to the hotel for a shower, and then onto food. There are at least five highways that criss cross through Sacramento, and we traveled all of them in search of our exit. The iPhone Mapquest app simply could not make sense of it, and neither could we. By the time we got to the hotel, we had to zip out of there (leaving my travel bedding behind by accident 😦 ) without a shower. By the time we got to food, it was 3:15 – more than four hours after I had finished running.

I had a burger, fries and a beer at the Pyramid Ale House, and came “this” close to feeling bad about that unhealthy food choice. And then I looked around and saw table after table doing the same. sigh. I was among my kind.

Truth: I love being a marathoner.


Healdsburg Half Marathon

Isn’t this a gorgeous place to start a half marathon!? It’s the Coppola Winery. The race: The Healdsburg Half Marathon in Santa Rosa-Healdsburg-Geyserville, California. What a hoot! Great race, I highly recommend.

Of course this shot was taken in bright sunlight the day after the race. When we lined up at the starting line the morning prior, it was pitch black. The porta potty lines were butt-up against the vineyards, which doubled as urinals for a few guys who felt their bladder needs were more pressing than the other 2500 of us waiting in line. I was tempted to follow suit, but it just seemed mean to pee in someone’s wine, so I waited my turn for the porta potty. It was such an upbeat race, waiting in line was no biggie. People were giggly and jokey and dressed up in absurd costumes that seemed utterly incompatible with running 13.1 miles.

But I digress.

That Coppola entry shot was taken mid-day on Sunday – the day after the race – when the bf and I decided to run the course again – yes I said “again” – in order to take in the beauty of this course. The first time around, I missed it.

Indeed, it was a beautiful course. And as a destination, it was a perfect weekend. But as for the race itself?  I honestly don’t know why people make such a big deal about scenic courses. Seriously, who has time to look around during a race? Maybe a glance here and there, but not with any meaning. And certainly not with a camera to take pictures. I was focused on the road ahead of me and preparing for the next up, down or heavily cambered shoulder. Scenery, schmenery.

Truth: We didn’t run the whole course. We drove five miles in and ran the prettiest section – five miles out and back. The bf had already run the last 3 miles of the course (they were sucky miles btw) the morning of the race, so although he didn’t race the HM, at this point he has run (or driven) the entire course. This fact will become important later on.

Here’s my Garmin map showing where all our race went. (Just for funsies, you should hit the “player” button when you have a minute).

OK, so re-running the course begins.

This right turn is about a mile into the race, and right before the two most serious hills. And right before we got out of the car and started running our post-race do-over. Feel free to ignore the cyclist in offensive leopard-wear, not sure how she made in the shot 😉 .

I forgot to note the temperature. Some will be jealous, others will bristle at the thought of running (or being outside) in heat like this. People, it was not hot. The day can only be described as one with “non-weather.” It was neither hot nor cold. And completely still.

A true California Indian Summer:

Another right turn to enter the Wine Zone (prepare for beauty):

The sign reads, “Narrow and winding road next four miles” and that’s exactly what it was. There were lots of rented bikes on the road, ridden by shakey cyclists (many of them, including children, without helmets):

The real scenery kicks off with this tributary to the Russian River. yikes. ooh. ouch. Painfully pretty, right? During the race, I remember seeing some dude in front of me while crossing the bridge. He was admiring the view, and I was thinking, “where does he get the energy to turn his head like that?”:

Now we’re getting somewhere. We have entered the long stretch-o-vineyards:

Not a half bad place to take a little stretch. Our soon-to-be Arizona Ironman is entering his taper with a vengeance. His body is craving rest:

I am really (ahem) displeased with the color of my shoes (below). Maybe it’s the size (11.5), but more than anything it’s the color. But they feel really good and I am positive their smaller predecessors contributed to my plantar fasciitis problems that resurfaced. I don’t love this photo of myself either, but this author needs some evidence of having been there.

Note the lack of hat, which is very unusual for me. There is a reason. Hat head! We had a full day of wine-country touring ahead of us and from that I had a firm goal of coming away with a hatless Facebook profile photo (I’m always in running clothes it seems!). I succeeded (see Facebook for details).

the bf could have told me my shorts were crookedy before taking the pic. Just sayin'

Now starts a sequence of ups and downs I tried to get on film, while still showing the surrounding beauty. Let’s see how I did. It was in this stretch that the wineries were offering tastings to the runners. I saw one table of wine-filled dixie cups, but opted out. Gu is hard enough to get/keep down.

Here come the hills (well, rollie pollies. But as the bf said afterward, these rollers and extreme camber made for a PUNISHING course).



Severe right-sloping camber:

House nestled in vineyard:


Back to the terrain.

Winding road up/down:



I stood in the vineyard for these next pics (did I mention that I let the bf go at mile-3 and then meandered for mile 4 while he ran another mile out and back? No? Well, that’s what we did. I ran 8 with two miles of photography and meandering, he ran a solid 10):

Peaking over vineyard:

Face in vineyard:

I liked this scraggly tree. Did I mention that I never saw a living sole in any of these structures or vineyards? Kind of spooky in a way.

After the run, the bf and I were beat. At this point he had run (or driven) the entire course and he had a solid feel for what it was like. It was a “punishing” course, he said, and I totally agree. Beautiful (when you run it slow the next day), but very challenging. And did I mention punishing?

Still, I’m happy with my run (1:48) By no means a PR (sub-1:46), but not too shabby (and faster than last March’s PR (1:49) by a minute, and that was a flat course). It was great training for CIM as well – that sucker is all rollie pollies for the first third of the race. Just like these (but without being forced to run on a crazily-cambered shoulder).

Now for the fun. Eating and drinking:

We stopped at the General Store on Dry Creek road – known for it’s amazing sandwiches. We didn’t get a sandwich, but we grabbed some cheese and this amazing cilantro hummus and a baguette. And water. And a six pack of beer? Not sure why we got a six-pack, but we had a cooler for all the leftovers, so it all worked out.

We tried to eat light because ultimately we were planning on coming full circle and landing back at the Coppola Winery where “it” all started. We succeeded in doing that, but I was too full from the snacks to eat again (the bf, however, managed a bowl of home made potato chips and an entire pizza by himself).

We had heard the Coppola winery has a spectacular view of the vineyards from its patio seating and we were really looking forward to that as the topper to our weekend.

Um, can I just say the vineyard was not exactly as advertised? Somebody forgot to mention the wire fence and parking lot part of “overlooking the vineyards.”

View or no view, we always have fun together:

This place is kind of a Disneyland experience (includes a museum with Coppola relics). But this pool was kind of neat actually. People come here just to spend the day at the pool and to enjoy the sun. Lots of families (several lifeguards on hand) and lots of people just enjoying cocktails from the lounge chair. There was even a teepee with a book cart for parents to take their kiddies for an afternoon nap.

We almost wrote it off the whole thing as hokey, but a young lady sitting next to us went on and on about how much she and her boyfriend love it, so we were sold (and of course I confirmed her story with several ladies in the bathroom). Maybe next year we’ll come for a swim. Regardless, it looks like something fun for young families to check out.

The Coppola Winery Pièce de résistance:

Another great weekend in the bank.

The End.


ps. Happy Halloween

Costume Photos compliments of (stolen from) the Healdsburg Half Marathon’s Facebook page. The race logistics were such that I didn’t have a phone or camera at the finish and wasn’t able to photograph the wine tasting (yes, we were all sipping on wine by 10am) and the costumes (hello Halloween!)

Not sure. Zebras?:

Wonder women:

Vikings (I was really annoyed when one of these dudes passed me):

The obligatory tutu costume:

And what Halloween event would be complete without Men in Drag:


Jailbreak! Another Amanda-inspired race report

Nothing in the race department last weekend (7/30-31) to report so I’m going to trip backwards and recap a 10K from 2 weeks ago.

I opted for the Jailbreak 10K over the 5K distance against my better judgement. My better judgement I was going against was the little voice inside my head which was telling me to do the 5K because it’s flat and fast and the 10K has a gnarly hill – long, steep hills are not my strong suit and hence the course was not PR-friendly.

Also, last year I ran my fastest 5K (22:19) at Jailbreak (so-called because we run around the Santa Rita prison), so in keeping with my PR goals, I should really have stuck with the 5K option. But alas, last year I was better trained in speed and I had only begun my track workouts in June and they haven’t been the super speedy stuff. Also, I felt that the hilly 10K would be good prep for the more imporant Wharf to Wharf race the following weekend. So I put in for the 10K.

While both races start together, after mile-one the (lucky) 5Kers peel off down a (flat or even slightly sloping) street while we (masochistic) 10Kers head up this monster 1-mile hill that turns around at the water tower (that would be the teeny weeny white building beneath the arrow).

The 10K hill is the same hill you must master to join the SWAT Team. I beat all the SWAT dudes up the hill and across the finish line. Just sayin' 😉

This is the hill we “ran” up. Sucker kicked my butt, although I ran with several people who managed it quite well. They were able to get back on their 10K pace after reaching the top. I was not.  Don’t believe me? Here’ s proof:

Jailbreak 10K Garmin Connect

The stretch after the hill wasn’t all that flat either, which was pretty punishing.

But! All in all it was a good workout, and since I had a hilly 10K the following weekend (Wharf to Wharf) I was happy for the training opportunity. And I managed to secure a 3rd place AG ribbon (bumped up from 4th) once the bad asses in my age group got bumped up to trophy status (fastest Master – they are the ones holding the big trophies). Everyone from my club who raced that day walked away with hardware, which seemed like a benevolent act on the part of the trophy gods. I wouldn’t want to be the only one in the group going home empty handed, and I was darned close to that happening.

Where I’m at now: I have the Fast and Furious 5K this weekend – it’s an all day event put on by members of my club. It starts with a few running races, including the 5K, and ends with a bunch of criteriums (cycling circuit races). I am doing a 6-hour volunteer stint on the bike race crew after I race so I will be fulfilling my volunteer hours. phew.

And, I think, I am going to do only one more 5K after Fast and Furious before switching over to marathon training, which technically was supposed to start this week. I am having a lot of fun with the 5Ks and 10Ks – doing all of these races is something I’ve never done before and it’s made for an exciting summer. Usually I do maybe one, or max two (and very often none), formal running events per year. Yes, I am known to do tons of informal events, like weekend Hashing. I love group running events. But signing up and consistently racing in formal events on weekends is brand new to me. Placing in my AG is definitely new to me since last summer.

Lastly, so far there has been zero evidence of the speedwork I’ve done for the past 8 weeks so I need to finally do a 5k or two to see if I’ve made progress. I enjoy 5Ks so I am looking forward to testing my mettle this weekend.

Extra-Lastly, I did some spectating last weekend at the inaugural California International Triathlon. My honey knocked out the Olympic distance while I sat on my butt and drank coffee and read Clash of Kings – the second in the Game of Thrones series. Unfortunatley I’ve had to put CoK aside temporarily to read my Advanced Marathoning book/program in order to figure out what the heck I’m doing. sigh. Waiting for a breath of inspiration.

my boyfriend's hot.


Wharf to Wharf Santa Cruz 2011 – race report

Wharf to Wharf in Santa Cruz – they call it “the best little roadrace in California” and I have to say, I kind of agree.

So fun!

And I am talking about the course itself. It’s like a rollercoaster ride with the twists and turns, and ups and downs. Motoring up the winding hills, and then flying down the backside with arms in the air, all “Wheeeeeeeee!”.

Up and down, all the while hugging California’s stunning coastline. Here’s my Garmin link with elevation, map and other details about Sunday’s race. And below is the cartoon “map” provided by the race directors.

Click the image to see enlarged, cartoon, vague, unspecific map that does nothing but show you how fun Santa Cruz is. Elevation gains? What elevation gains. Wharf to Wharf is the quintessential quirky California event.

It’s unusual to look back on a race – which was in fact painful because I ran hard – and have a memory of pure glee. But that’s exactly how I would describe the aftermath of my first Wharf to Wharf: unadulterated glee.

Of course the atmosphere is festive, what with 15,000 registered runners and god knows how many bandits. Throngs of happy (and sometimes hippy) runners certainly helps make the fun aspect more memorable than the pain.

Then there are the 40-some-odd bands and musicians along the way … the first tune I remember hearing was a solo artist playing the theme song from The Flintstones on his sax. Beyond that it was a mix of everything from pop to bagpipes to Led Zeppelin.

One band near the end was offering free donuts to anyone who flashed  – I had actually expected more of that kind of nonsense since I know this is a big event for the Hash House Harriers who like to run in costume just as much as they like to take off that costume and bare all.

Speaking of costumes, there were lots  – although I didn’t run anywhere with or near the costumed ones because they tend to play somewhere in the middle or back of the 15k-strong pack, and we had aggressively pushed a few people deep from the start line. But here’s a good example of Wharf to Wharf color that I grabbed from the internet.

I wish I had more photos to tell the tale of the day, but neither the BF nor I carried a phone. And being an A to B run, we had to get transportation back to the start where our cars (and camera phones) were. (I’ve already resorted to stealing some stuff off the internet to help illustrate).


Back to the beginning:

Parking was tricky. It helped that we stayed with a friend who lives locally and helped guide us by cell phone to avoid the crazy traffic funneling into downtown Santa Cruz (Thanks Charlotte! xoxo!)

We found a parking lot that made us a tad uncomfortable since our car was loaded with overnight gear, in addition to two laptops, phones, and wallets. Leaving that parking lot, we easily found some street parking that was only 1/4 mile from start area. The traffic on highway 1 was crazy – I don’t know where all those people parked, but the area where we were was wide open. We’ll be heading straight there next year.

We parked on the street beneath this wall. Gotta love Santa Cruz - where else are you going to find a spooky house with turrets and a door-to-nowhere.

In addition to not running anywhere near the costumed ones, I was also nowhere near the winners who hail from places like Kenya, Nairobi and Ghana and run at lightening speed.

Yes, this fun little event attracts some of the fastest runners, from the fastest regions of the world. And the purse ain’t that grand. Wharf winners get $3,000, whereas they get $7,000 at Bay to Breakers with the promise of another $30,000 in bonus checks for winning primes within the race.

It appears these elites come because of Wharf to Wharf’s reputation. Yet another part of what makes it such a stupendous event.

Kenya's Simon Cheprot won the 37th annual Wharf to Wharf in 2009, in a time of 27 minutes, 6 seconds.

One small detail I missed about this race: It’s only 6 miles! It’s not the “10K
it is frequently billed to be. There is a .2 mile difference between those distances, which is significant when you translate my 7:38 minute/mile pace and realize that comes out to a couple of minutes.

There is a final, fast downhill that leads directly to the finish line, and suddenly I was blazing down it. I knew that is how it would end – in a ball of fury on a fast downhill. I just didn’t realize it would come so soon.

this race has a balls out fast finish.

Being a highly astute near-professional when it comes to stopping my Garmin (unlike certain people who shall remain nameless), I stopped my watch as soon as I realized I had crossed the finish line (as indicated by the announcer, massive balloon banner, timing mats and wall of photographers).

The difference between what my watch read and what Wharf chip-timed me at (45:45) was four seconds. Their time was faster so I’ll take it!

We made the unfortunate mistake of trying to have lunch in Capitola, where the race ends. The wait was so long that we missed the shuttle buses back to the start. I definitely recommend hopping one of Wharf’s many shuttle buses back to downtown Santa Cruz and getting your food and drink on there. It took 2+ hours to get seated at Zelda’s on the beach. Normally we like it at Zelda’s, but the crowds got the best of them on Wharf to Wharf Sunday.

(Sidenote: Our new favorite spot for easy beachside eats is Zelda’s sister restaurant, The Ideal Bar and Grill near the boardwalk in Santa Cruz (let’s just say we ate a lot of ceviche this weekend!). I’m sure we could get more adventurous and roam the streets of Santa Cruz for more unique eateries, but our goal is to keep it simple: stay as near to the sand, water and $$budget as possible!)

Lucky for us and our local friends, having missed all the shuttles by the time we finished lunch, we were a only phone call away from being stranded. Thanks to Tom for pausing the Giants game and taxiing us from Capitola to downtown Santa Cruz, which was beyond thick with Sunday beach traffic thanks to the Wharf race.

Do we look at all wilted with hunger? We had cleaned out the goody bags of energy bars and nuts at this point and had started moving on to Bloody Mary’s

Wharf to Wharf reminded me a bit of the childbirth experience. With childbirth, they say you eventually forget the pain so you can do it again. But with childbirth, that effect took a long time for me – it was three years before I had my second kid.

With Wharf to Wharf, the mental repair happened the instant I crossed the finish line. I was elated and eager to go again as soon as I was done. Next year!

Have I mentioned this “best little roadrace in California” is a mere $35 to enter? It’s a poor man’s gala ball.

You have to be on your toes to get your registration in fast, but come the third weekend in July, you’ll be glad you did.


Winners and losers: July 4th 10K race report and a little home improvement

Just a quickie race recap for my July 4th 10K.

Thanks to the Garmin online thing, which I only recently started using, I don’t really even need to do a recap, now do I? I’ve just been using Garmin’s (ugly) Training Center app all this time. But thanks to Facebook and everyone posting their Garmin links there, I finally caught onto Garmin online. You can unlock certain workouts and post them, like this: Here are my July 4th 10K map and splits. Cool eh,?

Unfortunately, though, my time was a minute slower than my 10K time from a week ago 😦 June 26th map and splits

Anyway, I didn’t have a stupendous day. Do I ever? I am the biggest post-event complainer ever. But still.

The first quarter mile my legs felt wobbly. Not slow or sore, but wobbly … get me? Like I just did squats kind of wobbly. At the same time, the start of the race is a gradual climb. Nothing steep, but the kind of grade that can add 30 seconds per mile to your pace. Kind of fatiguing too. Also, the Garmin was having trouble registering due to high trees to our left, and per the start of any race, it was hard to settle into a pace while ignoring all of those folks who sprint the first mile before blowing up.

From the outset, I could tell the boyfriend was feeling better at the 7:30-7:40ish (goal) pace than I was – it became obvious when he dove for the first water table – it was quite hot by the 8:15am start time – and dumped a dixie cup on his head. I know when the thought of doing anything extra, anything beyond moving my body forward, is an effort, I don’t have a lot more to put out.

So he was my rabbit that day. Or my discouragement, depending on perspective (races are awesome that way). Probably the latter because I couldn’t stay with him so he was a constant reminder of how fast I was not running.

Our race was two laps of the 5K, and I typically have my worst leg at mile four, right after the 5K (3.1m) mark. That’s typical, and adding to that, this is where that uphill grade was. The boyfriend was about 20 seconds ahead of me at that point, but he sped up and I slowed down so that gap simply got bigger and bigger (until he BBQ’d me with a time that was a minute and a half faster than mine)(I’m not competitive at all!).

On the upside, I passed someone on the second lap, which is motivating. But I also knew this was because she was slowing down and not because I was speeding up. I could feel that I was just hanging on to maintain, or not further slow down, my pace. I just wasn’t feeling like I could increase it again.

Laps 4&5 were nearly an 8mm pace (boo!) although I did end up speeding up on the last mile and did a 7:45mm pace (it’s all there in the Garmin link when you click “splits”).

What that tells me is that I started out too fast – either for my fitness, but more likely, I believe, for what I was feeling that day.  I think I had a couple of things going on. I think my legs were fatigued – possibly between the racing every weekend plus mid-week track workouts, I was over-trained.

The other issue, I believe negatively affected me, was that I did the foam roller about two hours before the race. This is something I’ve been experimenting with (pre-run foam rolling), but I’ve come to the conclusion that a pre-run foam roll isn’t for me. For me, the foam roller is going back to a recovery tool rather than a warm up tool because it makes me feel wobbly, like I’ve just done weights.

And the lady I passed? She passed me just before turning the corner to the finish. boo. And she is 60! (boo)

I think it’s fair to say that I was sporting the disposition of a sore loser that day (I mentioned I’m kind of competitive, right?) So rather than doing my usual routine of sticking around for results, I fell into a state of licking my wounds and didn’t feel motivated to stay. Neither did the bf, so we left and did a couple of errands so we could get back to our favorite task … rehabbing my floors. (boo).

I smile because I’m tickled by the new 26.2 emblem the bf got (and installed) on my car.

But really I’m crying inside because we are about to go into an Orchard Hardware Supply where we get treated like this by people who hate their jobs …

… if I never, ever, ever, never have to go in one of these do-it-yourself-places again for as long as I live, that will be too soon. As a do-it-yourselfer, I kind of stink.

Me, hard at “work” painting when nobody’s looking  …

Oops. Somehow I managed to win my age group so had I stayed, I would have gotten a ribbon – and I would have been able to scratch that goal off my list! (to win my age group in a decent-sized race this year).But I didn’t. I left and got nuthin. Next time 😉

The boyfriend BBQ’d me in that race, but rightfully so. He got a 5th place in his (very competitive) 40-44 age group, and, I suspect, could have gone faster than what he did. Next time!  For that (and the fact that he’s working his butt off on my house) he gets a much deserved dinner of boiled shrimp, portabella mushrooms stuffed w/spinach and goat cheese, and a glass of wine.

In other milestone news: I reached the 100-mile mark on our Wednesday runs. I think it took me a couple of months, which includes a few double-mile days due to rain and/or heat.

Next level: 500 miles … not sure what the next race is …


Skipping, Grapevining and Butt-Kicking: Track workouts Part II

I wish it could be summer all the time. I love, love, love summer. It’s making getting up at 5am no-biggie. Anytime I can leave my house to run in a sleeveless top, I am in my happy place.

6am and sleeveless

I went to the track yesterday for an easy 3-mile recovery run just to keep it consistent. It would have been easy to sleep in since I had raced a 10K the day before (July 4th), and the training therefore schedule dictated that I skip this week’s speed work. But getting up and working out doesn’t come easily to me, so better that I kept with the program than start making excuses already about how I can skip. It’s nice now and easy-ish to get up, but winter is coming (Game of Thrones reference for fellow fans).

Once you get to the track, there’s no time be a sleepy head. You put your water bottle down and warm up for a mile or two …

summer storm setting in

Then come the drills, also known as dynamic stretching. These drills are not your Mama’s old school warmups – they are part of the modern approach to preparing your body for a workout.

Not only do drills get your blood moving and ready for a hard workout, they limber you up in this sneaky sort of way. The idea is to get the blood flowing and then to increase the range of motion of muscles and lubricate joints. I posted videos below for how to do these if anybody is interested. In the meantime, here’s some still life with dynamic stretches.

First you have your “Skips”, which I would personally have named “Skip to My Lous” because that’s pretty much what you do … you skip down the road with alternating happy arms …

These get my heart and blood moving.

"skips" (these make me giggle)

Then you have your “Karoake”, which is my favorite, probably because I have had some good times doing the other Karoake (I Will Survive was a personal favorite when we ladies took our turn). Some people call these “Crossovers” although I personally would have named them “Grape Vines” … but nobody asked me.

I feel Karoake’s in my hips and IT bands.

Karoake's require concentration - these draw on the same skills as rubbing your tummy while patting your head.

Face the same way out and back to loosen up both sides

Lastly on our list of drills come “Butt Kicks”. These are the least giggle-inducing, but they also get my heart-rate up the most.

I feel these in my quads.

do butt kicks make you kick butt?

I see my kid and his running team doing these drills before all of their cross country and track races – it’s all they know so they just do their drills without thinking about it. To these teens, these drills come as naturally as brushing their teeth.

In the real world (of adults who were raised on static stretching and bouncy toe-touches), dynamic stretching drills are far less common. I would even argue, still relatively uncommon.  So be warned: If you’re not used to doing dynamic stretch drills before a race, it makes you feel pretty dorky … and like a teen-track-star wannabe … especially when so many runners like to spend their last 30 minutes before the race lined up in the starting corral, doing nothing but saving their spot and watching other runners warm up. To the untrained eye, skipping and grapevining up and down the warm-up zone looks anything but bad-ass.

I’m still waiting to feel the benefits of track workouts and dynamic stretching kick in. At four weeks in, it’s still new to me. In fact, I ran Monday’s race a minute slower than my last one, although I got first in my age group. I’m still processing what that means.

In the meantime, I can say I’m already loving the sunrise bonus I’m rewarded with for getting up at the crack-of-jack.





6am Track workouts Pt I

I have some far flung running friends who live in snow, and so they run in snow. They dress all snow-appropriate and they hit it without complaining – even if they finish their runs looking just a little bit like Frosty the Snoman. 

"ice lashes" = hard core

In contrast, when I go to the snow, like when I visit my mom in the mountains, I – the pampered Californian – drive to the gym, walk through the snow … and run on a treadmill … indoors.


Taking this morning-runner badnessness to the extreme, one of these friends (ice-lash girl pictured above) gets up at 5:30am(!!) to get her (ahem!) 10-miler out of the way before the kids get up. Now THAT’s hard-core. She and her running buddies hit it – snow or shine, icey roads or dry. It’s really very impressive.

 Me? Well, my happy place is 5-8pm, when it looks more like this …

California beach run - Super Bowl weekend (February).

Ice-lash girl has woken the giant!

Not to be outdone, earlier this year I made a commitment to get up at 5:30 and run – once. Truth be told, I also needed to start track workouts for marathon training, and those tend to happen at 6am, when the highschool kids are off the track, which means getting up at 5:30am, which means doing track workouts will fulfill this commitment. Track workouts AND met my challenge … I love it when I get a twofer!

In fact, I’ve more than met my challenge. I’ve done three 6am trackworkouts so far, and I’m (currently) loving the early morning workouts. Well, I love them once I get going. Remember how I mentioned my happy place is 5-8pm? Early mornings are taking some getting used to …

blinded by the kitchen light

But after a few sips of coffee, I start to feel a spring in my step and I look more like this …

eyes opened wide enough to see the road

I am amazed at how energizing this new workout routine has been. At the same time, old habits die hard and I am quite restless come 5pm. Apparently it’s not the lazy in me that has me running at such a late hour (when, truthfully, many people can’t peel themselves off the couch). I think for me, an end-of-day workout is really what my body and mind crave. It’s my after-work “pipe and slippers”.

I can’t say what will happen once winter rolls in. I’ve not tested my resolve on that one yet. But for this summer at least, as long as I’m doing these 6am track workouts, I believe there is going to be more of this …

leisurely stroll with the dog

Which leads to this …

happy dog

And, ultimately, that’s what’s all about right?


Next post: Track Workouts Part II


4th Sunday Run 10K: Race Report

There are these local races that I love doing. They happen once a month and they are dirt cheap and they are phenomenally well run. Can’t beat seven bucks for a flawlessly chip-timed 5K/10K event.

They also have lots of personality, and they lack the kind of flash that you would find at a typical race. Don’t get me wrong – people are very competitive with one another, especially because the regulars are vying for overall yearly standings in the series.

They just don’t look bling-y like this:

track star

They are more casual like this: (check out those legs!):


The 10K starts at the same time as the 5K, but a bit behind. This is how they get the 5Ks and 10K courses to end exactly where they are supposed to – 3.1 and 6.2 miles. Like I said, I think these guys are stellar in how well they run these little races. The only downside to the 10K is that we have to burst through the 5K masses, which includes the usual combo of serious runners (toeing the line) and walkers (backpack).

The start was literally like running into a wall. No biggie because the herd thinned quickly.

And we get a Tour de Lake – once or twice around, depending if you are a 5Ker or 10Ker.

As kids we used to live in fear of falling in this lake. There were all kinds of rumors about the filth that lurked within. I remember being traumatized when my dad has us take sailing lessons on the lake – I was petrified of capsizing and touching the infamously gross lake bottom. I am alive to tell the tale today – clearly my boat didn’t tip.

The lake appears much cleaner today than it was back in the day. And the sailing and rowing are still popular activities, so it can’t be too toxic. Honestly, it’s super pretty to look at, all nestled in the city scape, and a very pleasant place to run.

See? The lake is a super popular jogging location. Some people do their marathon long runs here – 3ish miles per lap, which can translate to 7+ laps for some folks.

Behold the chute w/chip timing pad: It is a humble little race, but the system is really something to admire when I think about some of the shenanigans I’ve encountered in my lifetime. I used to get asked to “pick numbers” at the end of bike races. I swear, I’d just write down whatever numbers came to mind sometimes (ssshhhh – our little secret).

I dragged my son out of bed to run with me. He pretty much looks at me all the time like this these days, especially when he’s hungry and tired (like when he gets dragged out of bed, runs 3 miles and then has to wait for his mum to get her ribbon before going to get breakfast).

I was happy with my 2nd place Age Group (F40-49)  and 2nd place overall (women) finish. And I got a 2-second PR of 47:38. Although I’d be a lot happier if there wasn’t a gaping 2:30-minute hole between the first place female (45:04)(also my age group)(sigh) and me.

Not too shabby for a casual little morning, haw?


I love my Garmin

I love my Garmin. It’s my most reliable running partner. When nobody else will run with me, which happens a lot since I run six days a week, I always have my Garmin.

like this

If I’m feeling competitive, I can race against the little man (aka “virtual running partner“) in my watch.Or, if I want to hit particular mileage, I can turn around exactly when my watch trips the .00 – like say the “2.00” mile mark. This is also to say my watch will trip exactly 4.00 when I reach home – this is very important. If I am over my goal at the end of a run, like if I hit 4.01, I have to do a whole nother mile. That’s not OCD, right?

The times my Garmin comes in handiest is when I’m a stranger in a strange land. Like, say, when I’m on vacation and I don’t know my surroundings. These are times when it’s really hard to get my run on. Vacation-Translation:  I just want to flop on my queen-sized bed, order room service and watch pay per view for a solid week. It’s easy to just shrug and give up. “I don’t know where to run, oh well. Pass the potato chips.”

That was the scenario a couple of weeks ago when I stayed in a hotel in San Jose with the boyfriend who was racing his triathlon the next morning.

We got to the hotel around 5pm and I really didn’t feel like running. The day had been hectic, with a lot of physical labor like loading up the parents’ truck with wood. I guess the boyfriend (who was racing the next morning) helped a little too.

After loading up that wood and traveling (read: driving 35 minutes) to San Jose, you can imagine how exhausted we were. The room was inviting, and there was even a special Holiday Inn VIP kit waiting for him. The hotel was packed with triathletes running the Silicon Valley International Triathlon the next morning.

Surely this goody bag would be packed with treats to help fuel a highly-tuned body for a swim, bike, run right?

Not so much

VIP bags, pay per view and comfy beds aside, I had to run. The next day was to be spent watching the race (read: sitting on my butt) and I didn’t anticipate getting a run in. After (reluctantly and grumpily) peeling myself off the bed, I fired up my Garmin and headed out the door, looking right  and then left as I tried to decide which would get me farther without reaching a turnaround. It’s hard to muscle out an extra couple of miles when I’ve prematurely reached a turnaround, and I wanted to run five or six.

We were in the outlying foothills of San Jose, so there was actually a lot of open space (and of course bedroom communities, per the ever-expanding Bay Area). Lucky me, I found a little trail that paralleled the main road. As a woman I’m cautious about trails because you never know if creeps are lurking, and I wasn’t familiar with the area. The fact that I could see the road from the trail was a nice compromise between nature and not-too-secluded.

But then the trail took a turn away from the road and it was feeling too remote, and well, a little rapey to me. I texted this to the boyfriend, “found a nice trail, I hope there are no rapists” just so he’d know where I was. He was not amused. Hey, what can  I say? These are things I think about as a woman.

road is up the hill to my left

As soon as I rounded the first corner, I found families with babies and strollers walking the path, so I knew I was in OK company. Phew – my little trail was was family friendly after all! I forged ahead. One family of three approached me excitedly to warn me that there was a snake ahead! I did my best to react scared and cautious, but in truth I was racing to the spot where the snake had been because I wanted to see it (and, of course, photograph it).

All I found was one of theses stupid wild turkeys. Benign. Boring. Bugger.

Five minutes later, the Garmin’s handiness really kicked in: My little trail ended, dumping me in a quiet bedroom community. When I hit the cul de sac ending the bedroom community section, I would normally have turned back. It felt “turnaroundish”, leaving me to meander around in an effort to tack on miles.

Jackpot! I spied a gate up ahead. And beyond the gate was a whole lot of open space, and infinity miles of path. And on my wrist was a Garmin ticking away the miles, telling me when I should turn around to get six miles in.

And what goes with NorCal open space? Cows!

And rusty, vintage farming equipment!

Seriously, this is somebody’s back yard.

OK, here’s the reality. Off to my right was freeway … and a power plant.  I guess as the third-largest city in California, and the tenth-largest city in the U.S., and the seat of Silicon Valley and all its high-tech wonders, San Jose has to serve up its power hungry population of one million somehow.

It turned out to be a great run. There was enough time to get my endorphins and earn some dinner calories. Most importantly,  it would help me endure a day of sloth-like spectating the next day without feeling too guilty about not exercising. Well, maybe still a little bit unpleasant, but not too bad.


Silicon Valley Triathlon Race Report: a newbie spectator’s point of view

A runner’s burden can be summed up in a few (20) simple words: “I run because all I need is a good pair of shoes, a good sports bra and a good attitude.” (stolen from See Jane Run’s Facebook page 6/20/11).

When it comes to triathletes, the “needs” list is much longer. We runners have it easy compared with the swim, bike, run crowd.

Today’s post is therefore a tip of the hat to my triathlete brethren and sistren, who have to juggle a whole lot more, on any given day, than runners like me.

Backing up a minute, I have a little confession to make. I have had a long-held prejudice against triathletes, also known (in my mind’s eye) as Tri-Geeks. It’s the purist in me talking: I have always leaned toward the art of mastering, and dressing the part of, a single sport.

speedo wearing triathlete

That bias goes way back to the 80s when I raced bikes competitively – back when I was a bike-racing-snob, and I felt like triathletes broke all the cycling-world
rules: They raced in their bathing suits, wore sleeveless bike jerseys on training rides and their a squirrelly bike handling skills turned our group training rides into a butt-cheek-clenching adventure. Aero bars + no drafting allowed in triathlons = not confident riding in a pack.

They rode the most expensive bikes, but could never fix them themselves, and they talked (even more) obsessively (than bike racers) about what they ate. I remember coming to blows at the grocery story with one particularly anal triathlete over the amount of fat in Tofu! He had banned it from his diet and insisted we all do the same. (Another post for another day: It turns out fat is good for you.)

Fast forward to today: My boyfriend is a Tri-Geek, and I now count many of his type among my closest friends. More importantly, I went to my first triathlon last weekend and not only enjoyed myself thoroughly (rare as I am not a spectator at heart), I am, in a word, amazed by what goes into preparing for this event.

Behold – the crap load of stuff a triathlete brings to his race:

And, what the runner packs:

Following is my Silicon Valley International Triathlon Race Report, as told by me, a single-sport-snob-turned-triathlon-spectator-fan. I’ll never do a triathlon, because I very famously “don’t” swim, but it was fun to watch. The object of my spectating, of course, is my M40-44 boyfriend who did a bang up job when he placed 22 in his age group in his race a week ago.


Check out the body-marking area where volunteers sharpie the competitors’ race number and age on their hands, arms and legs. Words cannot describe how jealous I am over the sharpie thing. I wish they would mark us up  in running races so I’d know how old somebody is when I pass, or get passed. It really only matters if we are in the same age group. But again, that’s a blog for another day.


The transition area: Orderly Chaos. This scene reminds me of camping, and gave me a visceral reaction because I associate with never being able to find my stuff. This would make me lose my mind.


First leg of the swim, bike run event is the swim. The folks racing this Olympic distance have a 1.25K Swim, 40K Bike and a 10K Run ahead of them. Have you ever put on a wet suit? It’s a lot of work. It’s even more work when you’re feeling jittery due to pre-race nerves.


Reason #1 why I don’t swim, and hence don’t do triathlons. I don’t like to get wet. Especially when it’s cold. Especially when it’s cold and cloudy. And 7am.


As glad as I was to be a (dry) spectator, the swim start was my favorite to watch. I love how the swim caps are color-coded according to age group. The dark green caps in the water belong to the men’s age 40-49 category, while the white caps on the beach represent M50-59. Green caps are in the water waiting for the gun, white caps go next. The purple caps are, I believe, women ages 20-29.


Even better – when they start swimming. All you see from the beach is arms beating the surface of the water. It looks elegant, almost like fish frolicking, no? It’s hard to believe they are kicking each other in the face with their feet as they competitively maneuver to find the fastest line around the buoys (floating orange and yellow triangles).


Out of the water. Remember my remark above about how hard it is to put on a wet suit, especially when you have pre-race jitters? I can only imagine how hard it is to rip this sucker off, while running to the transition area, and after swimming a mile.


I’ll bet it’s also fun to run in cold, wet, sandy feet.


I love the variety. I love how everything is labeled and how the process is enforced to a T. You cannot get on your bike until you reach the “mount” sign on the ground.


As a spectator, there is a long wait for the bike leg. The swim was only 30ish minutes, but the bike was 1:10hrs for my guy. Left to my own devices, I entertained myself.

And for my entertainment, the finish line deflated. tee hee.


Not only are there rules for when you mount & dismount your bike, there’s an art to it. I don’t have a photo showing it, but there is a line that you have to cross before your feet hit the ground and run to the next transition (the run). The more experienced racers, like this fella, exit their shoes well ahead of that line, and hit the ground without missing a beat. It’s really something to watch.

Confession: If there was one little, teeny, weeny thing that attracts me to this sport, it would be mastering this technique.


Where’s Waldo? I stood here for what felt like an eternity trying to figure out if my triathlete had left without me noticing. Can you see him in the transition area changing from his cycling cleats to running shoes? Me either.


He finally emerged. And ran.


With another 45ish minutes to kill, I moseyed over to the finish line and checked out the sights along the way.

Post-triathlon food is way more la-dee-da than post-running “food”. Runners get a bottle of water, day-old bagel quarters, cut up bananas and maybe some broken off energy bar chunks. Look what they get! Strawberries beautifully presented in a cup(!), fresh burritos, chips and fresh-cut salsa. There’s even a coffee bar.


Given my adopted (Caribbean) country that invented steel pan, of course I had to get some footage of these guys. I resisted my usual interrogation where I ask where they are from and they disappoint me by saying something like, “Berkeley” and have no idea about Carnival and Panorama.


Triathletes have nice legs, yes? My triathlete has one of those Ironman “M-Dot” tattoos on his leg, too … body art reserved for triathletes who have finished a full Ironman (3.85K (2.393 mile) swim, 180K (111.871 mile) bike ride, 42.195K (26.224 mile) run).


Image name: “Bike leaning on baby stroller.”

Significant because triathlons clearly attract the parent crowd, and as a result they have a very large contingent of thirty-something-year-old parents of young children. Very often it’s both parents involved in the sport. I can’t quite reconcile this trend in my mind since the fact that it encompasses three separate disciplines makes training that much more time consuming (= time away from the kiddies), but it’s definitely popular among people who own both bike and stroller.


Of course you know I think it’s great that people find a way for balance, and a way to manage parenting and sports. It is the healthy thing to do. I’m all for it (I must be all for it since I do it!)

But that doesn’t mean this next scene works for me. Nope, not my cup of tea. I know it’s a popular thing for triathletes to do – to run into the chute holding your toddlers’ hands. But my sphincter tightened watching this guy as I obsessed on the seconds he was losing while slowing down to run with his kids. But then again, I was never one to run with a jogging stroller either. That’s why they have treadmills for me (while they napped), and walking strollers for “us”. For me, parenting and sports (mine and theirs) are better when they are separate but equal.


Look at that form! Two hours and 35 minutes later. I was surprised because he had predicted 3:30 hours. Who does that? Who over-estimates their time by almost an hour? He did great.


Some similarities after all: Taking a page from the runner’s handbook, triathlons do serve beer after their events!


Finisher’s repose.

~~~ The End ~~~

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