Monday, December 04, 2006

The best, most painful day ever...

It all started a few months ago (I think it was August), when my friend Amanda, a fellow member of the San Francisco Road Runner Club (SFRRC), mentioned something about the California International Marathon. We had both just completed the super hilly San Francisco Marathon, and thought that the (mostly) downhill CIM would be a good choice. We talked each other into signing up for it, and then because of work and life commitments, didn’t see each other again until December 2nd when we drove up to Sacramento for the race.

We spent the majority of the ride up there talking race strategy and making plans for a possible Boston qualifying race this time next year. When we got to Sacramento, we picked up our race packets, and checked into the hotel. Shortly after that, we headed to a nice Italian restaurant to have dinner with the rest of the SFRRC members. We had some pretty decent ravioli (although not nearly as good as anything in SF...I’m turning into such a food snob!), and we chatted with Matt and John, who we had planned to run with since we were all going for a sub-4 marathon. Matt informed us that he had recruited Leslie to pace us from mile 15 on, which made us feel much more at ease.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. Much easier said than done. First of all, it was only 8:30, and second of all, I was incredibly nervous. I haven’t been nervous about any of the other races I’ve done this year, but I knew that I would REALLY have to push myself to make my goal on this particular race. I finally managed to fall asleep somewhere around 11:00, but I got woken up about ten times thanks to the car alarms that kept going off in the parking garage just across the way. I spent most of the night sleeping with a pillow on top of my head to drown them out!

Race morning:
I woke up at about 4:20am, feeling slightly rested, but mostly just wanting to go back to sleep. I quickly realized that more sleep was not an option, and started getting ready. I’ve mostly got the race-day clothing thing down to a science, but what I’m not used to is making oatmeal in a hotel room coffee maker. I made an absolute mess, but I managed to make some decent oatmeal, and was down in the lobby to meet everyone at 5am.

Matt, John, Julie, Amanda and I loaded the bus that would take us to the race start, and we tried to relax on the 45 minute ride there. It was only about 30 degrees when we got there, so Amanda and I stayed on the bus for a little longer to stay warm.

Amanda and me waiting on the bus

We finally lined up for the Port-A-Potties at about 6:25. We met Matt and John, lined up near the 4 hour pace leader, and before we knew it, we were off and running!

Me, Matt, John and Amanda just before the race start

The first 20 miles of the race went by really fast. Honestly, I remember VERY little, but here’s what I do remember:

Mile 3: There were a lot of people cheering in front of their houses, but one stuck out in particular. They had a dummy dressed in a sombrero and sarape sitting in a chair, and a huge, fake Afghan hound, complete with mechanical wagging tail, standing in front of the house. It was only three miles into the race, and we thought we were already delirious!

Mile 11: Matt still held the last of the disposable layers...we’d all worn cheap gloves and extra t-shirts that we could toss once we got warmed up, and most of them had been thrown to the side in the first 5 miles or so. Matt’s final layer was a pair of baggy running shorts worn over what he calls his “anatomical shorts” for modesty’s sake. By mile 11, they were getting to be annoying, but rather than stop and take them off quickly, he started ripping them off! Unfortunately, they didn’t come off as easily as he’d planned, and for awhile he looked like he was wearing a running skirt instead of shorts. We were all dying laughing by the time he managed to get them off all the way!

Mile 12: Amanda and I had to make a quick pit stop. It's hard to gauge how much to drink on a cold morning. The cold air dries out your throat, but you're not sweating as much, so it can work against you. I hate having to go to the bathroom during races, especially when there are lines, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go! Fortunately, the lines were fast, and we were back with Matt and John before we knew it.

Somewhere near mile 15: We got a huge kick out of the marching band at this water stop...just as we passed, they started playing the theme from “Rocky.” SOOO cheesy, but it totally pumped us up!

Mile 15: We could see Leslie standing by the mile marker, and we started waving and yelling her name. As soon as she saw us, she started jumping up and down and ran to meet us. Talk about a great boost! Nothing like some fresh legs and a fresh brain to bring some life back into our step with 11 miles to go!

Mile 17: Amanda and I pushed ahead a little bit, but Leslie and Matt caught up within a mile or so. At the same time, John fell back, and I was starting to feel tired. We stuck together a little bit longer, but then Amanda pulled ahead again, and I did my best to stick with Matt and Leslie.

Mile 20: This is the last really concrete thing that I can remember. When I saw the mile marker I said, “I see a big 2-0!” Leslie told us a hilarious story from her Boston qualifying race earlier in the year (which I unfortunately can’t tell, because what’s said on the course stays on the course!).

Miles 21-26.2: Leslie encouraged us, told jokes, made sure we kept good form, got us water, and told us we looked great, even though I’m sure we looked terrible. I sure felt terrible! I do vaguely remember pretty, tree-lined streets, although they all started looking the same after awhile. That was pretty much the entire course. Rolling hills, with lots of nice downhills, followed by a long, flat stretch. Matt and Leslie had pulled away, and I was on my own for the last mile and a half. This was absolute torture because I was feeling totally delirious, and we had come upon the numbered streets in Sacramento. I knew that the Capitol building was somewhere around 10th street, and we were at 30th Street. Ouch. I was dying to stop for a walk break, but I knew that I only had about 35 seconds in the bank, and that if I stopped to walk, I wouldn’t make my sub-4 goal. Somehow I managed to keep myself together, and as I turned the corner toward the finish line, I ran as hard as I could. When I saw 3:59:55 on the clock I knew it was in the bag. I crossed at 4:00:14, but thanks to my late start, I knew that I had made my goal.

Final time: 3:59:18!!!

I’m not the only one who has something to be proud of – SFRRC had an amazing showing at CIM – Lots of Boston Qualifiers (BQ) and even more Personal Records (PR)!

Joe Carboni – 3:06 BQ (PR)
Joe Henwood – 3:07 BQ (PR)
Chris Furgiule – 3:09 BQ (PR)
Kirk Hamlin – 3:14 BQ (PR)
Donna Lanasa – 3:24 BQ (PR)
Julie Hornung – 3:37 BQ (PR)
Gregory Alexander – 3:44
Joannie Loh – 3:50
Amanda Steindorf – 3:55(PR)
Matt Patchell – 3:58 (PR)
Emily Toy – 3:58 BQ (5th in age group)
Jenni Kirk – 3:59 (PR)
Ray Monahan – 4:07
John Kamola – 4:11 (PR)
Colette Weil – 5:00

I could barely walk after I crossed the finish line, but I managed to pull myself together to get some food, water and a post-race picture. Amanda and I stumbled back to the hotel to get cleaned up, and we headed back to San Francisco to rest. Can you believe that we’re already planning our next one??? Some serious training and some good club support, and we’ll be fast on our way to a Boston Qualifier. Watch out!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A paradox...

It was pouring rain when I got up at 5:30am to go for my 24-mile training run with my fellow SFRRC members. I knew it would be terrible, but of course I put on my warmest clothes, ate my oatmeal, and headed down to the Marina Green, hoping to see the others there. Much to my surprise, almost everyone had shown up!

Here's the paradox: If it had been a 10-mile run in the rain, we would have stayed home in bed and gone running later that day or the next. But because it was a 24-miler, we all got up and dragged ourselves down there, prepared to face the elements. The longer the run, the more likely we are to do it in the rain! How sick and twisted are we???

Fortunately, it only rained for the first 30 minutes or so, and it turned out to be a beautiful run over the Golden Gate Bridge and through Sausalito to Tiburon...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Treasure Island Recap

My First Triathlon
by Jenni Kirk

Fortunately, and thanks to several previous marathons and half marathons, I seem to have gotten that pre-race jitter thing out of my system. I slept really well on Friday night, and woke up at 4:30 on Saturday morning with no problem. I had spent about an hour and a half getting all of my stuff together the night before, so all I really had to do was get dressed and eat breakfast. I ate my massive bowl of oatmeal and quadruple checked my tri bag to make sure I had everything I needed, and then I headed over to my parents' hotel so we could drive to the race. My friend Katie, who was volunteering at the race, met us at the hotel, we loaded up my bike and drove out to Treasure Island.

If you've never been to Treasure Island, it's a trip. It's like the Twilight Zone – almost completely deserted, and covered in weird, ugly buildings that are on the verge of falling down. It used to be a naval base, but now it just looks like the scene of a horror film! The weirdest part is that it could be prime real estate – it's got great views of the city, but right now it's just home to some pretty sad-looking section 8 housing. Anyway...

It was DARK when we got there, and that's when I realized that the only thing I had forgotten was a flashlight to set up my transition area! Oops. But by the time I got to my spot, it was light enough for me to unpack my bag and set everything up. My dad got coffee, and I did my best to remember where I was supposed to put everything (I really must practice my transitions a little more often!). I got everything laid out, had some stranger body mark me – what a strange thing, to have some random person writing on you with permanent marker – and then I waited. You see, the first wave (men 29 and under) started at 7:15. My wave (women 29 and under and women 40 and older) didn't start until 8:45!!! So mom, dad and I went and watched the first four waves start before I even thought about putting on my wetsuit. Unfortunately, this did not do very well for my nerves! It was fun to watch though – some of the guys were insanely fast, and I did manage to see a couple of people who I knew, so that was cool.

Finally, it was time for me to get ready. I pulled on the wetsuit, slathered my neck with Body Glide, and headed to the starting corral. Have I mentioned that wetsuits are extremely sexy? Haha. Right. Anyway, I was happy to see my friend Katie near the start, and my parents were there as well. Much to my surprise, Dorette, the head coach of the Nike training program, tapped me on the shoulder and wished me good luck. She was there to support another friend of hers, but did her fair share of cheering for me as well, which was really nice! About five minutes before the start, they herded us down the ramp and into the water to warm up, or begin to freeze our asses off, whichever you prefer. Did I mention that the water was 60 degrees? Almost tropical! I did my best to try out my stroke and numb my face, and then I got ready for the countdown.

1500 meter Swim - 35:58
After the horn there was lots of kicking and floundering about, but I got into a groove just behind the pack. Somewhere about halfway through the first side of the first lap (we swam twice around a 750m triangle marked with buoys) I started to panic – it looks A LOT farther to the next buoy when you're in the water than it does when you're on land! It took me a few minutes to catch my breath and regain composure, but I kept swimming, and eventually got into a groove. I did a pretty decent job at sighting as far as I can tell...I checked every few strokes, and the buoy always seemed to be straight ahead, but I'd like to see a video to see just how on I was! I only had one run in with another swimmer. She obviously wasn't watching where she was going, and she swam right into me...I tried to get out of the way, but I kicked her a couple of times in the process. Oh well. That's what she gets for not watching where she's going! Once I made it around the last corner, I knew I was home free, which made for a nice, strong swim finish!

T1 - 2:39
A couple of guys helped me out of the water (I wish I knew who the one guy was because he was CUTE! And no, I wasn't actually checking him out when I was getting out of the water...I noticed him when I was watching the earlier waves!) and I ran up the stairs and to my bike, removing caps, goggles and wetsuit all at once. The wetsuit came off without any problems, and I did my best to put on my socks, shoes, shirt and helmet without wasting too much time. The socks were definitely the most difficult part because I couldn't really feel my hands or my feet, but once I got them on, it was all good. I grabbed my bike, and ran (rather awkwardly) to the bike exit...

40k (24.9 miles) Bike – 1:31:18
This was definitely my worst event of the three. I have a feeling a lot of it had to do with the course, and I'm still not all that comfortable making really quick or risky maneuvers on my bike, so this probably wasn't the best course for a bike debut. Treasure Island, in its lovely, crumbling state, is full of potholes. Fortunately, they were nice enough to mark them with red spray paint, but they were still a pain to get around sometimes. Also, since the bike course consisted of six loops of the island, there were LOTS of corners. By the fourth loop I was getting comfortable with going around the corners rather quickly...I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to that (and rightly so...the only people who fell off their bikes did it on sharp turns!). So anyway, the bike was rather uneventful. I just kept counting down until it was done. I was sniffling the entire time because of all the seawater that I had swallowed, and in true triathlete fashion, I blew my nose however I could...note to self, blow nose on swim to bike transition next time around. Triathletes are so gross, aren't we? I think my favorite part of the whole thing was the one hill on the course – that's where I passed everyone! The advantage to the loopy course was that I did get to see my mom and dad and Dorette several times throughout the bike ride. When I made it to the final loop, I was so excited to finally be done – my ass was cramping on the left side, and I kept having to stretch my hamstring, which is something that has never bothered me in the past. Oh well! I rode into the chute and unclipped my feet, and I was happy to see that Katie was directing everyone as they were coming back into the transition area. I said hi, got off my bike, and awkwardly ran back to my spot to change my shoes.

T2 – 1:39
This transition went MUCH more smoothly! I took off my helmet, pulled on my running shoes (with the elastic "cheater" laces as Dolly calls them), grabbed my race number and took off for the last time.

10k (6.2 miles) Run – 51:59
This was the most painfully awkward run I've ever done. My feet were actually still numb from the swim, so I felt like I was just shuffling along. It was a two loop out and back course, which was actually nice, because there were a lot of other people around even though there weren't too many spectators. I did my best to pick people off, but it was frustrating because the really good runners in the 30-39 age group kept blowing by me from behind! Oh, and did I mention that I had messed up my watch? I pretty much did this whole thing by feel. I had no idea how fast I was going – it felt like a 12 minute mile, but I knew it couldn't possibly be that slow. All I knew for sure was that I had started the run a little before 11:00. Much to my surprise, it turned out to be my fastest 10k to date! 8:23 miles! As I made it back for the final stretch, I was happy to see Dolly and Herb, who were nice enough to come out and watch the finish, Katie, my dad and my mom – It's so great to have people out there cheering for you!!!

Total time: 3:03:28
I know it's not spectacular, but I think it's pretty damn good for a first try! I'll definitely be doing this again, but I'm going to need to do a lot of training on the swim and the bike if I want to step it up a notch. I guess that's what the off season is for. I'm so lame...I'm happy with my time, but I keep thinking to myself that I could have done better. What I keep forgetting is that I just did a marathon two weeks ago! Of course I could have done better if I were fully rested and not still recovering! Duh.

This recap wouldn't be complete if I didn't fill you in on Sunday morning's events. As if I'm not a big enough glutton for punishment, I ran the US Half Marathon on Sunday morning. Since I'm doing CIM in a month, I needed to get in the extra miles, so my dad and I signed up for this half marathon. It was a beautiful course that ran from Fisherman's Wharf, through the Marina and Crissy Field, in the Presidio, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Absolutely gorgeous, and it covered most of my favorite running spots in San Francisco. It was nice to be able to show my dad around that way! My dad's funny...when they picked me up from work on Friday, he says, "Guess what I did yesterday?"
"What did you do, Dad?"
"I ran 12 miles!"
(Oh jeez.) "Dad!!! WHY???? We're running a half marathon in two days!"
"Well, I wanted to make sure I was ready..."

Too funny. So needless to say, we were a little slow. He was cramping up at the end, and we didn't cross the finish line at more than a jog, but our 2:29 finish was a 10 minute PR for him, so I was proud!

Next up: a 24-mile training run to Tiburon, and then it's TAPER TIME for California International!!! Woo hoo! Finally, I get to taper for real! Sub-4 marathon, here I come!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nike Women's Marathon recap

The weekend:
So, as you can probably imagine, Nike goes to great lengths to make this a spectacular event for everyone involved. They're so good about catering to women runners! One of the cool things they did was put everyone's name on the side of the Niketown store.

If you look closely, you can see mine! (click to make it bigger)

Justine and me in front of the Niketown store in our lovely paceleader uniforms

I worked at the race expo on Friday and Saturday afternoons, which was a blast. It was great to talk to so many people from so many places who were so excited about the event! I was a little bit worried because I was assigned to a job that had me standing up all afternoon, but it was fun, so the time went by rather quickly and I had some rather funny experiences in helping people with their pace bracelets. Runners told me their projected finishing time or pace, and I would print out a bracelet that had their time-per-mile, taking into account all of the hills on the course. Most people had a finishing time in mind, and I printed out bracelets for anything from a 3 hour marathon to a 7.5 hour marathon. One girl though, decked out in heels and this really cute but ridiculously fashionable outfit, had NO idea. She couldn’t tell me how long it takes her to run a mile, she couldn’t tell me whether she was fast or was hilarious! I mean seriously, how do you decide to fly all the way across the country (she was from NY) to run a half marathon and have NO CLUE about your running abilities? Hilarious.

After the expo on Friday night, a big group of the Nike pace leaders went out for dinner in North Beach, and we had a great time getting to know each other better. It’s funny, I’d been running with all of them for the past 16 weeks, but I never really got to talk to most of them because we were in different pace groups...I’ll definitely be hanging out with these people again!

Saturday morning I got up early, got all of my triathlon gear together, and headed to Treasure Island with Anne for our run-through. It went very smoothly, and I’m feeling a lot better about the upcoming race. It was a beautiful day, and the City looked amazing from across the Bay, so it made for a great experience! We did a mini triathlon, with a swim in the Bay, a couple loops of the bike course and a (very) short run before heading back to the City to work at the expo again.

Fortunately, Saturday afternoon had me sitting in a nice little chair behind a table, so was at least able to stay off my feet. I answered lots of questions and handed out corral bracelets so that everyone would know where to line up on race morning. It was a gorgeous day, and it was an absolute treat to sit outside and enjoy it. The buzz from all the other race participants was great too, and it got me psyched for race morning!

Saturday night Paul took me to dinner at a really cute Italian place, and I felt kind of bad because he wanted to order all kinds of good stuff that I knew I just couldn’t eat. I stuck with my regular pre-race dinner of spaghetti with tomato sauce and salmon (which was particularly good at this restaurant), and I ate a little bit of Caprese salad...the cheese was so good, but I wasn’t about to take any chances! I was a little disappointed to find out that he was leaving early in the morning for a camping trip, so he wouldn’t be there for the race, but at least I knew that there would be some other friends out there to cheer me on. After dinner, I finished getting my stuff together and went to bed at about 9:30.

Race day:
I have never slept so well before a race! The downstairs neighbors decided to be considerate for once, so I made it through the night without having to break out the earplugs. Very nice. I got up at about 4:45, made a huge bowl of oatmeal, and tried desperately to decide what to wear for the race. The past few days had been so warm that I was concerned about what the race day temperature was going to be. I nixed the idea of wearing a long-sleeve shirt and opted for a sleeveless one, but stuck with the pants. I caught a cab and headed down to Union Square, and I was slightly worried when I noticed that it was 5:30am and I was uncomfortably warm in my jacket. More on that later.

I headed to the VIP tent, where I was scheduled to hold the 10 minute pace sign. There, I met up with some of the other pace leaders and the girls I was planning on running with.

Susan, me, Yvonne and Denise in the VIP tent before the race

Denise and Susan, among others, did every long run with me throughout the training series. We survived the Scott Street hill and the Lyon stairs, the heat and the cold and the long miles and the freezing cold water in the Bay, and we all got to know each other pretty well over the course of the training series. Since it was their first marathon, they hit all of their training goals with me, and they swore that they couldn’t have done it without me, but the truth is, they got me through it too! They were both super excited about the race, but I was feeling surprisingly calm. We finished getting ready (pinned on race numbers, stuffed our sports bras with packets of GU, and checked in our bags) and went to the bathroom three different times, and then lined up to watch the elite racers start. After a pep talk from Joanie Benoit Samuelson (the winner of the first Women’s Olympic Marathon in 1984 and inspiration for this race), we were ready to race.

First half: 2:06:06
We counted down the last 10 seconds and then took off through the dark streets of downtown San Francisco. Soon, the sub-8 runners started passing us from behind (the one downfall to being in the front of the pack), and we tried desperately to hang onto our own pace for the first couple miles. By the time we got to Fisherman’s Wharf, we had settled into our pace and started to prepare for our first hill. We made it up and over with no problem, passing all those out-of-towners along the way. Based on the first few miles of the race, we figured it was going to be a rather warm day, but we were pleasantly surprised to see a fair amount of fog sitting in the Bay and hanging underneath the Golden Gate. I wish I were one of those people who carries their camera with them, because I definitely would have taken a picture of it!

About that time, I also realized that I really had to go to the bathroom. I figured it was just nervousness in the first mile or two, but when the feeling hadn’t gone away by mile 4, I knew I needed to do something about it. I didn’t drink that much water, so I really don’t know what my deal was! I left Denise and Susan, and ran on ahead to find a port-a-potty. I found one about a half mile ahead, did my thing, and ran out just in time to see Denise and Susan approaching. I ate my first GU, and we headed out Crissy Field down toward the foot of the GGBridge to our killer hill. It’s not particularly steep, just extremely long. All of mile 7, to be exact. It was tough, but we made it, and we actually gained some time – I guess all those weeks training on the steepest hills in San Francisco paid off! At the top, we were greeted with massive amounts of thick fog, a very welcome sight on a day that we had expected to be too hot! We were rewarded with a very nice, long downhill, where we gained even more time and prepped for our last major uphill in the race. Somehow, with all the people around, the killer hills didn’t seem nearly as hard as they had been in training, and before we knew it, we were on our way down to the beach and into Golden Gate Park. Unfortunately, this was about the time when we started to regret our clothing choices. I would have killed for that long-sleeved shirt I had planned on wearing!

Upon entering the park I saw Kirk, Leslie, and a bunch of other San Francisco Road Runners, which was a great boost! We also stumbled upon Yvonne who we had lost in the chaos of the race start. She was looking strong, and feeling great! Denise and I pushed on ahead, and Susan and Yvonne ran together on the gradual uphill through the park. It was like being in the Twilight Zone running through the fog...the bison in the park were exceptionally close to the road, which was unusual, and they were about the only thing we could see! A few minutes later, the sun was desperately trying to break through the fog, and it was really bright, but my sunglasses were so fogged up that I felt like I was blind either way. The fog finally broke, and I was able to make use of my sunglasses on our first out-and-back, where I saw a lot of my friends from the Nike running group. Denise and I saw that Susan wasn’t far behind us, and we waited for her at the next water stop, but she never appeared. We found out later that she had decided to go to the bathroom right then, so it’s a good thing we didn’t wait for her to appear!

One very bad rendition of “Hey Ya” later (spectators were allowed to do Karaoke versions of their friends’ “power songs”), and we were taking a nice steady downhill out of the park and out to Ocean Beach. On what seemed like a never-ending straightaway, we saw Denise’s friend, her mom and her brother as well as some people from my tri club, so we had plenty of support. I only wish I could say that much about the loop around Lake Merced! The entrance to the lake loop is a decent hill for that late in the race, but the downhill afterward gave us a little break and the salsa band on the other side gave us a little burst of energy.

Mile 20: 3:14:17
Soon after that, we were really starting to feel it in our legs. We saw a couple more of Denise’s friends, but it help much because all we really wanted was some water. The sun had come out and it was pretty hot around the lake, and poor Denise had sticky hands from her last GU, which can be exponentially more annoying at mile 20 of a marathon. Mile 21 passed and still no water (my only complaint about the entire race). There was a huge cheering section, which is never a bad thing in a desolate place, but from far away we thought it was an aid station, so we weren’t nearly as pleased to see them as we should have been. Finally, about a quarter of a mile later we came upon an aid station. The water refreshed me, but it was too late for Denise, so she told me to go on ahead while she got herself back together. I checked on her a few more times to make sure that she was doing alright, and when I was sure that she was okay, I took off.

I was feeling a little bit stiff, but I had tons of energy from God knows where, so I took it and I went with it. I feel terrible for thinking it, but I passed one guy from our training group, and I was very pleased to see that he was walking – he was the guy who would join a pace group and then throw everyone off by running way too fast. I have a feeling he started out that way, and then just couldn’t keep up with it for the whole 26.2, so it kinda made me snicker, and only made me want to go faster (I found out later that he finished in 4:40)! I passed a couple other people that I knew, said “hi” and “good work”, and then proceeded to blow by them toward the finish. I’m sure I looked pretty darn determined at that point because I was getting lots of encouragement from the crowd and I was still feeling good, so I gave it everything I had. Miles 25-26.2 were the fastest of my entire race! I crossed in 4:11:49, feeling tired, but not totally wiped. I finally made it out of the 4:20’s (I had been stuck there for my last three marathons) – only 31 more minutes to Boston! On top of that, this is the first time I ran negative splits (my second half was 23 seconds faster than the first half!), and the first time I actually ran the whole race (Okay, I walked through a few water stops, but only because I didn’t want to spill Gatorade all over myself!)!

I collected my finisher’s medal (AKA Tiffany necklace) and shirt just in time to get back to the finish line and watch Denise cross in 4:21 – I was so proud of her!!!! We headed to the VIP tent to get some food and see how everyone else had done. Susan showed up about 20 minutes later to introduce us to her husband and three kids. What a cute family! She was so happy (she finished in 4:45), and I was beaming like a proud mother for both of my “girls.” I think I was actually happier for them than for myself! I gave them both a card and a little bottle of champagne so they could celebrate later when they were feeling up to it. We’ll definitely all be keeping in touch!

Me, Denise and Susan after the race - we ROCKED!

I hurried home, showered and then headed out again to the Bridge School Benefit Concert down near San Jose, where Jessica and I sat in the grass all day and saw some great performances – Death Cab For Cutie, Trent Reznor (acoustic, and very...interesting), Foo Fighters (awesome!), Brian Wilson (too freaking funny...especially considering that Jessica and I used to be obsessed with the Beach Boys back in elementary school), Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band (Dave was in rare form – very funny!) and Neil Young. Definitely a treat! Good friends, good times, good music – What a great weekend!

My (scary) race day photos can be seen HERE
Race results can be seen HERE

Next up: Treasure Island Olympic Distance Triathlon – November 4th!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Rock 'N Roll!!!!

I really wasn’t sure what my goals were for the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon. I signed up on a whim to avoid having to do a 20-miler and there were definitely some factors working against me:

  • the 10-miler I had run the day before (which was also quite a bit faster than planned)
  • the jerks downstairs who woke me up at 10:30pm and 2am – I actually went down there and asked them to shut up!
  • I ripped my race number off my shorts before I had even left the house
  • my freaking watch decided to break right when the gun went off
  • AND the fact that I am at the height of my training for Nike and CIM.

I just really didn’t know what I had in me. So honestly, the only goal I really had was to finish under 2 hours. I would be very happy with a PR (anything under 1:58:35), but given the aforementioned issues, I wasn’t expecting anything too great.

Before the race, I was pleased to find that parking was easy, I turned in my bag, had plenty of time to go to the bathroom (and there were more than enough port-a-potties – nice work on the part of the race organizers!), stretched, looked around for Janae and Troy and Bob, and when I didn’t see them, I finally headed to my corral. Luckily, Bob was waiting for me at my corral, so we got to say hi and chat for a little bit. Soon, they announced that it was about time to start, so we lined up and made last minute preps. I checked my watch and it seemed to be in working order, but when it came time to turn it on for the race, it froze up! No numbers, just the word “footpod” and a couple of weird lines. I muttered a long string of expletives, and then realized that I could follow one of the unofficial pacers (members of running clubs and charity groups who had numbers on their backs based on the times they were planning on running) Other than that, I would have to rely solely on feel and the mile-marker clocks! All I could think was, “God I hope these people are on pace!”

The race start...

After a mile, I overheard one of the pacers say that we were about a minute faster than the course clocks, which put us at an 8:30 mile. I was feeling alright, but I also knew that this was only mile one. “Can I really keep this up for 12.2 more?”

And that’s when Matt, one of my coaches, suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We talked for a little while, and I fully expected him to go on ahead without me, but we ended up running the entire race together! He was looking to run a 1:55:00, and I was feeling good a few miles in, so I decided to stick with it. We thoroughly enjoyed the on-course entertainment, and we both encouraged the crowd to cheer for everyone (instead of just standing there like bumps on a log!), and we pretty much just kept each other going. At around mile 6, we got a glimpse of the Kenyans as they sprinted by, and we saw Meb Keflezighi (2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon) too, which was really cool. That gave us a huge boost!

That’s Meb on the right – not to be confused with the Kenyans! He’s American – immigrated with his family a long time ago and grew up in San Diego. Cool dude.

Kenyan Duncan Kibet won the race in 1:00:22, the second fastest time ever raced on American soil. Haile Gebrselassie set the world record earlier this year at PF Chang’s in Phoenix (58:55).

We noted how the crowd around us seemed to change as we ran – pretty soon, everyone was silent and focused, and we were passing people right and left. That was a very good feeling! Matt told me about a dream he had had the night before – he dreamt that he had seen flying pigs, and he thought, “No, that’s not possible...they can’t be flying, they’re just gliding...but wait, no, they’re actually catching air and getting lift...” So he decided that he was the flying pig. “Maybe it’s a good omen,” he said. I told him I’d go with it...sounded like a pretty good omen to me!

At this point, we were looking good for a finishing time well under 1:55, so we just held our pace and decided that if we felt good in the last couple of miles, we’d go for it. It was starting to get warm, and I was getting tired, but then right around mile 11 I saw a woman standing on the side of the road holding – get this – a mylar pig balloon!

A FLYING PIG! Definitely a sign!

We kicked it up a notch because we knew it was getting close. Somewhere around mile 12 I told Matt to go on ahead – he was in a groove, but it was just a little bit faster than mine, and I didn’t want to hold him back! I managed to keep him in my sights until the final turn, and at that point my only focus was the finish line. I could see the clock was almost at 1:53, so I gave it everything I had...I knew that my time was better than what was up there because of the timing chip, but since my watch was broken I didn’t know exactly how much time I had to work with! I crossed at 1:53 and change, maintaining a smile just long enough for them to snap a picture. Matt was still just past the finish line – we gave each other a huge high five and a hug and then proceeded to get our medals and goodies. I would have been more happy about the ice-cold towels than the medals, but the little girl who gave me my medal was so cute that she totally made my day (well, other than that whole PR thing!)! She was like 5 years old, and she even told me, “Good job!” So cute.

Ha, there was a picture of her in the image gallery from the race – the little girl in the middle. Guess I wasn’t the only one who thought they were cute! I’m assuming that’s their mom who ran the race - What a cool thing to do as a family!

So anyway, the race was a huge success. It was a great course – flat and pretty for an urban course – and it was very well organized. There were plenty of bathrooms, lots of on-course support, lots of water and Amino Vital, great music and just an overall good vibe. I will definitely consider doing this one again! We walked along the race course back to our cars and cheered for the runners who were just finishing – a great end to an already great experience! I promptly made a phone call home to share the good news, and then headed back to SF where I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon watching the Blue Angels from the roof of our apartment.

We’re in a perfect spot to watch them because they fly right over the top of our’s a little freaky when they fly super low, but it’s pretty cool too! Great way to top off an already awesome day!

I FINALLY got my official time at about 4:00 in the afternoon – 1:51:59!!! That's 6.5 minutes faster than my last half marathon!!! Woo hoo! Matt’s was 1:50:59 (talk about cutting it close...we were both right on the edge!)...definitely something to be happy about! A lot of the other SFRRC members did really well too, and Janae and Troy and Bob all had a good race as well. Now I’m super pumped for Nike and CIM!!! Bring it on!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I feel so hardcore...

There's nothing like a good run in the rain to make you feel invincible. I don't care how fast you are or how many races you've run, if you don't run in the rain, I can kick your ass! Okay, maybe not, but that's how I feel when I do it! There's something so exhilarating about getting out there and facing the elements. People look at you like you're crazy, but all the other runners out there know. You're lucky if you pass one or two of them, and you glance at each other for a split second and give each other "that look." Something along the lines of, "We're out here running in the cold, wet, nasty weather while everyone else is sitting on their ass watching TV. WE ROCK!!!"

Sure, I could go run on a treadmill in a smelly, hot, humid gym, music blaring, fluorescent lights glaring...Nope. Not a chance. I would much rather be outside - freezing cold and wet and thoroughly enjoying the shining streets of San Francisco!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Training really freaking hard...

Like I said, I'm at the peak of my training, so this past weekend was a tough one! I don't plan on my blogs looking like this, but I figured I'll start with something meaningful, rather than this morning's swim practice! In the future they'll be much shorter!

I led the Nike Women's 10 minute pace group on a 22-miler, the biggest run of the training series. I was SO proud of my girls...most of them are training for their first marathon, and they all did a GREAT job! We were more conscious of the time spent at aid stations, and we managed to finish our 22-miler in the same amount of time that it took us to do 20 miles two weeks before. Crazy how a 22-miler can actually feel BETTER than 20! I did manage to biff it somewhere around mile 6...I was checking the map to make sure we were going the right way, and I tripped over a jagged piece of sidewalk. I think something like this is bound to happen to me at least once per marathon! Fortunately, I caught myself somewhat, so I didn't fall too incredibly hard. Got a little scrape on my knee, and I was COVERED in black dirt, but it didn't hurt too bad. I got up, brushed off what I could (although, being nice and sweaty, it mostly just stuck to me!), and kept going. I almost immediately busted up laughing...good thing I can find the humor in these things now! I think my knees were destined to be ugly, judging by the amount of times I've scraped them up this year. Maybe I'm just clumsy, but my ratio of times fallen to miles run is pretty low, so I'm okay with it!

Iced my legs for a bit in the Bay, and then spent the rest of the afternoon at a music festival at Shoreline down in Mountain View. We saw The Shins, Muse, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, and Beck (along with a marionette version of his band...pretty funny!).

Had a couple of beers and relaxed...not a bad way to spend the afternoon!

My first ocean swim! I donned the wetsuit for the first time, and I went for it. I did pretty well, although I was hesitant to stick my face in the water. I panicked a little bit, but I got myself back together and managed to finish the 1-mile swim in about 50 minutes. Next time I'll actually pay attention to the clock!

I really just wanted to go to bed when I got home, but instead I forced myself to go for a long bike ride. If I'm going to do this tri, I'm really going to have to work on the bike! I mostly followed the Nike Women's Marathon course, and ended up riding about 30 miles. I was totally exhausted when I finished, but I'm really glad I did it! Got in some good practice with the clip shoes too!

Swim practice this morning was like hell! Try as I might, I couldn't keep my form in check because I was sooo tired from the weekend. I managed to get through it - 2100 meters in all - and then I was a zombie for the rest of the day - water-logged and wanting desperately to take a nap!

On my way to the track I considered turning around and going back home about a thousand times. I felt tired and light-headed, something that rarely ever happens to me, but I kept on going. We stretched a little bit and then headed toward the park. Within the first tenth of a mile I thought, "You've got to be kidding me. I have to run 10 miles tonight??? I can barely even make it across the street!" But fortunately, Kirk, our comic relief, started telling us all about helping another of our runners to qualify for Boston. I was instantly interested, and I forgot all about how sluggish my legs felt. She qualified with about a minute to spare, and they rode her ass the entire way saying, "IF YOU LEAVE ANYTHING ON THE COURSE AND YOU DON"T QUALIFY, YOU'LL NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT!!! THIS IS BOSTON WE'RE TALKING ABOUT!!!" They had come up with topics of conversation for ever mile of the race, things like "favorite movie" and "weirdest place you've had sex"...needless to say, they attracted some attention from other runners as well, making the time (and the miles) go by even faster! I think I'm definitely going to have to recruit Kirk when I make my first attempt at a BQ!

Anyway, I made it through the warm-up without any major issues, but I was doubting myself again when I got to the actual track workout! Thankfully, Coach Matt set me up with another girl who's about my pace, and we ran together. I don't think I could have done it on my own...three sets of 1000 (2.5 laps) + 800 (2 laps) with recovery in-between each. With my long cool-down, I had 10 miles on the dot, and I felt awesome!

Stopped at Whole Foods on my way home and picked up some super healthy food, some brown rice spicy shrimp sushi rolls for dinner, and some goat's milk mission fig ice cream for a treat. It's an interesting flavor, but surprisingly tasty! I'll definitely be buying their product again!

Click here for their website!

Whew, well now I'm up-to-date...this morning we had no coach at the Y, but our 2400 meter workout was there for us (2400 meters?!?!?). Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. I made it through just fine, and managed to do my 1500 meters (the distance of my upcoming race) in about 35 minutes, which is pretty respectable. I'll be in better shape on race day anyway! I'm glad to say that I'm feeling perfectly fine right now, and I'm actually looking forward to my Nike run tonight. 6 miles along the Embarcadero. Aw yeah.

My very first blog!

Well, I'm not really sure where to start! There are so many things I could say...

I guess an introduction might be in order. I'm an average athlete with one big goal in mind: to qualify for the Boston Marathon before I'm 30. That leaves me about two years and nine months to qualify. So far I've run 5 marathons and 3 half marathons, and I've improved by leaps and bounds over the last three years. I think I'm pretty well on my way! I'm doing my best to stay/get in shape, which includes a pretty strict diet and lots and lots of working out. I'm right at the height of my training for four upcoming races, all of which will take place in the next two months.
  • San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon - October 8
  • Nike Women's Marathon - October 22
  • Treasure Island International Triathlon - November 4
  • California International Marathon - December 3
My ultimate goal is to run a sub-4 hour marathon at CIM. I'm nervous, but I'm excited!

So this blog will document my road to Boston, my incessant training, and a little bit of life in general...hope it's enjoyable!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Half Dome (AKA Jenni's Yosemite Death March)

On Wednesday afternoon, my friend Aaron and I took a break from our dive bar tour of San Francisco and headed to Yosemite for a quick camping trip. I'm happy to report that it was absolutely gorgeous and we managed to avoid any encounters with bears (although some little creature did manage to get into the apples and marshmallows, very thoughtfully taking a few bites out of each one!). We successfully set up camp in the dark, put the stuff in the bear locker and went to sleep.

Thursday morning we got up bright and early, packed our backpacks, got some much-needed coffee, and headed out for Half Dome! We were thinking about going to Mt. Whitney, but reconsidered when we saw the following sign:

Shortly after we started, we came upon Vernal Falls...

And after a pretty good elevation gain, we got a beautiful view of the Nevada Falls and the Valley...

We stopped for a rest at the top of the falls, and tried to fend off the squirrels as we ate our trail mix and tuna salad...

We circled Half Dome for what felt like forever, and then finally made the climb to the saddle at the base of the dome itself.

Aaron and I were both pleased to be done with the nasty climb up to the base! See how happy he looks???

At about noon, I made the final ascent up the cables to the top of Half Dome. Aaron decided to hang out and wait for me at the bottom (not a big fan of heights!). That was probably a good thing because this was quite possibly the scariest experience of my life (which I noticed when I made the mistake of looking behind me when I was halfway to the top and realized that there was NOTHING behind me for several hundred feet! Bad idea.)

But some nice people in front of me help me avoid having a panic attack, and I made it to the top, which was totally worth it!

I met a few cool people at the top, who were nice enough to take a picture for me as we joked about how close we could get to the edge before we totally freaked out. I sat and contemplated life for a few minutes (good spot for doing such things!), ate a packet of Sharkies, and then headed back.

This guy who was in front of me on the way up, and who had also left friends down at the bottom, offered to go back down the cables in front of me so that there would at least be someone there. Although it wasn't nearly as scary going back down, I very much appreciated the gesture! So then we headed back down the cables...

It was slow going back down, so I took a few pictures while I was waiting for people to pass me on their way up. Most of them looked like they were scared shitless, probably the way I looked on my way up!

I met Aaron back at the saddle and we made our way back down. It was MUCH faster than our trip up the mountain, as you might imagine! We took the same route down until we got to the top of Nevada Falls, and then we decided to try the Mist Trail down past the waterfalls rather than taking the long way around. Despite the shorter trail, it probably actually took longer because of all the stairs and tourists, but the falls were pretty!

We didn't get wet at the bottom of Nevada Falls, but we got a nice, cool mist (and a rainbow!) at the base of Vernal Falls.

By the time we'd reached the bottom of Vernal Falls we were more than ready to be done, and not too long after that, we were back at the trailhead. We got hot dogs and cold beverages at the snack stand (I think anything would have been good at that point, after living off of trail mix, beef jerky, and tuna for the previous nine hours!) and then headed back to the campsite.

We took a short nap and made dinner (soup and chicken apple sausages) and then went back to Yosemite Valley to shower at one of the other campsites. Somehow we both missed the signs about the cost of the showers, and no one seemed to be monitoring the area, so we each got a $5 shower for free! Thank God, because we desperately needed it...I don't think I've ever been that dirty in my life! On the way into the Valley, we were treated to one more pleasant surprise...a beautiful view of El Capitan and Half Dome at sunset...

Back at the campsite we made a huge campfire, kicked back with a couple of beers, made a S'more, and took a much-deserved rest! It was a tiring day, but well worth it!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

SF marathon recap

My friend Dane (Mr. Fiddy2 himself – check it out and donate some money to a good cause!) came out for the SF Marathon, as well as a lot of other MySpace buddies (Bob, Matt, Mike, and Brandy, to name a few), so we all had dinner together on Saturday night (more like afternoon) at Bocce Cafe down in North Beach.

Me, Dane, and Brandy at Bocce

We had an early night because of our super early start in the morning...let me just say, it’s especially hard to fall asleep when it’s still light out!

Dane and I got up at about 4:15, got ready, and headed down to catch a cab. I should have known it was going to be an interesting day just by the sheer number of hookers that was out at 5am. I’m not kidding...I mean, I’ve seen them in my neighborhood before, but never that many! Weirdness. So anyway, we caught a cab down to the start and lined up in our respective corrals. Dane’s group took off at 5:30 and mine didn’t start until 5:50, so I got to hang out for awhile. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time for me to use the bathroom (the didn’t have NEARLY enough Port-A-Potties there!), and I was in a panic about my first GU packet because I couldn’t find any water to take it with! But it all worked out, I ate my GU, said hi to some friends, and lined up with my pace group.

First half 2:04:19

Starting out along the Embarcadero was nice and’s flat and fast, and it’s fairly spread out, so I felt pretty good. I took the first hill at Fort Mason with no problem at all – for some reason it seemed a lot easier when I was surrounded with a bunch of people than when I’m running it on my own – and the next flat section along the Marina Green and Crissy Field was fine too. The hills up to the Golden Gate were pretty tough, but I got through both of them with little issue, and I was happy to get on the bridge! Despite the wave start (which was meant to help with the congestion on the bridge), it was like rush hour on the Golden Gate.

Each direction had one traffic lane, which was not quite enough space, especially when you’re trying to follow a pace leader. I found myself weaving in and out of other runners to keep up, which was pretty frustrating at times, and it caused quite a problem when we stopped to take our walk breaks (mostly because some people have no running etiquette whatsoever and rather than staying to the side, they walk right in the middle where everyone else is trying to run!), but overall, the bridge was a really nice way to cut out 4 miles of the course!

After the bridge, we hit our last really killer hill (although once again, not nearly as killer as I remember from our training runs) in the Presidio and then headed out to the Pacific coast for a nice, long downhill. This downhill, unlike the uphills, was not nearly as easy as I remembered...I really had to concentrate to keep from getting out of control and destroying my knees with 15 miles to go! From there, we cut across to Golden Gate Park, left the half marathoners to finish their race, and picked up our new pace leader for the second half. My pace leader from SFRRC (Corinne) was hanging out where the two courses split, so she offered me some much-appreciated encouragement!

Second half 2:15:48

The sun came out in full force as we entered the park, but I was feeling pretty good, so I didn’t worry too much about it. At first it seemed like everything was going okay, but then our new pace leader started saying things like, “It takes me awhile to get into my pace here...” and “We’re about a minute fast, but it’s alright for now...” Well, to someone who has only run two miles (like our pace leader there), it might be okay, but for someone who’s on their 14th mile with another 12.2 to go, it’s not exactly what you want to hear. You want someone who’s going to keep you on pace! Our first half pace leader had been really strong, and kept a very even pace, but I really don’t think this guy was made for the job.

Anyway, after a few miles with him, I lost it. I tried my best to keep up with the group, but I fell back at mile 16.5 or so, just as we looped around Stowe Lake. I could still see them in front of me until I got to about mile 18, and that’s when I completely lost it. All of the energy just left my body at once. I think it’s safe to say I “hit the wall” this time around, although quite a bit earlier than normal, and I really have no idea why. I stopped to walk a couple of times, got some extra water, and stopped to go to the bathroom. Then I pulled myself together, took a deep breath, and dug in again. The downhills on Haight Street really helped bring my energy level back up, and as the extra speedy runners of the second half marathon started to pass us, they pumped me up too!

Somewhere around mile 22 I saw the “Jesus Christ Loves You” guy, which put a smile back on my face...he cracks me up!

Apparently Frank Chu (of 12 Galaxies fame) was there too, but I never saw him!

Some nice people in Potrero Hill came out to supply us with some extra water, which was great, because it was a really warm second half! I drank a cup and then dumped the other one on myself to cool off a bit. At the last water stop, this kid who is handing out cups looks at me, and says, “Water! Here ma’am, here’s some water - you look thirsty!” If I hadn’t had so much forward momentum I might have turned around and decked the kid...first he called me “ma’am”, and second you NEVER EVER tell someone how bad they look in the last two miles of a marathon! What? Do you expect me to look all cute and happy after running for almost four hours???

Anyway, shortly after reaching the ballpark, with about a mile to go, I finally ran into Dane, who came back to run the last bit with me. I’m sure I didn’t look very happy to see him (like I said, it’s hard to express happiness when you’ve run that far!), but I couldn’t have been happier (he finished 148th in 3:19)! Much to our surprise, a couple of minutes later we were joined by our friend Matt, who’d had some trouble with cramping several miles earlier. Based on our watches, we knew that I was going to get my PR, so as we passed the 26-mile marker, Dane split off and Matt and I raced toward the finish line that was just ahead. I told Matt to go ahead of me, but he was really cool and told me to go get my PR! I think I passed about 8 people in that little chute before the finish line because I put in every last little bit of energy that I had!

After the race, I got my medal and some food, talked to a couple of friends, and then found Dane, who just happened to be holding a cheese crisp for me – talk about good post-race food...everything else they had was sweet, which is the last thing you want when you’ve been drinking sports drinks and eating vanilla flavored GU for the past four hours! We got our pictures taken and then headed to the SFRRC tent to say hi to a few more of my running club buddies (who all did very well, by the way, and most of them on their very first marathon!), and then headed home to relax!

All in all, it was a really tough race, but I enjoyed it!

Final time: 4:20:07 – a new PR!!!
Average pace: 9:56 (my first marathon with an average under 10 minutes!)