Friday, December 28, 2012

Drinking in the Garden

Just under two years ago, I had accepted a job at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and discovered that the commute from San Francisco was easily 1.25 hours each way. Matt and I set off on a rapid apartment search, exploring areas in the East Bay close to BART. One day we went to check-out an in-law unit in Rockridge. The walk-out basement opened to a beautifully maintained, gorgeous garden and patio. We were in love. We chatted with the lovely landlady who lived upstairs and hit it off immediately. We were a little worried that she might be a crazy landlady with a lot of rules, but we decided it was worth it. She claimed that we got the apartment because she liked us best, but my guess is that no one else had committed yet.

Well, we were right. She was a little crazy and had a lot of rules, but she was also fascinating, generous, and welcoming. She frequently brought us delightful food - extras from lunch or dinner, or part of the fancy dessert she had picked up for an occasion. I had worried about living with a landlady in such close proximity, but it turned out to be kind of like having a delightful grandmother upstairs. She told hilarious stories, brought down bottles of wine to share when we were out on the patio - which is how I learned one day that working from home was not so viable.

One day in late October she came downstairs and asked us to take her to the Emergency Room. Matt took her and I planned to meet them there, but she told him to just drop her off. When Matt picked her up later, we learned she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. I can't imagine going to the ER by myself and receiving a cancer diagnosis. The next day she came down for pumpkin carving, plying us with wine and chips. She remained extremely positive and cheerful, going to endless doctor's appointments and having numerous tests done. She ended up with pneumonia at one point; I ran into her in the driveway as she came home from the doctor, and it was the only time I ever saw her look exhausted and a bit downtrodden.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, she was downstairs telling us hilarious stories about how she had gotten her oncologist's notes and was trying to decipher them. She thought he had written that she was "a lonely old woman" and could not understand why he thought she was lonely. She then later figured out he had actually written that she was "a lovely old woman." She didn't seem to be sure that that was a better assessment.

On December 4th she learned she would be having lung surgery the following week. She wrote us an email saying, "I may be gone (but not dead Winking smile) and will be at the hospital...Then, I may start chemo, will be a little weak but look forward to be on the road to recovery. Thank you for being generous, patient and understanding." Always thinking of her burden on us and focusing on the good.

On December 12th she underwent successful lung surgery. On December 14th, when a housemate called the hospital to see about us going to visit, we learned that the night before she had suffered a massive stroke. She had been moved to the ICU and we were not to visit yet. She was at first minimally responsive, but then stopped opening her eyes. I went to visit this week with another housemate. We told her stories and chatted to each other; read her mail and gossip magazines.

Today, her daughter is bringing her home for hospice care, to be surrounded by her beautiful flowers and music. She is just 66 years old. 


I wrote this post a week ago, the day she came home, in an attempt at catharsis. Yesterday, our lovely landlady passed away. It is so strange to be in the house she loved without her, looking at the garden she loved even more. It has been just two months since her diagnosis, less than a month since she was putting winky faces in emails related to an outcome that if she suspected or feared, she certainly never let on.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Training Log Resumes

About two of you probably remember that back in early 2011, I began chronicling my training for the Big Sur Marathon over at Alison's Training Log. Well, now that I'm back, I've decided to resume the training log. Most training programs recommend keeping a training log and diary so that you can learn what works and doesn't work for you, and in particular for my case, how you become injured. In fact, as I reviewed my 2011 training log, I remember things I'd completely forgotten, like how my left arch was causing me problems back then. I had only remembered my right toe.

So anyway, I'll be starting the log back up in case you're interested. I was hoping to find a more useful platform than a blog, where I could see my workout stats as well as my entries in more of a calendar format, but I guess I'll just have to go with this for now. Let me know if you have recommendations for something else.

Meanwhile, after looking through some training plans and my old training log, I've become paranoid that I will once again get injured before the marathon. I have four months to go. I'm already at half marathon distance, so I will be maintaining fairly high mileage (for me), for the whole four months. I worry that my body can't handle it. I start thinking that maybe I should find an earlier marathon and get it out of the way while I'm still healthy even if it means I'm undertrained. After all, the TNT program only calls for two long runs longer than a half marathon: 14-16 mile and 17-20 mile. Maybe I should just go knock a couple of those out over the next month, and get a marathon over with. Or maybe I should calm down and follow the program until the end of March. Maybe if I keep up with rolling and core work and strength (hah), I will have a better outcome.

Isn't exercise supposed to help you manage your stress rather than cause anxiety?

Xterra Trail Half Marathon World Championships Race Report

In January 2011, Matt and I were in Oahu on vacation, taking a movie sites tour at Kualoa Ranch. It was amazingly beautiful. The tour guide mentioned that they had just held a half marathon on site in December. I immediately knew it was a race I had to do. The ranch is private, so you just can't go out and run it anytime you want to. I made a vow to come back.

It didn't happen in 2011, but we made it out this year, 2012. I booked frequent flyer tickets way back in April. I love Hawaii, so we weren't going just for the race, but the timing did revolve around it.

Here we are before the start. A group called Team XTREME parachuted in with a wounded warrior and his wife. It was pretty awesome. It was quite windy at the time, and the parachute with the wounded warrior actually missed the landing area, flew over the restrooms, and then I'm not sure what happened. They did emerge later, but when we went to look, it seems they must have ended up in a farming area.
 Some of the beautiful scenery at the start:

 The area where the parachutist seems to have landed:
 Here we are, taking off. I really must work on keeping my arms at 90 degrees and not overstriding.
At about mile 2, I ran into a queue at some single track and decided to get out my phone and take some pictures. I think all the rest are in reverse order:

Nearly finished!

And finished! (Wearing my Komen shirt. I realized about half way through the race that I was wearing it and spent awhile stressing about the fact that people would be thinking I was a terrible person. For the record, I participated in their Marathon for the Cure program in honor of my mother prior to the Planned Parenthood fiasco. The shirt was so filthy following the race that I trashed it.)

It was amazing course. So beautiful - but hard to look around too much because of the various rocks and roots all over the place. Nearly the entire course was rolling hills. I had thought we were going to the top of the cliffs, but it turns out there were just a lot of ups and downs, and we went through a pass to go between valleys. The course claims to have 2900 feet of elevation gain. I uploaded my gps data to various websites that show between 2000 and 3000 so I am not sure what to believe. I kind of think 3000 might be high because when I ran 10.5 miles and 2000 feet at Usery is took me 2:15 and this only took me 2:26. It is hard to know if I did much better than I expected or if the elevation gain just wasn't as much as claimed. How does one learn the truth?

Overall, I was a bit disappointed that it didn't rain during the event (I mean CIM got a downpour and the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon was cancelled that same day). Trail running in the rain in a jungle would be super fun and up the bad ass factor so much. (I'll pretend I wasn't freaking out the night before the race about reading the description of the 1/4 mile descent involving ropes and thinking how treacherous it would be with water cascading down the mountain.) I was also disappointed that the course didn't actually go to the top of the mountains. However, I had a great time, and I wasn't even that sore afterwards. I can't say I trained a whole heck of a lot for that kind of elevation gain, so I'm guessing the lack of pounding on asphalt just makes a difference in that regard.

I previously thought that I wouldn't enjoy trail running as much because I hate to stop running in the middle of a race. But I really didn't mind walking up some of the hills (along with everybody else) - it was a welcome reprieve when I felt my legs could carry me no further otherwise. I also had to settle my pace during a lot of the single track (including walking) because it was have been rather douchey to try to pass people. We only let the 10K leaders pass. At one point a runner behind me told his buddies that he was enjoying the nice, casual pace we were doing. The last mile when the field finally opened up, I picked off some people, but even so, I felt as if I could only take teeny tiny steps, so I'm guessing that my slow paces earlier in the race probably helped me rather than hurt me. I'm pretty pleased with my time given all the elevation gain.

I highly recommend this race - so beautiful! Maybe not great if you are trying to PR because of the queues in the single track, but a great opportunity to get a unique view of some outstanding scenery.

Also, I totally failed to note that this race had a photo finish. They could not decide who won, so they awarded a tie for first place. I find it so crazy that after more than an hour, two people can finish at exactly the same time. I wish I'd been there to see that. (Hah.) Incidentally, one of the guys had apparently run off-course more than once...

Turkey Weekend Race Reports

I like to race. More specifically, I like to sign up for events. They keep me motivated and entertained. Sometimes I race them, and sometimes I go out for fun. The Hellaween race was strictly for fun, so I'm not race reporting here. Turkey Weekend was another story.

First, Nitro Turkey on Thanksgiving morning. I signed up for the 5K (instead of the 10K) to run with Matt, but then Matt decided not to train. This means he would have to run-walk the 5K in deference to his testy IT band. I used this as an excuse to abandon him (are turkey trots supposed to be family events?) and go after my 5K PR. (I also had a friend at the event, but she was in the 10K.) I haven't run many 5Ks, and my fastest 5K time is actually during a half marathon this past March. I was pretty sure I wouldn't have to try too hard to beat it; however, short races are not my thing. I don't really like being that uncomfortable, even if it is only for something less than 30 minutes. In longer races you just kind of settle in and keep plowing foward, but in a short race, you kind of have to kill it.

The race was a bit hilly, about 200 feet of elevation gain, and I found it challenging. I think I had eaten or drunk too much before the race, because I could feel things bouncing around in my stomach most of the race, which is not too pleasant. Nevertheless, I plowed onward and finished in 25:45, or an 8'18" pace. Not as fast as I felt I should be able to do (based on pace prediction at least), but it was good enough for first place in my division. Turns out most good runners do the 10K instead, making that field much more tough to crack. So here's a tip for winning awards - sign up for short distances in local races. The race itself was very well run, nicely scenic, and had a smorgasbord of pumpkin pie and other delightful treats afterward, including hot chocolate with marshmallows. One could easily eat about 10 times as many calories as the 300 burned during a 5K.

I had also signed up for a race on Saturday of that same weekend, the Quarry Turkey 10K. Why, you might ask? I guess I was sucked in by the promise of a Double Turkey Mega Medal. Also we had no plans for the weekend, so why not race? Matt didn't plan to run this one, but luckily he came to spectate, because the parking lines were ludicrous! I had to abandon him in the car and walk to the start, and I still was only ready with about 10 minutes to spare. They ended up pushing all the races back 15 minutes, and Matt actually made it to the start. Here we are:

One might think that trying to PR two races in one weekend is not the brightest idea ever, but I thought it was fabulous. I had never actually run a 10K race before (shocking, I know), so anything I did would be a PR. I could just enjoy the scenery.

Nope. I went for it. I knew from my pace prediction charts that I should be able to run at about an 8'11" pace, so I tried to keep that up. It felt quite difficult. I kept looking down and seeing that I was running over 8'30" and internally chastising myself for not being able to run faster than half marathon pace in a 10K. So I kept pushing it. I spent the whole race being appalled at how tired I felt. Here I am, near the end, looking in pretty bad shape:

But then, I crossed the finish line, and low and behold, I finished in under 50 minutes: 49:42 to be exact, or an 8 minute mile. My Nike Plus was off by about 0.3 miles, which at this short a distance is enough to put the pace off by 24 seconds per mile, apparently. So my Nike Plus basically tricked me into running a super fast time for me. I wasn't struggling running at half marathon pace; I was struggling because I was running an 8 minute mile! My pace declined throughout the race, so I actually ran it very poorly. It worked out in the end, but I always need to remember to just go with my gut instead of trying to meet a pace. If I had started the race running by how I felt instead of by trying to hit 8'11" on my Nike Plus, I might have been able to get an even better time in the end. However, I should thank Nike Plus for tricking me. I think about calibrating it so my paces and mileage would be more exact, but it seemed to work out. Even if it doesn't tell me I set a 10K record because it thinks I only ran 5.9 miles. Anyhow, obviously I look super spent and relieved to be done at the end:

My rewards for the weekend. I finished 4th in my division for the Quarry Turkey 10K, just 20 seconds out of an age group medal. However, it was another great event despite the parking fiasco, and I will definitely consider Brazen Racing for future events as well.

Du the Bears Race Report

I had a fabulous experience at my first and only duathlon back in April. It was quite fun, and I did pretty well. It turns out that being okay and two sports is an advantage in the duathlon. I think other non-competitive types tend to have one event better than the other.

Since that duathlon, I'd been looking for more to enter, but it turns out there aren't very many, and most of them are on Saturdays, which interfered with my TNT trainings. As a result, I signed up for one shortly after the end of cycle season, along with two of my cycle teammates.  It was a beautiful morning at the reservoir just over the hills; I had never even been there!

It was a very small field, which was great. No stress getting all set up for the event. As we started, my friend asked me if we were going for it, and I said yes, not just for fun this time. (We apparently don't make decisions very far in advance.)

That's about when we took off:

Here I am finishing the first run:


Coming back in on the bike:

And here we are with our age group awards. I actually finished first in my age group, just 30 seconds ahead of my friend.

It was not easy. The run was very hilly, which I was not expecting. I also still struggle with going fast on my bike. I don't really know how to pace myself for that sort of thing, and to some extent, I still see bike riding as a casual event to check out the scenery. Plus, you're not allowed to draft in duathlons, so you can't use people in front of you for too much inspiration.

This was a super fun event. The race director stopped by afterwards to thank us for coming out. I realize I'm not competitive at a non-super-local level, but it's always nice to feel some sense of accomplishment. Plus, I discovered a great new place to run (not that I've been back) and a company (Wolf Pack Events) that puts on great races.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nike Race Report

1:52:49 PR. 782nd place (out of ~20,000!) and 97/2677 in my division. The end.

Just kidding! I have plenty more to say.

Woke up at 5 am, and Matt was driving me to the race at 6 am. (Thanks Matt!) Arrived at my fairly empty corral around 6:25. Was amazed as always by the sea of humanity at the starting line. Seeing 25,000 people lined up in the streets of San Francisco is an amazing sight. The race started at 7 and I crossed the line only 6 minutes later to my surprise.

The first 2-3 miles, and really kind of the whole race, were a maze of trying to pass other people including walkers. I had started in a corral too slow for me because I estimated my time way back in the beginning of the year,before my last PR in March. I tried to mentally calm myself down and stop getting annoyed with all the slow people that should have started behind me. I ran into a friend in the first mile or so and slowed down to chat with her for awhile. I never saw anyone else I knew the whole race, except Matt cheering at mile 10, a former teammate turned coach at mile 11, and my cycle teammate at the finish. And then of course some more TNTers at the tent at the end.

But back to mile 3. The first small hills come near Ghiradelli Square. There are two of them before the also fairly small Fort Mason hill. Perhaps because I am faster now, I did not hear as many out of towners complaining about the hills as when I ran in 2009, but on the second tiny one, I did hear someone ask how many more of these there are. Well let me tell you, there are two more much more significant hills after Fort Mason, beginning at mile 6. About half way up that hill, I concluded that there was no way I could PR because the hill was slowing me so much. Fog + my lungs + hills = wheezing,which I try to limit as much as possible. Speaking of fog, it was so socked in but kind of warm, that I took off my long sleeves before the end of the first mile and was dripping sweat the entire race. It was disgusting. I even gave Matt my hat at mile 10 because my head was starting to get hot in the humidity pressure kind of way I cannot describe.

Anyhow, after the two big hills, the second of which was not so bad, and after a lovely downhill that dropped my pace, I passed the timer at mile 11 and realized it said 1:42. I was 6 minutes off gun time,which meant I had 20 minutes left to run 2.1 miles and PR. This math confused me for awhile. First I thought I had to maintain an 8 minute mile which I knew I could not do,and then I concluded it was 9 minutes which I could pull off if I tried. I am pretty positive now it was actually 10 minutes which would have been easy, but luckily this confusion led me to push my pace and motivated me toward the finish. My legs were quite ready to be done, my foot hurt, and I was a bit hungry, having only eaten 100 calories during the race. But I plowed through and made a fairly significant PR.

I do enjoy running half marathons for the fun of it, but I especially love a good accomplishment! However my two races this year that resulted in PRs were both completed with very little run-specific training, which might be teaching me a bad lesson. Or maybe I have just figured out how to still run without hurting myself - by severely limiting my mileage and replacing it with other activities. With that said, I hope I can train without injury for my first full marathon in March.

Thanks to Matt for his support of my endeavors, as per usual! And thanks to my teammates who were out there or at the finish!


I should also mention how I spent my pre-race day. It involved a trip to wine country with my parents; wine tasting, beer drinking, and hiking up a super steep hill. All things one is supposed to do before a race, right? I did however eat an awful lot of carbs, and despite what some people think, I firmly believe carbs make a difference for me, even if it is placebo!

I also went out Thursday morning for my race-pace run, had a terrible time of it, and called it quits after only 3 miles to avoid freaking myself out. Luckily I totally forgot about that experience and therefore it didn't affect me.

Finally, I kind of wonder how much of my new found ability to PR is due to the fact that I was diagnosed with anemia last fall and now take iron. Nothing like some PEDs, right?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Countdown to Nike

In 2009, I received a piece of direct mail, attended an information meeting, and registered to train for my first ever half-marathon. The rest, as they say, is history.

This weekend, I'm back for the 2012 reprisal of the Nike Women's (Half) Marathon. This will be my 10th half marathon, and I'm getting excited! This race benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and there will be thousands of TNTers dressed in purple out on the course, and of course milling about the City. Thursday evening I'll head to Union Square to pick up my packet at the Expo and volunteer at the TNT lounge at Macy's. Sunday morning I'll line up in the corrals amidst a sea of purple.

Similar to my very first season, I sprained my ankle part-way through, making 8 miles the farthest I have run this training season. Unlike the first season, I haven't been diligently spending every evening at the gym on a bike or elliptical, but I'm hoping my base fitness will carry me through for a finish time faster than my 2009 Nike time of 2:25:47, but presumably nowhere near my half-marathon PR of 1:56:20.

I've been looking back at my blog for accounts of my first training season and was surprised to note that I said hardly anything about it. I blogged plenty during that time, but for other reasons. It seems that over the years, this blog has turned into my training and race blog, as Team in Training has taken over my life. Perhaps I should strive for more balance. But perhaps I'm right where I should be.

Though I'm not part of the Team for this event, having focused on cycle this season, I just might wear purple so people will cheer me on.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gran Fondo Ride Report

I've been debating about whether to write this post now or to wait a few days to let everything settle in and my body recover.

Second Gran Fondo complete, this time before the official cutoff, although rumor has it that the RFID reader at the finish broke, which means that I might still have a DNF record this year. Ah well. I felt great through about mile 70, and started to fall apart on the notorious Coleman Valley climb. As soon as we turned onto that road, it felt harder than either of the other times I have climbed in, and the first part isn't even that steep. I apparently made it to the top of that climb in PR time; however, I slowed significantly down at the top. I told my ride group to continue on without me, and I finished about 10 minutes behind them, with one of my teammates from the Moab season who was kind enough to bring me in.

I haven't had a bad ride all season, so it was disappointing to fall apart at the signature event. I'm not sure what happened. I may have bonked. I realized I didn't use one of my packets of sports drink. I had a deli sandwich and a soda at the lunch stop, which is food I never have on a ride. It was hot. I just rode 100 miles last weekend. Who knows. I wish I could pinpoint it so I could avoid it happening again. My quads were killing me and I just felt physically exhausted. It was all I could do to look up every now and then to enjoy the scenery.

While I felt great the first 70 miles, I'm not sure how much fun I was having. The first 20 miles are chock full of people so that it is hard to go as fast as you want. Then there was the fretting at all the rest stops about how much time we were taking (and in fact we ended up with nearly 2 hours of stop time, which is problematic on a timed ride). On all the climbs, there was the difficulty of passing all the slower riders swerving around in the middle of the road and the walkers on the side. There was a long line for water at one of the rest stops. I think I enjoyed this ride a lot more on Labor Day weekend when there weren't 7500 people on the course.

That said, my ride group had an amazing day. I am so proud of all of them! I think they really enjoyed the ride, and that makes it worth it.

I also had fun at the expo watching Levi, McDreamy, Kristin Armstrong (2 time gold medalist), Tom Danielson and others stuff their faces with donuts and ride around on tiny bikes with a support moto behind them. And got some pretty cool swag. And of course had a fabulous weekend with my team, for whom I'm extremely grateful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Moab in the Fall

Day 1

Wednesday morning I headed to the airport to begin my five-day TNT vacation for the Moab Century Ride. The adventures started almost as soon as we landed in Salt Lake City, when the rental car company gave us a Lincoln Navigator with tinted windows. Shortly thereafter we parked the behemoth in a Kmart parking lot, resulting in a loss of all my liberal cred.

We drove through beautiful canyons and desert, arrived in Moab in the dark, and promptly rolled up to the Moab Brewing Company where the beer was less than stellar. It is, after all, 3-2 beer.

Day 2

The next morning I went for a sunrise run in the neighborhood, and then waited about 3 more hours before my fellow travelers were finally ready to head to Arches for the day. Oh the waiting. We finally arrived in Arches approaching noon and popped into the Visitor's Center to see what the rangers might have to share with us. Somehow we must have spoken with the only ranger in all of the National Park Service who doesn't care for hiking. He suggested we visit the Windows section of the park because you can see a lot of Arches from the car. Really?

Ignoring the ranger's advice, we drove out to the end of the park to hike in the 7+ mile Devil's Garden, where he said we might find "one or two arches." But there were all sorts of arches, each more amazing than the last! We may have all run out of water with 2 miles to go (don't tell Coach!), but we made it back safe and sound and had an amazing time!
Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba
Next up, Delicate Arch, the only hiking trail I think I've been to before at Arches. Neither Matt nor I remember much about this and we only have one picture to show for it. It's amazing how much photos must have to do with memories! Anyway, Delicate Arch was phenomenal! As we walked away I kept stopping every 2 feet to look back at it - I didn't want to leave.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba

Finally we did hit up the Windows section that the ranger had suggested, right as the sun was setting, and it did not disappoint.
Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba
 Day 3

Breakfast, bike pick-up, gorgeous tune-up ride by the Colorado River (cliffs! petroglyphs!), lunch, packet pick-up, inspiration dinner.

Photo courtesy of Laura Marshall

Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba

Day 4

100 mile bike ride. Highlights: sunrise along the bike path, Canyonlands appearing out of nowhere at Dead Horse Point, finishing! The 32 miles of flat along the Colorado River was beautiful but not my favorite, as I prefer climbing and descending to pedaling nowhere.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba

Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba

Day 5

Again, my crew dawdled in the morning and we didn't leave Moab until nearly noon. We headed up to Park City to take part in some adventures at Utah Olympic Park: Alpine Slide and ziplining. I think perhaps our favorite part was watching the freestyle ski jumpers launch into the pool. A quick trip to Temple Square, and we were back at the airport to return to the real world, leaving the Navigator behind.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba

Photo courtesy of Andrew Farren/Joseph Torralba

Photo courtesy of Joseph Torralba

Monday, September 17, 2012

Race Season is Here!

Fall may be a strange season for racing, but here in the Bay Area it's beautiful! Having not competed in an event since May, I guess I was feeling like it was time to go for it. So despite twisting my ankle two weeks ago while speed-walking to a Giants game (yeah, I'm that graceful), I have added several cheap races (~$30) to my already rather full Fall racing schedule, which you can see in the sidebar.

First up is the Moab Century coming up this Saturday in Moab. I am super excited! This will be my second century, and I expect it to be "easy," with only 3000 feet of elevation gain. I plan to enjoy the ride through the beautiful Moab countryside including Dead Horse Point and the Colorado River. This will be my "warm-up" ride for the big event the following weekend, Levi's Gran Fondo. You may remember me blogging about last year's experience again and again and again. Following last weekend's 80 mile training ride filled with 2 hours and 30 minutes of stopping for a crash and mechanical problems (which kind of offsets the 6 hour ride time for 7,000 feet of gain), I'm just hoping we've gotten all the crap out of the way before the race this year.

One weekend off, and it's back to running - the Nike Women's Marathon in particular. This was the race that started it all for me back in 2009. I was having a fantastic training season for Nike as well, meeting my goal paces even on hilly courses, but then I went and twisted my ankle. It is recovering well and I ran 3 miles yesterday, so I plan to be in fine form come Nike, but likely not as fast as I had hoped. I really should just walk around always with both my ankles taped up.

The following weekend it's on to my second duathlon ever. I had an amazing time at my first duathlon back in April, and even finished 5th in my division. (And apparently never blogged about it!) For this duathlon the bike course will follow a popular route on the other side of the hills - the three bears, which feature Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Baby Bear, Goldilocks, and what I believe to be at least three other unnamed bears. However, once you climb over the hills to get to the Bears, they just don't seem as big as they used to.

Next up, the inaugural hella-ween 5 Miler, put on by the same peeps as Oakland Running Festival, which I have blogged about a couple of times. This will be a Saturday night evening race through Old Town Oakland and Jack London Square, including a beer stop at our TNT-supporting Linden Street Brewery.

Skip ahead to Thanksgiving weekend, and I will be partaking of the Double Turkey Challenge. Matt and I will be running a 5k on Thanksgiving morning, and I'm adding a 10k that Saturday. Just to get an awesome three-piece medal that says "I heart seconds." This will be our fourth annual Turkey Trot, each one at a different location (although I'm missing a blog for 2011).

Finally, the very next weekend I'll be rounding out the race season with my very first trail half marathon in Kualoa Ranch, Oahu! I'm nervous about the elevation gain (~2900 feet), especially since my ankle twist has set back my hill training. But it's going to be gorgeous, and I still have two months to train. Plus I'll be in Hawaii, so how bad could it be?

So in case you never hear from me this Fall, you'll know why. Hopefully I can stay healthy and uninjured for these events, and I wish health and happiness to you as well! I hope to remember to blog these!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Dessert on the House

Today after our ride, several of my teammates and I headed over to a local restaurant for some food and beer. As we straggled in, a woman asked us if we had been cycling - it was that obvious. Awhile later, she returned and said, "Are you all part of Team in Training? I want to thank you. My daughter is a survivor of ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia). They tell me that the reason the survival rate has increased from 40% to 90% is because of all the treatment that has been funded. Dessert is on the house." We learned that her daughter was diagnosed at 5 and is now 14 years old and doing amazing.

The girl to my left was nearly in tears. The girl to my right noted that she didn't actually know anyone with blood cancer, and that this really brought home the importance of what she and her husband were doing as part of the team. I did not know anyone with blood cancer when I first joined the team either, but unfortunately now I know several. We all have so much fun on the team, most of us would do it even without these reminders. I generally feel as though I don't deserve to be thanked for spending my time having fun.

But I do want to thank all of you who have generously donated to my campaigns over the last several years. Even if you do not know anyone with blood cancer, there are real people whose lives are being saved by the money LLS raises and you never know who they might be. In fact, in the last decade, half of all new cancer therapies were first approved for blood cancers! Thank you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A San Francisco Evening

This past Sunday evening, we had a true San Francisco experience. First we attended the members' opening night of the California Academy of Sciences' new earthquake exhibit. We watched the planetarium show, which featured amazing images and animations of the earth, plate tectonics, and earthquake action. I loved the overhead view of Tomales Bay, Point Reyes, and the entire Bay Area. The show was narrated by San Francisco local Benjamin Bratt.

After that, we lined up for the shake table, which replicates the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake as well as the infamous 1906 quake. Apparently the 1906 quake lasted 90 seconds; the table only replicates 30 seconds, and even that seems like forever. If only my house contained hand rails and had everything bolted to the wall the way the "dining room" on the shake table does. We waited about 30-40 minutes for the shake table, during which we enjoyed complimentary cocktails. After that, we had to head out for our next adventure, so we have to return to check out the actual exhibits, including live ostrich chicks, as well as the 3D show on other planetary geology. If you are in San Francisco, you should definitely go check this out!

The next adventure was a celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary - a fireworks show. I was not sure if this would be worth the adventure in getting there, but we figured since we were in town, we should go check it out. After being passed by several chock full buses, we managed to flag down a taxi, and flew up to the Bay with remarkably little traffic. As soon as we started walking toward the Fort Mason hill, however, we realized we were joining forces with untold numbers of other pedestrians. They were streaming in from the Fisherman's Wharf area, lining the hills and the path. We managed to get a pretty good vantage of the bridge, behind only a couple of other people. Soon, the lights on the bridge turned off. The crowed oohed. And suddenly, a cascade of fireworks falling from the entire span of the bridge - an amazing sight. The rest of the show was also spectacular; the best fireworks I have seen in ages. I do wish they had the bridge towers lit up the entire time, as you could not always see it. The fireworks that lit up the towers and the span were the best. I shudder to think about all the chemicals falling into the Bay. The fireworks were the talk of the office today, two days later. It seems at least half the populace must have seen them.

Well, happy 75th GGB. Thanks for serving the community well and looking so good in the process. As for you earthquakes, I hope the 4.0 near us on the Hawyard last fall is the worst I have to experience when not in the comfort of a shock table. The magnitude of such an event is truly terrifying, but it is all the good things about the Bay Area that keep us here.

Monday, April 16, 2012


This weekend, local sailors participated in a race around the Farallones, islands off the coast north of San Francisco. This water is known to be difficult - windy with large swells. On Saturday, one boat did not make it - three people were rescued, one was found dead, and four are missing. The Coast Guard called off their search Sunday night, saying the window of survivability had closed.

One of those missing is my co-worker. He sits in a cube catty-corner from mine. I do not know him well, other than to smile or say hi as we pass, but he is close with others here. His cube remains with his belongings strewn about, just as he left it, although someone has laid flowers at his keyboard. It is hard to comprehend that he will not be returning; that we will not hear his Irish brogue.

I think it is the suddenness that is baffling. I have been lucky enough to not have been touched my too many deaths in my life, particularly unexpected ones. In college, a friend went on a solo-backpacking trip in Zion and was found dead. It was hard to comprehend that I would not see him at the next party or adventure.

These two young men were doing things they loved - enjoying the outdoors. One could say, "Life is short, do what you love," but that context seems perplexing here. Perhaps you would not choose to do what you love if you knew it would be your last time to do anything at all.

Obviously we accept risk in many of our daily activities. I have to constantly remind myself that driving is more dangerous than most things I do. It is probably more dangerous than sailing or backpacking. And still most of us choose to drive on a regular basis, primarily for the convenience. Here, the risk is accepted; why not in the other areas of our lives too? Are the rewards for driving greater than the rewards for things we love?

Perhaps the aphorism that applies more appropriately here is, "Life is short, love hard."

UPDATE: After I wrote this I went back and looked at the news from my college buddy's death and realized that I totally mis-remembered it. What I wrote about is what I imagined had happened when I first heard he had died, but it was not true. The memory is a strange thing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Great Abandon (Part II)

It has now come to the time of hanging, stagnant heat.  Approaching mid April, the temperatures are surpassing 90 degrees, but the air conditioning in our apartment is not yet on.  The screen door gapes, all three windows are open, and two fans spin languidly.  Today is the first day a pleasant breeze has not been blowing.  So the heat settles.  Mid-afternoon was like a long summer day in the Midwest; it seemed noise had stopped.  The stillness surrounding me was surreal, and the heat drew me into a restless sleep on my bed, waking only to the phone, a pierce to the not-quite-summer day. 
It is past six o’clock now and the sun still hangs in the sky like a child refusing bed.  Birds cheep-cheep, children laugh and chase outside, cars rumble down the road.  The world has awakened from the oppression.  It is only early April. 
The heat of the desert is sometimes agreeable, like being wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa.  Spending a summer in the high desert of Utah accustomed me to 85 degree days and 30 degree nights, but a trip to St. George brought back the pleasantries of home.
            “That thermometer just said it is 108 degrees.  This is stifling.”
            “I love it; it isn’t too hot yet.”
            “Let’s get back into the car and the air conditioning; my feet are sticking to the asphalt.”
I could not put into words how the heat made me feel alive again, the sun testing my skin to see if it still functioned properly.  Somehow, for that moment, I was happily hot.  A few days now and I have had enough.  But every so often, it feels just right.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Great Abandon (Part I)

I think I have figured it out. That is, the reason Phoenix holds no place in my heart. I always feel I am a stranger here, though I’ve been a resident for four years. I love the Sonoran Desert; I am attracted to this land. The desert lies naked, quivering with heat, calling to me. The wide, embracing skies and rocky mountain walls stand testament. To something. I am drawn to the starkness, the great abandon. I cannot take water for granted, but rather search it out, pleadingly. A tinaja hidden among the rocks. A spring daring to rise above ground, filtering quickly back into the land. I felt it for a moment, just now, the reason I love the desert.

Tucson was my home for eight years, my middle childhood, played out in the foothills of the Santa Catalinas. I sprawled outside on our concrete pool deck/backyard and watched the monsoon roll in over the mountaintop nearly every summer afternoon around four. I transferred to the front porch to watch the lightning show from under the relative safety of an overhang. The rain came down and turned our perfectly landscaped yard into verdant fields of Texas Ranger, bougainvillea, birds of paradise. The natural desert portion of our land heaved with saguaro, palo verde, mesquite, cholla, prickly pear. If only the lightning came and the rain forgot to make an appearance, I watched the side of the mountain turn orange with flame, slithering like a snake, while the Forest Service decided whether or not to let it burn.

The mountains near Phoenix are far off in the distance; here I can never watch the storm come rolling in. The Valley of the Sun is not like the Old Pueblo, filled with native plants and visibly surrounded on all sides by mountain ranges, though development there is spilling out the passes, striving, always striving to become a second Phoenix. The desert here hides at the edge of town and sulks somewhere beyond the grass and shade trees. Here the desert is the enemy. Native cacti are ousted by plants from around the world, a usurpation of the native ecosystem, known as the ASU Arboretum. Snowbirds and displaced Midwesterners plant the vegetation of their childhood. Green grass is good memories brought to life again. Phoenix is not the Sonoran desert.

Tom's Race

This past Sunday, two of my TNT XC Ski teammates and I headed up to Bear Valley to participate in Tom's Race, a 10k striding-only event. Four of our other teammates head up as well, but they just skied for fun, partly because the race involved a rather crazy hill.

This race was totally low key and showcased everything that is great about Bear Valley. There were only 30 participants, yet the course was amazingly groomed and marked with care. After the first loop and at the finish, the race organizers cheered all the skiers by name. They didn't care how slow we were, and I managed not to finish last! At the awards lunch, they provided us with a free drink (beer!), food, and door prizes enough for everyone. Erin and I won matching hats filled with Clif product, and Ron won a great Mountain Hardwear backpack. Paul, the proprietor, even thought to mention our adventures in Anchorage and our fundraising for blood cancer. There he is handing out hot buttered bread:

In an interesting ski race phenomenon, Erin and I finished first and second in our division - because we were the only two people in it. Most of the participants were middle-aged men. I managed to fall on my butt twice - on the same steep hill on both loops of the course. But the butt-fall choice worked out better than our other teammate who fell on his face on the same hill and knocked some teeth loose...

We skied in 50 degree temperatures and drove home through the even hotter places where we actually had to turn on the air conditioning. Next weekend will be the last weekend of the ski season for Bear Valley and most other XC venues. We had an amazing experience with Bear Valley this season. The first time we went up, Paul found a softball field with enough snow on it for us to learn how to ski. Another time when it rained over night and prevented grooming the trails, he worked with the Sheriff's Department to groom a town parking lot for us. And when we finally got to ski on trails, they were busy grooming and pumping out water to try to make the best of a not so good situation. Have I mentioned there was hardly any snow this winter?

If you're in California and looking for places to XC Ski next year, I highly recommend visiting Paul at Bear Valley.

[Photos courtesy of Peggy. Thanks!]

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mexican Vignettes

It was easy to go to Mexico, to the big flowery city, to the Orozcos, to the beaches where an ocean view costs change.  It was easy to love from the beginning.  

It was the frogs on the curvy mountain road in the midst of the storm.  It was La Ciudad de Dios, mini-Rio, where El Cristo Rey and los apostolicos watch over Ejutla.  It was seduction in Spanish, because everything sounds better in a language that is not your own.  It was the late night, the rain, and the fuzz in my head.  It was the songs in the streetlight and the supportive adobe wall. It was okay to say nothing in the morning. 

It was riding in the back of a truck, jostling out of town onto the cobblestones of Puerte in the obscurity of 1 am.  It was drunkenness off good tequila that remembered me in the morning.  It was the mariachi sitting next to me, picking la guitarra.  It was the low slung brick house and the night-time serenade.  
I emailed no one, called no one, missed no one.  Perhaps you would say I did not love enough.  But it was only that I loved Mexico too much.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


My mother stands in front of a mirror and says,
“I hate to look at my face.”
It’s the wrinkles she fears – those subtle
            lines of wisdom, experience, life itself
Fifty-five, looking barely forty-six
Her worries are needless
Yet she compares her face to mine
            And I am green in the world, young in life
            My face like a baby’s – two eyes peering out unknowing

My face is my mother’s a few years ago
But she faces the mirror and says,
“I look so old.”
She does not understand she looks like life treated well
            I want to age like her
            An imprint of a good life to show the world
            Lines of age, but mostly beauty

Friday, April 6, 2012


We were sitting in the lobby of the optometrist, arguing about some hangers. 
After she was called into the office, a gentleman near me leaned over and said, "She sure is a firecracker!"

When was it that the fire started ebbing? 
When was it finally gone? 
Like a “fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” we let it, she let it, slip away.

“I’ll see you later,” I said, knowing there was no later. 
I couldn’t bring myself to say goodbye. 

I wish I’d known her when I was older and she was younger. 
I think I would have learned more, understood more. 
Maybe I wouldn’t have given her up so easily.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bryce Canyon Collection (Part II)


I walk over rocks;
I walk through time,
through space, through beauty,
through true amazement.
My shoes grow white, and orange, and yellow;
dust coats my pants; eroded limestone.
I am part of the landscape, of the rock, of the spell of the hoodoos.
The wind blows as I traverse the ridge,
trying to conquer my harsh environment
while it threatens to conquer me.
Just pick me up and toss me off like a feather in the wind.

But I will still be with the land and it will be with me
as I fade into purple and pink and red,
the color of hoodoo in the setting sun.
You cannot separate me from this place,
for it is a part of us all.
The Legend People watch over me, serene in their eternal beauty;
inviting almost to join them as they cast their spell.

I walk through trees, a part of the rocks,
an inspiration in their survival in a land
of streams without water.
I walk through history
and the fears and happiness and awe and power
that are extracted from all who pass by.
I am a Fremont, a Paiute, a Mormon, a geologist.
I am everyone who has gone before and all who will follow me.
I was history,
I am history,
I make history
with every step I take in this awesome place
and every breath that takes in the dust of the hoodoos
and the scent of the ponderosa pine.

I walk through would-be camera snapshots
but I have left my camera;
it will not tell the story that my mind can tell
of the hoodoos’ color in the cloudy light when shadows
fell through the Amphitheater
and each minute was a different picture
and story within itself.

I walk like a cloud,
a hoodoo,
an ever-changing shape
for no emotion is ever the same, nor I’m sure is the look on my face.
I walk through people who are utterly impressed
slowly seeing the beauty which passes so fast
and can’t be described with words.
I walk in the rocks
and the dust
and the years
and I become a legend as well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bryce Canyon Collection

Once I wanted to be a writer. Once I even got paid to write. I started digging through old writing, looking for something. I might as well self-publish on my blog. Beware: a series of writing from my early twenties.


soft rock, crumbly to the touch,
completely unfit for climbing,
but rather good at falling.
Prime substance for erosion,
ice-wedging, geological processes
before my very eyes.

Limestone welcomes; it lets the water into its pores
in the warmth,
but the water remains indebted to no one
and will freeze as the day turns to night,
popping apart its host
but surely
until suddenly

the rock falls.
Two hundred nights a year,
freeze thaw freeze thaw.
Fin, window, arch, hoodoo.
(Like holding up your hand
and slowly splitting the fingers apart.)

Pinnacle like voodoo.
To cast a spell.
Hoodoo, like a cloud ever changing
and not looking the same to two people with eyes
side by side but different minds to process.
Like a cloud, no two hoodoos look the same.
Hoodoo, like a cloud, changing,
the limestone does not stop welcoming.
Is it voodoo?

Coyote the demigod once welcomed,
but his guests were rude and raucous at his party, 
all of them,
snake, prairie dog, mountain lion,
sometimes looking like people
but all rude and now stone. 
They wore out the welcome and
Coyote turned them into stone. 
The Paiute’s Legend People of the limestone,
lurking in the Amphitheater. 

Reflections on 40 Days of Writing

It feels weird to be done with 40 days of something before Easter. For someone reason Lent really lasts more than 40 days because Sundays don't count. Anyway...

I don't think I fully committed to this project, and for that reason, it rang a little hollow. I did not set aside time for writing. It was often an afterthought, a burden when I really wanted to go to sleep. Some days I had exciting things I wanted to write about; some days I eked out a half-a**ed poem or some boring prose. I only posted things I actually liked on Facebook, and that did not amount to very many of the 40 days.

I do hope that the project gave me the impetus to actually write blogs when I have something interesting to say. I had been slacking on my blog before this project with the exception of posting photos from trips and adventures. So I hope to get to a place where I am not writing boring posts but I am writing worthwhile posts. And I truly appreciate all of you who came with me on this journey.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Showers Bring Gorgeous Bike Rides (Day 40)

Yesterday it poured sideways. Today I stepped outside early in the morning to hang my laundry and found a beautiful day in the garden. My landlady was outside too, and she noted that it is always gorgeous after the rain.

I headed to Marin to meet two friends for a bike ride, and not surprisingly we were greeted by strong winds but gorgeous sunshine. I set out with a vest, arm warmers, and leg warmers, and I never took them off. We headed out from San Rafael over to Point Reyes Station, along beautiful cycling roads and lovely scenery with green hills and churning water in creeks, reservoirs, and even water falls.

We stopped at Bovine Bakery, along with about 40 other cyclists, all outside enjoying pastries in the sunshine amidst a hodgepodge of bikes. Since we started so late in the day, we were starved, and actually had pizza while there. Although it was from a bakery, it did not disappoint in the least. While in line, a man behind me asked if there was a bike event going on. No, I responded, cyclists just like to hang out here.

The way back was gorgeous and with no head wind. A few times I was by myself with no cars passing, and the soft whirring of my bike in the beautiful scenery just made me happy. We did 43 miles with 2000 feet of climbing, which I figure is not bad for my first time on a bike (outside of a trainer) since December. And we had a lovely time.

On my way home I stopped at the bike shop to have my new saddle put on, so between that and my upcoming duathlon and metric century, I better get out riding more. (I have 30 days to decide if I like the saddle.)

I am looking forward to more rides with my cycle buddies from last season, and I am already looking forward to the upcoming season. It will be a double header - Moab Century Ride followed by the Gran Fondo the following week. I am also contemplating the Tour de Tucson if I can get any Arizona people interested. (And pending me figuring out how much it costs to ship a bike...) I am not often motivated to ride by myself because of how much effort it takes to get ready, but I love having people to hold me accountable. Yet another benefit of the Team! Now if it would just warm up a touch.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fight for Air Climb (Day 39)

This morning I woke up at 6:30 and dragged myself to the City with a hangover (courtesy of the Warriors) and in the midst of sideways rain caused by gale force winds.

I arrived at the tallest building around, rather wet, collected my bib and timing chip (after multiple attempts and a relocation of the registration tables to somewhere dry), checked my gear, and then proceeded to climb to the top of the building, 52 stories and 1197 steps. This was the 2012 American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb, and I participated as part of the Bank of America Community Volunteers team courtesy of a TNT ski buddy. We were the third team to climb after the firefighters and CrossFit. Many of the fire fighters climbed in full gear - I cannot imagine how much that weighs.

I obviously hadn't trained for this event and was rather nervous about how difficult it was going to be, but it turned out to go much faster and easier than I had expected. I finished in under 13 minutes. At the top, there were spreads of bagels and fruit, a DJ, and amazing views, looking down on everything else around. There were a million volunteers for this event and they were fantastic.

I had worried about claustrophobia in the stairwell, but it was rather big, and they stagger starts by 8 seconds so there were never all that many people around. The elevator ride back down was much worse.

Overall, it was a fun time, and I am sure it would have been even better without the terrible weather and consequent clusterf*** surrounding registration, as well as all the people packed into the lobby creating a din. It was so much nicer to be on top. I would definitely do this event again, and so should you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ant Infestation (Day 37)

On Tuesday it poured. While walking to BART with my laptop in a bag and under my umbrella (or so I thought anyway), my laptop got wet through my bag. When I arrived home and stepped under cover to dig my keys out, I noticed thousands of tiny ant swarming up on the threshold. I hoped upon hope that they had not gone inside. I imagined millions of ants eating every errant crumb in the kitchen, coating the counters.

When I walked in, there were hundreds of ants, but luckily they had not seemed to find a trail yet so were mostly milling around just inside the door and around the door frame. This is not the first time we have had ants inside the house, so I reached for my spray bottle of soapy water and took aim. Soon, I had masses of dead ants. I wiped up the dead ants on the threshold and door frame to avoid creating any juice when I shut the door, but I did not clean up all the many other dead ants inside the house. I guess maybe I was hoping Matt would take care of it.

Matt did not, but when I approached the door yesterday, I realized that the huge mass of dead ants had disappeared. I guess the ants cleaned up themselves. I will have to remember to thank them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Engineering (Day 36)

Matt likes to make fun of engineers a lot. He thinks all they do is plug numbers into equations. He considers them "less than" scientists. I like to defend engineers because I spent two and a half years in an engineering program before dropping out. In addition, both of us have graduate degrees from a college of engineering (although our program is no longer in that college).

Many of my jobs have bordered on engineering, and my first job out of grad school was even classified as Environmental Engineer. I have developed models, reviewed savings calculations from energy efficiency measures, and tried to understand various technologies as I help develop federal energy efficiency standards.

I am spending three days in a class about pumping systems, which will culminate in a test to become a qualified pump systems specialist, or some such designation. This test is really all about plugging numbers into equations, and in particular a tool that does all the calculations for you. This is definitely the part of engineering that Matt likes to make fun of, and it is certainly boring me to no end. I am glad I get to spend most of my days thinking about bigger picture issues like how to regulate pumps and other equipment instead of using these equations over and over again. (And I realize regulations probably sounds amazingly boring to a lot of other people! And it certainly can be.) One of the girls in my class (two others finally showed up) has her own company that does things such as performing audits to improve energy efficiency, and she noted that she likes being able to see a result at the end of every day. I may not see a result for three years, if ever. So I guess there are trade offs to everything!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pumps, pumps, pumps (Day 35)

Three days of pumps.
What more could a girl ask for?
And I didn't even do my homework.
Note to self: probably not ready to go back to school.
Bernoulli is enough.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cupcakes for a Penny?! (Day 34)

I have complained about my neighborhood before, I'm sure. It's very nice and pretty and well-maintained, and we see all sorts of people out walking about, but people just aren't friendly. They try to avoid eye contact. They don't respond when you say hi. They yell at their dogs for taking an interest in you.

Today as I walked home, a little girl was drawing in chalk on the sidewalk. As I approached she suddenly shot up and said, "Cupcakes for sale! Would you like a cupcake?" I stopped. Her little brother was sitting at a tiny table with a tray of cupcakes in front of him.

"How much?" I asked.

"One dollar," she proclaimed. Then, "One penny or one nickel."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"One penny or one nickel. How does that make you feel?" she responded.

"Well I think you should charge more," I offered.

I opened my wallet to find I had no dollar bills. "Do you have change?" I asked. This concept was a bit beyond them.

The father, who had been sitting on the steps, walked over and said, "It's one coin. Here's the deal: After we sell seven more of these cupcakes, I get to go inside."

I laughed and dropped my approximately 40 cents in change into their cup.

The little girl picked up a cupcake and held it towards me. "Would you like whipped cream or sprinkles?"

I declined, and continued on my way home. Quite a steal for a cupcake - the coffee shop down the road sells them for about $3.

I'm not sure if this was a spring break adventure. I'm kind of sad that the father was bored of hanging outside with his cute children who seemed to be quite enjoying themselves. It was a fairly nice day. But hey - at least I finally talked to someone in my neighborhood.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Oakland Running Festival Race Report (Day 33)

Well, I downgraded to the half, and as a result I got to sleep in for several hours. As I was heading to the BART station past all the full marathoners running through mile 5, a woman on the side of the road exclaimed, "Oh no, did you have to drop out?" I informed her I was running the half and it hadn't started just yet. When I arrived at BART, the platform was covered with many other runners heading to the race, and when we exited two stops later, I really don't think I had ever seen so many people in that station, even at rush hour.

The race started right across the street from where I used to work. I wished I still had the key card to get in the building because it was freezing outside and I had to use the restroom. But I headed into the park with the masses and shortly ran into a friend. When they let us into the corrals, it became claustrophobic. I am not sure there was quite enough room for the 4000 people that were supposedly starting the half. The pace markers were not very far apart.

The mayor greeted us, to not much cheering. I don't think she is very popular. However, the Oaktown pride was still alive, as someone near me in the corral yelled,"I love Oakland." People jumped up and down to the "I Work Out" song. Finally we started. The course was full of potholes, and it was difficult to deal with all the runners and try not to turn your ankles. There were also numerous turns on the course, and at every one, numerous jerks listening to music cut me off to cut the corner tight. I realize that ideally you should run the inside of the course, but when you are as slow as me (or really anybody who is not going to win the race), you should probably just hold a line.

There were not too many spectators along the first part of the course. At one point some people with a stroller went through the cross walk not far in front of me and not very fast. Someone in a "Half Full Running Club" shirt yelled at them, telling them we were in a race. Now, they could have crossed much faster, but it didn't slow this girl down much and she clearly wasn't going to win the race either way. I have no idea why you would want to make the local neighbors hate the race more than they might already. All her running club buddies commiserated with her. Net to self: do not join that running club.

Near the BART stations and by Lake Merritt, there were huge crowds of spectators. It was fabulous to have so many people out cheering for us. The TNT cheer and water station was a noisy tunnel of support, and of course I saw several people I knew there, although Matt did not notice me. I also saw one of my coworkers at a water station.

I can't say I enjoyed the course and event as much as I did last year when I ran 18 miles of the full as a bandit. The full takes you to more of the city, and there were not nearly so many runners packed so close together. I on't remember ever getting cut off at turns. And there was enough space to see and avoid all the potholes and uneven pavement.

In the end, I PRd. 1:56:20, about four and a half minutes faster than the PR I set last year at Kaiser. This course was definitely flatter, and the weather was perfect for running - 50 and cloudy. I didn't even rain. So I am glad I did this race. It was nice to roll out of bed and BART over to the start. But definitely not one of my favorite races. (Could be that I was just trying too hard.) Thanks to Matt and everyone else who was out there cheering or volunteering!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It Could Be Worse (Day 32)

As I was getting off the train on my way home from the Oakland Running Festival expo, the man next to me told me good luck. As we was also carrying expo goods, I told him the same and asked which race he was doing.

"I won't be running," he said. "I signed up for the full, but it's not going to happen this year."

His face and voice were deflated. I understood. And I will count myself lucky that at least I will be able to run and probably finish the half. A little rain, a little sore throat and cough, and a little toe problem never hurt anyone, right? Plus I will have TNTers cheering for me! Maybe I should wear purple.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Toast (Day 30)

A reclassification and 20% raise calls for two pints with friends on a week night. And sleep. In a happy coincidence, I have no more early meetings on Friday either. This calls for sleeping in.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skewer Drama (Day 29)

(Clearly I have nothing valuable to contribute to the writing sphere today and you should probably just stop reading now...)

This winter I have been attending my XC Ski coach's free spin classes at Sports Basement. My coach had been nice enough to bring me a trainer to borrow for several classes, but it had become time to acquire my own trainer so he could accommodate other new people in his classes. Luckily one of my teammates offered me his trainer as he has a fancy new device. He claimed his trainer was nice enough not to ruin skewers, so I was not supposed to need a special trainer skewer. However my skewer turned out to be square and would not sit properly in the trainer.

So my coach told me he would bring me a skewer to borrow for that week's class if I ordered a trainer skewer online. S that's what happened, and he even let me take the skewer home with me so I could spin at home. (Which was great because I discovered running after spinning is awesome.) My new trainer skewer arrived in the mail last weekend, and I promptly put it on my bike. Because a little extra weight never bothered me (I have a steel bike after all), I figured I would just leave the trainer skewer in rather than having to change it every week for spin class. So when my bike went to the shop this week, it went in with the trainer skewer. It apparently did not come out with it.

When I showed up at spin class this evening, I returned my coach's skewer to him, and he lent it to someone else for the class. I then promptly discovered that my local bike shop had replaced my trainer skewer with a new skewer matching the lever up front. I am sure they thought they were doing me a favor.

Luckily my coach was able to get the new square skewer to sit in the trainer sufficiently for the class. I called the bike shop and they were very apologetic and told me to come in anytime to pick up the skewer. My coach said, "So much for hearting your local bike shop." Not sure what their deal is with skewers. The last time I had my bike in for service, they called me the next day and told me they had left their trainer skewer in my bike and could I come in to return it to them. I was skeptical of this based on the appearance of my skewer, and when I went in they confirmed, that no, I did not have the trainer skewer. Luckily I do not live far from the bike shop, and they are still nice enough to make it worth it.

Ah the skewer drama!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Alma Mater (Day 28)

Today I stopped in a shop by the shuttle stop in Downtown Berkeley to get some tea prior to Technovation. My cup of hot water emerged surrounded by this:


That's right, my alma mater is apparently advertising in the heart of Bears country. 

While I actually feel as though I received an excellent education from Arizona State, I doubt it compares to Cal. All I can figure is that they are trying to sop up the people who can't quite cut it at Cal? Perhaps I'm not giving them enough credit. But it's kind of like the billboard in Phoenix proclaiming, "This is Wildcat Country." Not so, not so.

Maybe I should look at what they're offering?