Monday, March 25, 2013

Oakland Marathon Race Report

I was nervous and anxious for about a week before the race. I tried to keep myself busy so I didn't think about it. When I showed up at Inspiration Lunch on Saturday, my coach told me I was breathing awfully shallowly. So that was fun. Day of, I was ready to get it over with:

My pre-season goal had been to finish in 3:55, based on a race equivalency chart from my half marathon PR in October on a similarly hilly course. However, I lost about 3.5 weeks of running due to a mysterious foot ailment everyone thought was a stress fracture, but did not show up in x-rays and eventually went away. Then I got a cold for a few weeks. When I made the mistake of looking at my training logs a couple days before the race, I realized I had averaged only about 2 workouts a week during my training season. Gulp. Only part of this is attributable to my injury and illness; I also just didn't have much commitment. It might be time to take a season off. In addition, because of the injury, I only had 3 "long" runs: 14, 17, and 20 miles.

Anyway, I basically didn't know how fast I could expect to run on race day, and therefore how to pace myself. I knew I wanted somewhere between a 9:09 pace (which would put me just under 4 hours) and a 10:00 pace (which would put me around 4:25 or so). I am super good at pacing myself in half marathons just by how I feel that day, so I figured I would do the same thing. And therefore ignored my coach, who told me to have a 20 mile warm-up run followed by a 10k race. He said the most important thing was to set a goal for the last 10k.

Well, I felt pretty good going out, and was running between the 4:00 and 4:15 pacers. I saw Matt at mile 5, right by our house. The 900 feet of elevation gain is between miles 6-11. I enjoy hills. Turns out I didn't have an over-10:00 mile the first half of the race, despite these hills. Oops. After 11 it is all downhill and then flat.

By mile 12 I was starting to get a little bored. I was having trouble with my nutrition. I was not sure if I was hungry, full, needed more water, needed more salt, or needed nothing. I hit the half-way point in 2:03. I was reassured that I could easily run the second half in 2:27, and thus still feel good about finishing under 4:30. I didn't plan to run that slow of course.

I'd also been feeling a blister since about mile 6. I kept having an inner conversation about whether I should stop at a medical tent to get taped up but never did. Miles 14-16 have no turns and run straight down a boring street in which you go from 34th to 4th and therefore can see with each street sign how far you have left to go. I knew at mile 17 I would be merging with the halfers, see Matt, and see my housemate playing Taiko, and that did give me a little pick me up.

Merging with the half had its downside; I was merging with runners who were slower than I was, so not only did I have to dodge them, I had to avoid being sucked in running at their pace, which was a little challenging at that point in the race. I was thinking I'd like to be done. There were more spectators there and entertainment, which was nice. I finally hit mile 20. I decided that instead of the outrageous 9:00 mile goal I was thinking for the 10k earlier, I would go ahead and shoot for 10:00. I hit 20 miles at 3:09, so this would give me a finish of 4:09, or a 9:30 pace, which I felt good about.

Turns out that didn't go well. Miles 20-23 were rough. I walked a few times, with the excuse of getting food out of my race belt and eating it. Or walking through a water station. It was hard to get started again. Hitting mile 23 was awesome. It's at the beginning of the Lake, near the Finish, so tons of spectators are there and it was full of energy. Matt was there also. I had a momentary feeling of joy, which was soon diminished, as I headed onto the lake path and realized there would be very few spectators the rest of the way. Around mile 24, I stopped to walk again, getting out my last gel packet. I couldn't force it down, although I needed it. Forcing myself to start running was hard again. That mile was also tough as the lane got narrow, and I had to dodge a lot of slower half-ers. I did run into some teammates, which was nice. I knew at mile 25 I would finally have the mental fortitude to pick it up, and I did. I was given an extra surge part way through when the 4:15 sign holder caught up with me - I knew I wanted to beat them. My coach picked me up with .2 to go, which was awesome. And I finally finished at 4:14:11. 

I can't say I had fun at this race, even in the first half. And then I ran a positive split, finishing the first half in 2:03 and the second in 2:11. I couldn't even meet my 10k goal. I ran four of those miles at a pace significantly higher than 10:00. I had trouble keeping it together. Starting at mile 18, all my paces were 9:50 or higher. Perhaps if I had run the first half more prudently, I would have had more fun and more left in the tank in the second half. I guess I'll chalk it up to a learning experience. Even though I am disappointed I couldn't mentally get it together for a 10:00 pace in the last 10k, based on my complete exhaustion and mental confusion at the end of the race, I'm pretty sure I left most, if not all, of it out there.

My friend had told me that she had a time goal for her first marathon, and that while running it she was totally okay with not making it. I didn't believe her, but now I understand. Even by mile 1, I was thinking, I'm running a marathon! Who cares how fast I am. But I do think my desire to meet my goal did push me too fast in the first half.

Here's me with my awesomest spectator at the end, probably 30 minutes later. I still look awfully shell-shocked.

And here's the bib, medal, and the 26.2 and ROCK STAR additions to my TNT collection. Thanks to all of you, I became a rock star by raising $2000 more than my minimum. Thank you so much!!!

When I saw my coach after the race and thanked him for a great season, he proceeded to talk about how 4:14 was great for this course, and after we get my foot all taken care of, I should think about CIM or Chicago, because those are great qualifying courses. Really? Oh Coach...

The problem is, I did get injured this season, but I took time off to let it heal. And I'm sure my super minimum mileage contributed to my relative injury-freeness and my ability to finally successfully run a marathon. To get better I need more mileage, and for me this is often counter-productive.

Also, I have to say, I think half-marathons are more fun. Even if you are trying to PR, the first 10 miles are still quite pleasant, and only the last 2-3 are kind of awful. That's a much better ratio than I experienced in the marathon. I do run some halfs just for fun, without trying to run super-fast, so I guess maybe that is a marathon option as well.

There were definitely a lot of miles during the race where I wished I weren't there, but I'm not as dead set against ever running another one as I thought I might be. The cross country ski marathon (40k) is still the hardest event in which I've participated. I'm still unclear how much of that was due to sickness, but I was on the verge of tears for a long time after that one. It did take me a good 1:30 longer than the marathon though. I still think I should be able to ski faster than I can run.

Here's my stats.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oak Ness Monster Part Deux

The other day I was discussing Lake Merritt and the Lake Chalet with a colleague, when for some reason I felt it was a good idea to note the existence of an Oak Ness Monster. After telling me I was crazy, said colleague finally agreed that it was indeed a cool art project and maybe it did exist. This prompted me to do a bit of internet searching, at which time I discovered that my previous post about the monster has nearly 300 page views - by far the most I've ever had.

Since the publication of my blog post in March 2011, a UC Berkeley publication contained a serious albeit likely tongue in cheek article about the monster, apparently on the author's last day.

In addition, you can now purchase a t-shirt with a 1940's era representation of the monster.

Of course, the Lake Merritt Institute has been touting the existence of the monster since 2006, but given that they also discuss mermaids in the lake, they really can't be trusted.

In 2008, the Oakland Tribune picked up the story, and the monster was apparently named Merrittzilla in a poll. (I prefer Oak Ness.)

Still, I'm rather flummoxed by the lack of information on this monster. If you do a google image search for the Lake Merritt monster, my picture is one of only three apparent real photos. Why do more people not see this monster? How long does it sit on the bottom of the lake? And most importantly, will it rise from the depths to support me during the Oakland Marathon on the 24th?

Have you seen the monster? Please tell me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


quietbookiconlarge Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cant Stop Talking

A friend just lent me the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. I finished it in two days, which might provide some indication that I am in fact an introvert, since I spent two straight nights curled up with a book instead of speaking to anyone.

I have a feeling that some people who read this will be well aware that I'm an introvert, while some may be shocked. In certain social situations with small groups of people with whom I'm comfortable, I have been known to be loud and obnoxious. At work I'm assertive and out-spoken and have been known not to shy away from trouble no matter the price. (Although I'm being remarkably good at my current job.) I love public-speaking and am good at it, and one of my dream jobs is in stakeholder engagement. I have volunteered to teach classes and enjoyed it.

When I took the Meyers-Briggs test several years ago, I rated I/E, or an ambivert, but the four-letter description with I was way more apropos than the four-letter description with E. 

My biggest introversion? Meeting new people without a well-defined role. I would never go to a party alone, and when I do go, I am liable to only talk to the few people I already know. When I participate in Team in Training, I love to be a mentor, because then I have a job to do that requires me to talk to people, so I don't have to figure out how to socialize on my own. Networking? Forget it. How do you walk up to a group of people and insert yourself in an ongoing conversation without seeming like a weird lurker? I have no idea. I collect very few business cards and give away even fewer.

My favorite conference is the ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. Besides its amazing location at the beach in Asilomar and the amazing range of fascinating topics, everyone eats meals in a huge dining hall at round tables. And it is not uncommon for people, like me, to go in by themselves and be seated at random. I have a feeling this situation still might be difficult for some introverts, but for me it's perfect - I have a reason to talk to people - we're trapped at the same table. In fact, this is how I got my current job - I happened to be seated next to the director of the energy technologies division at LBNL, we discussed our shared interests in energy and water, and we exchanged cards. When I emailed him later, he passed my info on to someone else, who passed it on one more time, and suddenly I had an interview and a job offer. The problem with this version of networking? It's the luck of the draw. I mean, I could get seated next to someone like me, who doesn't have much cachet in the world.

My next biggest introverted tendency? Fear of small talk. I ride the lab shuttle to and from work nearly every day. A few other people in my building ride the same shuttle, and I know them. Every day, we each sit in our own seats in the shuttle. Then when we arrive at the lab, we walk into work together and chat on the short walk. I can handle this few minutes of chatting. But being trapped next to someone on the shuttle for 20 minutes and having to engage in conversation without awkward silence? That's anxiety-inducing for sure. And these are nice, friendly people. I'm not entirely sure if they are introverted as well, or if they are just respecting my obvious introversion. I often prefer hanging out in small groups instead of one-on-one so that there is less pressure on me to keep the conversation going. Obviously with some people this is no problem, but having back-up is often fabulous.

I'm also very threat-oriented instead of reward-oriented. I abhor criticism, even of the constructive variety, I worry about making mistakes, I worry about people being angry at me. I refuse to participate in the stock market.

I rarely talked in class and thought that most be who did were full of B.S. and just liked to hear their own voices.

And finally, my introversion produces a need for downtime. I can be exhausted by certain social situations. I actually feel as though I am getting better at this over the years, but it might just be that I have so much downtime built into my schedule now. I am a pretty good homebody, so I have plenty of time for recharging.


Cain talks about how some introverts are able to basically meld them into someone else to be extroverts in certain situations, and how having special projects that you care about makes it easier to take on this role. I am not sure if I just happen to have extroverted tendencies in key areas that help me deal with a world that loves extroverts, or if I've just conditioned myself over the years.

Cain notes that shyness and introversion are not necessarily the same thing, but for me they are very related. Until I was 16, I was often painfully shy in school, except with my groups of friends or basketball teams. I remember one incident in the bathroom of high school, which at lunch time was always so full of girls doing their make-up that it was nearly impossible to wash one's hands. After trying to wriggle in to the sink without having to talk to anyone, some girls started making fun of me. I realized I needed to be more assertive. We moved to a new town that summer, and I was able to sort of reinvent myself. Maybe that helped spurred my collection of some extroverted tendencies. Nature vs. nurture - that's discussed in the book as well, of course without any real answers.

After reading the book, I actually feel as though I am doing pretty well in the world of extroverts. I could certainly learn from some of the tips, such as how to use my introversion to be a good negotiator. (I am a terrible negotiator and have a lot of difficulty selling myself, especially in places that aren't meritocracies.) There are also great sections on how to deal with relationships between extroverts and introverts and how to deal with introverted kids.

One of the things that interested me was in the discussion questions at the end, when it asked who you know who is an introvert. I realize that I have no idea. I have several guesses. But when I think about people I know, I have a lot of trouble determining whether they are introverts. Maybe this is part of my extroverted tendencies - to not reflect on every little thing. Perhaps I'm not observant. I don't know.

Are you an introvert? (Take the quiz.) Have you read this book? How do you feel about introversion? Do you feel discriminated against? Have you made changes to help you succeed in the extroverted world we live in?