Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good intentions pave the road to where?

Because of the extreme heat and crappy air quality, my plan this week was to get up very early and either run or cross train before work. I was successful on Monday; I wasn't sleeping anyway so I got up and did a lower body toning tape. I was unsuccessful today; I wasn't sleeping anyway and still reset my alarm for the regular time. Sigh. Before I left home I packed a bag so I'll be running after work. In the heat. And the smog.

It's definitely cooling though. In theory the air quality will be much better today than it's been, there's a good strong breeze through the trees. The horizon looks blue instead of sickly brown (but it's still a bit hazy) and that's a good sign too.

Chicago seems so far away, but it'll be here before I know it. In training-for-a-marathon terms, it's just a few long runs away. Well, several long runs away. But in order to do the long runs I need to keep up with the weekday training.

After my exhausting run on Saturday I was at my mom's house. She noticed how crappy and worn down I looked and asked me why I bothered with all of this. My answer was simply that there is nothing I love more than running marathons, and to do that I need to train. Regardless of weather or air quality or health or injuries, I need to have consistent mileage on my feet (preferably running) and regular toning and core work. My brain is well aware of this. Now I just have to convince the rest of me.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I didn't inhale ...

... when I was outside today since the air was so polluted. It's another Spare the Air Day in the Bay Area; unlike yesterday when the air was merely "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups," today the air in the inland East Bay is plain old "Unhealthy." Yesterday I should have limited my outdoor exertions, today I should avoid them completely. Okey dokey, I'll stay inside with my air conditioning on. Come to think of it though, doesn't my excessive use of energy for said air conditioner contribute to the unhealthy air?

Despite the inability to breathe deeply I ran 13 miles yesterday. Fine, I "ran" 13 miles yesterday. Anita and I started our run on the Lafayette-Moraga Trail at 7:00 am hoping to beat the worst of the heat. We were only partially successful; by the time we finished it was only 80 degrees instead of the 100+ that came later. The early part of the run went pretty decently except for the stretch where I aspirated an insect. It was pretty gross, trying to cough up some gnat out of my lungs.

We had a surprise visitor during the run. As I was standing on the side of the trail trying to hack up the bug, Mary Ann caught up to us. We hadn't know she was coming so we didn't wait for her at the start. Since she didn't want to run more than 8 miles we only had a short time with her before she headed back, but it's good to run with her again.

At about 6 miles out we ran past the back of my nephew's school. I was pointing it out to Anita and didn't notice the very large lump on the pavement right in front of me. My toes jammed into it, I think I went just a little airborne, my face came within about a foot of the ground and somehow miraculously I caught my balance and kept running. But I had such a huge rush of adrenaline that I felt high. Within a very short time that surge was gone and I was left with trembling legs and little energy. But at least I wasn't wiping blood off my chin!

The return run wasn't nearly as pleasant as the outbound leg. I was feeling the effects of the air, the heat, the distance and my little trip. We did more walking than I would have liked but I continued to try to push it as fast as I could. We finished hot and tired and dehydrated but feeling quite pleased with ourselves for getting it done. I guess 13 miles is still 13 miles, no matter how ugly!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Now that it's summer

The Bay Area finally noticed that summer has officially started and presented us with glorious weather. The sky right now is about as blue as you'll ever see when you're staring wistfully out of your office window. While I'm not a big fan of running or cycling in it, the wind is fascinating to watch as it blows bits of the overgrown Eucalyptus trees all over the place. I see that the temp is currently 68 degrees, although I'm shivering in my over-air conditioned office. I'd love to be outside.

I'm pretty sure that back when I was about 30 I thought that by 55 I'd be seriously considering retirement, that I could do whatever I'd want because I'd be so financially secure that I wouldn't have to work. Uh, right. Although I'm feeling much older than then, I'm still thinking it will be at least another 10 years before the retirement bug bites me hard enough to get out of here.

All of which comes down to this. Why can't we be like civilized nations where hard-working people get several (or many) weeks of consecutive vacation time in the summer? Why do we feel guilty leaving work for longer than a week, why do we feel indispensable, why do we think things would fall apart without us? Or why do we feel that in this economy we're lucky to have a job at all, and if we take any vacation time the job might not be waiting for us when we return?

[edited to add: I thought I posted this yesterday after I wrote it. Whoops!]

Monday, June 22, 2009

That was quick

I had a fabulous vacation. It was great to get away, my first do-nothing vacation in ... in ... in I can't remember how long. Most of my vacations involve running marathons which, although they're my favorite thing to do, aren't restful. In fact, they involve a certain amount of stress. Likewise my vacations with or visiting relatives. There is nobody in the world that I'd rather spend time with than my sis and I'd gladly spend each and every vacation and day off I have with her. But those don't tend to be restful vacations.

Vegas was 100% stress free and I accomplished my entire goal: nothing. My brain rested and for the first time in well over a year I didn't have a painful burning in my gut. I even slept, very unusual for any time, let alone in a hotel.

We sat in the sun, slathered with SPF 675 (or something like that) sunscreen, sipping frozen over-sized fruity alcoholic concoctions and watching all the (surgically and cosmetically enhanced) beautiful people. Lots of crispy critters, some even applying suntan lotion. I didn't know they made that any longer; why not just spray yourself with PAM and get it over with?

We went to an off-Strip salon and got nice, but short-lasting pedicures. We walked a couple of miles in flip flops (objects in the distance are further than they seem) (and, ouch). We played slots (you notice I don't say "we gambled" because my gambling luck is nonexistent and I just do it for entertainment). Bree played a bit of poker while I stayed away so that my negative luck didn't rub off on her.

Meals were whenever, whatever we wanted. Sometimes we split things, other times we each found something special we just had to eat. We only had two meals each day but they were winners each time. From the Reuben (my annual beef-fest), to the Puck pizza and salad, to the mussels to the "S" pretzel, I enjoyed every bite. And every sip.

One morning we got up early, way early, and went for a 4+ mile run along the Strip. The weather was perfect for running and my breathing was the best it's been for ages. It was fun seeing the early morning people and the surprising number of other runners. The early morning workout made us feel virtuous and allowed to indulge the rest of the day. Fine, we probably burned 300 calories and then consumed 3000 but that wasn't the point.

Our biggest splurge was going to see "The Showgirl Must Go On" with the Divine Miss M. We had close-up but slightly off center seats to watch Bette Midler , the Harlettes and a chorus of showgirls put on a big gaudy Las Vegas performance. It was worth every cent we paid, and maybe even more than that. We would have preferred that the loud, pushy, opinionated heartland woman sitting with her minions behind us would have shut her mouth, but at least she didn't talk during the show. The glitter, the songs, the sets, the dancing, the wheelchairs, the mermaids, the laughs; it was all there.

But good times couldn't last forever. Within hours of stepping off the plane my breathing got worse, the burning restarted in my stomach, my brain started spinning and I resumed my normal insomnia. I washed everything I had with me to remove the smoke odor, put everything away and it was as if I had never left.

An almost 10 mile run on Saturday helped me relax but the rest of the day was the same as all my weekends and the relaxation didn't last. Nobody said it would be easy. Now it's time to start serious training for our next event, the one after that and the one after that. Setting goals and reaching them, moving on to the next, not punishing myself for any setbacks.

It sure was fun escaping real life for a short time. Now, I need a vacation.

Monday, June 15, 2009

I need a vacation now

In honor of absolutely nothing, in support of absolutely nothing, after training for absolutely nothing I'm taking a vacation. That should probably be "vacation" since it's only for three nights but nonetheless. It's vacation.Three nights away baking my brains in the desert heat. And maybe even in the dessert heat.

No muss, no fuss, no worries and no stress. I can do what I want, when I want, how I want. Within limits of course since I'm not traveling alone. I'm taking things for knitting, reading, listening and watching. Running and swimming too, but those might take a back seat.

I'm too old to party all night even if I had the energy to, but I intend to paint the town -- er -- pink? Painting the town red seems like too much work, so pink it is.

See you next week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mermaid Duathlon Report

I was having second thoughts about the whole thing when I dragged my sorry butt out of bed at 4:15 am Sunday morning. A duathlon? Even a sprint duathlon was more than I'd ever done. Since turning over and going back to sleep wasn't an option I started my pre-race morning rituals and got out of the house on time at 5:15.

The whole Mermaid Series was new to me. I had seen their races advertised but hadn't gotten around to doing one. I hadn't even talked with anyone who did their races. Although I thought the duathlon was maybe an afterthought to their regular triathlon, I hadn't been swimming since last year and decided run/bike/run made more sense to me than swim/bike/run. The race took place at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area in Fremont. I've been running on the Alameda Creek Trail since my first marathon season in 2001 but I've never even known that Quarry Lakes existed. It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise and a lovely place.

You know how I like arriving early for things, at worst arriving right on time. Once again I misjudged; I had allotted 45 minutes for the drive and it took way less. I arrived as they were setting up registration. Although there had been packet pick-up the day before, it was in Sunnyvale and there was no way I was going to take the whole day going there and back. I was the first in line for the duathlon pick-up and after the volunteers had been instructed in the procedures I got my numbers, goody bag, chip and shirt.

The bag was a reusable shopping bag with the logo, very cute. The shirt was a cotton short sleeved tee. There wasn't much in the bag beyond ads, discount coupons, a mini-Luna bar and Luna Moons and a sample of Sport-Wash, but the bag itself was nice.

front of the shirt

I grabbed my bike and pack from the car and headed over to the transition area. Before I was allowed in I had my left arm, hand and calf marked with my number. It appeared that the volunteers manning the markers hadn't been told what to put where. Some of the duathlon participants had a "D" along with their age, some had only the "D" and some had only their age. Some women just skipped marking altogether. This did make it tough during the race to determine who were your age group competitors.

Since I was there so early I had my choice of racking spot. The racks were arranged by age group with the family/friends and duathlon groups racking together at the front. I got a primo end spot and set out my gear, checking and double checking to confirm everything was in order. Slowly the area filled up but at least around me it never got crowded or cramped.

The weather at that point, and until well after I finished, was overcast and cool with very little wind. It was perfect for running, perfect for cycling. It was light enough for sunglasses but not so bright that I had to squint. The weather became a total non-issue.

Nobody was too sure where the start for the duathlon (or the run in from the first run) was located. I walked around to confirm the other ins and outs and wandered to the beach area to look around. I made a couple of trips to the bathrooms (which were real bathrooms, not porta potties); the lines weren't at all bad.

At about 7:15 I walked down to the beach with a bunch of other women who obviously were doing the du (they had on running shoes instead of bare feet). The first wave of the triathlon was starting at the same time as the du. Many of the tri women were wearing wetsuits but there were others just in swimsuits, tri suits or even just regular running/cycling clothes.

The organizer walked over to one spot and drew a line in the sand; that was our starting point. Although this was a chip timed race, the start didn't have a mat. We all milled around and realized we had to run through the sand for a couple hundred yards before the road. Yuck. There was one horn that sounded at 7:30 and we were off!

Slipping and sliding, I quickly fell to the back of the pack (not a very big pack, less than 100 women) on the very thick, very soft sand. I wanted to run my own pace and not be influenced by speedy starters but I also wanted to push and see what I could do. Once we got on the road, a gravel access road/trail, I was able to pick up some speed. Since the first run was only 1.5 miles I figured I could push myself much harder than I would otherwise.

The course was supposed to be flat, but there were definitely a couple of little hills. A short 25' or 50' climb is not flat, no matter how you cut it. The route was kind of pretty along the water and through the greens. I ran right on the edge of wheezing and soon found myself back at the sand. I saw we had to run along the water to the same spot where the triathletes exited; there was a timing mat right there, then we had to run up the sand, along the walk and into transition. According to Mr. Garmin it was 1.54 miles, average 11:15/mile (I know! I don't run that fast!).

Mostly because of the distance it took me 3:57 in T1. Although I quickly stripped off my running shoes and threw on my cycling stuff, there still was a long way from mat to mat. I got out on the course and set to work.

The route was 3 circuits of a twisty 3 mile route. I was later told that Union City got pissy about the race using the roads and this route was a last minute change. Despite being advertised as a flat route, we had to cross an overpass each loop, both directions. To me, for the first 2 circuits at least, it wasn't much. But I saw several women struggling, slowing and straggling. That wouldn't have been an issue except both directions were sharing one traffic lane; we had to go single file over the overpass with no passing. A few of the intense racing women had trouble with that; I could see them literally bouncing on their bikes, wanting to get around the slower riders.

My biggest problem was when there was a woman walking her bike up; I had to go around her and the people behind me did too. Road etiquette on the route was hit and miss; mostly women went single file and pulled to the right after passing, calling out when they came up beside you. There unfortunately were those other women who rode 3 across, blocking anyone behind them. A couple of the fastest women were scooting along on the right, weaving in and out, getting impatient with the rookies out there. My opinion was they should go for a race where there isn't a "family and friends" category, that doesn't encourage beginners to enter and compete at their own pace. Sure, you can challenge yourself but remember where you are and cut a little slack.

Anyway, I rode pretty hard and by the end of my third circuit I could feel my legs getting weaker. I was happy to get to the end and hop off. According to Mr. Garmin, 9.3 miles with a 14.3 average. Not too bad, but I thought I had gone faster (according to the official results I averaged 15.2 mph which seems more accurate). T2 was faster with a time of 2:40.

I started running the second route and realized after a few minutes that I had made a big mistake: I didn't eat the gel that was sitting right on top of my running cap. Uh oh. I'd been working hard for almost an hour and all I had consumed were 2 Sport Beans while I was on the bike. At least I had been drinking while on the bike so I wasn't dehydrated. But I was feeling lightheaded and weak.

I slowed way down, and walked up the hills. I also threw in a couple of 30 second walk breaks here and there when I got woozy. When I could I continued running as hard as I could but it was more of a shuffle than a run. No matter, I was shuffling quickly. I managed to take the time to check out the scenery, smile at the other people, think about how lucky I was to be out there. Before I knew it I was back at the beach and running on the damn sand.

I'm glad I'll never know how clumsy I must have looked running along the beach. The sand was deep and soft and rutted from all the others who had run ahead of me. At the end of the sand we had to make a sharp right turn, step up a curb and run up a grassy hill. Man, that was tough for me. I had left everything I had on the course and couldn't make the final sprint look good. I finished that 2.64 miles with a 12:22 average, faster than I had expected.

My final time was 1:35:32. I was happy with that as my new duathlon PR. Since duathlons come in all shapes and sizes it could stay a PR for this particular distance combination. I was in the last quarter of finishers of the duathlon but everyone behind me was younger than I was.

After crossing the line they collected our chips and gave us our finishers medal (and chocolate!). The picture doesn't do the medal justice, it's hard to photograph a shiny little silver object. On one side it says "live, train, sweat and laugh' and the other side "mermaid athlete."

the medal is shiny silver, same as the chain (stupid camera)

Bottles of water were handed out right at the finish, and then there were booths with several vendors. There were samples of many products including Luna, and sponsor vendors selling sports gear, clothing, and other stuff. There was also a free pancake breakfast with fresh fruit and other treats. Very tasty.

Although I wasn't sure, I had a feeling I could possibly be one of the age group winners since I hadn't seen many women with numbers in my age group written on their legs. I knew that one 57 year old had passed me on the second run, I saw a few other women who might have been my age who weren't marked, and a few that I was certain had done the tri, but there was a chance since it was such a small race. I decided to stick around to see if I won something.

It turned out to be quite a wait. There was some problem getting the results out and posted so I plopped myself down on the grass and watched the rest of the athletes finish. There were still quite a few since the last wave went out an hour and a half after the first wave (mine). Each and every woman had her name called out, spurring them up that last hill. It was touching to see many women finish their first event ever, cheered on by their family and friends.

Aaaaaand, I kept waiting. Finally they posted the results but it wasn't broken out by age group. When I was able to get through the crowd I checked the list, checked it again, and rechecked it one final time. Whoohoo, I was second in my group!

Fine, I was also last in my group, there were only two of us (the first had been the woman passing me during the second run). The other women I though were in my age group ended up being either in their 40's or early 50's. Whoopsie. I won't tell them I thought they were older than me.

It was still some time before awards were handed out and the crowd thinned considerably. Little prizes were being handed out for various things like answering questions about the race, or being a Little Mermaid, or having your birthday that week. I think they were just blowing off time until the results were tabulated. My guess is there were problems with the bike route being 3 circuits and some women only riding 2 of those. Some of the bike splits were suspiciously fast and I think they were trying to verify those.

Finally the overall awards were distributed, then the tri age groupers. Finally the du age awards were handed out. I got a nice little bag containing a pair of mermaid socks, a race belt and a few Luna bars. Also? It's pretty damn cool getting your name called as a winner (even if the pool is so small). Worth waiting for!

My overall impressions? Even though I was alone I had fun and a challenge. Both the tri and du are great races for beginners or those trying to challenge themselves. I don't think it's really a race for experts unless the bike route is improved. The overall organization was very good with only a couple of glitches (the body marking and the delay in the results). Course support was excellent, both along the running trails and the cycling route. It also looked like there were many volunteers in the water to help out the swimmers. The running route was scenic and the surface didn't give my clumsy ankles any problems. The bike route was crap, but that wasn't the organizer's fault. The shirt was cute, the bag was nice, the food available afterward was abundant and tasty. I will definitely do it again as long as it remains in a location that's accessible (I was told they'd probably move it next year).

And next year? The rest of you 55-59 year old women can just stay home again. I like placing in my age group!

The high cost of racing

I realize that hobbies are very expensive (silk yarn anyone?) but it's sad how very expensive it is to enter a race. Even the local races that used to be relatively inexpensive have become outrageously priced.

I entered the lottery to run the Nike Women's Marathon Half Marathon: $100. I signed up for the Chicago Marathon the day registration opened: $125. I registered for the See Jane Run Half Marathon a month before the race: $91.99. That same day, more than a month in advance I registered for the Mermaid Triathlon duathlon: $65.30.

A couple of days ago I registered for the San Francisco Marathon, second half marathon. It was before the cut-off date before the prices went up again. The registration was directly on the SF Marathon website, instead of through Active or Signmeup or another site. It clearly stated the fee was $85. A lot of money, but I sucked it up and registered since I like the race. After I had filled out the very long form, completed all the blanks, I was told I was being charged a $6.03 "convenience fee." I looked all over the website and could not find anywhere that mentioned this fee, nor did I see any other means of registering. In other words, the registration fee was $91.03. Sure, it's not much of a difference but it's very deceitful to call this a "convenience fee" since there isn't any other way to register.

I realize it's expensive to put on a good race these days, even if most of the products consumed are donated by a sponsor. Some races give all their profit to some charitable organization (um, define "profit" for me, will ya?) others plow it back into next year's race. I think only the biggest marathons are making lots of money (yes New York, I'm talking about you) but it would be interesting seeing a sample or typical race budget.

I don't even mind paying the registration fees IF THERE'S ANOTHER WAY TO REGISTER! If registering on-line on the race's website is the only way to sign up, be honest and include the "convenience fee" in the registration price. It's hard enough for most people to justify the price when they're trying to pay their health insurance costs. Don't be dishonest about what we're paying!

Monday, June 8, 2009


You know how at a triathlon they mark you with your age and number? You didn't? Well, they take a thick black (or I've seen red too) felt marker or grease pen and write your race number on your arm and hand. The hand part is in case you're wearing a wetsuit. They also write your age on the back of your calf. This is so that people contending for an age group award will know their direct competitors.

The marking for a duathlon is the same. For the next few days, despite intense scrubbing, whenever I wear shorts it will be quite apparent how old I am. I'm just hoping it hasn't tanned into my leg!

My first duathlon went well. I'll have a race report up soon. Soon after I write it, that is.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Coo who?

It appears that the dirty filthy pigeon who had take up residence on my jasmine hedge has flown the coop. Monday night the bird was sitting there glaring at me but Tuesday morning the nest was empty. I saw two pigeons cavorting on my fence and thought that I should take the opportunity to dart out and knock the nest away.

Then I realized I'm basically a nice person and I couldn't do that if there were eggs or baby birdies present. Darn. The fence pigeons stared at me, took off and circled the yard, then settled back on the fence. I argued with myself and ended up leaving the nest alone.

I looked outside Tuesday night after I got home and the bird still, or again, wasn't back in the nest. I tried to see if there was anything in it, but it was above my eye level. I decided that it must mean that the birds were gone for good and this time went to find a broom.

Wow, sloppy nest builders! What I dislodged was less a nest and more a pile of pine needles, dead leaves, twigs, feathers and trash. It had no form and didn't stick together at all. How the bird sat on it without falling through amazes me. I checked the debris pile and didn't see anything resembling egg shells so I'm not worried that I disturbed a happy family.

From now on I'm keeping an eye on the jasmine to make sure nothing else builds a home there.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

See Jane Run Half Marathon Report

Yippee, a race!

(objects in pictures are less clear than in real life - stupid camera)

Well, that was tougher than expected. At least they had chocolate!

Probably as a result of ridiculously long lines last year, part of the early packet pickup process for this year's See Jane Run Half Marathon included chip pickup at the Oakland See Jane Run store. Although I wanted to see the newer store in Danville I decided to trek into Oakland Wednesday night to get my packet. The process was quick and smooth. I got my bib, bag, shirt and chip, checked the store in case they had anything I needed to buy (they didn't) and I was on my way.

Last year the goody bag was a wonderful reusable shopping bag. This year it was a typical plastic bag. Included were a mini Secret deodorant (trying to tell us something?), a white chocolate macadamia Luna Bar, a couple of sample packets of Life Fitness Instant Energy Beans (80 mg of caffeine and 200 mcg B-12 per packet; I'd be more hyped than if I was smoking crack), a sample of Flex Power Pain Relief Cream, a $20 off $75 See Jane Run coupon and a bunch of other ads and race fliers.

The chip was one of those Eternal Timing tags; a big hard cardboard-like thing. I'm not fond of them because of the size, even if they are lightweight they don't really fit right when your foot bends. I also find them more difficult to attach to my shoe but that could be because I'm so used to the real chips.

front of the shirt

The shirt was again a light-weight Moving Comfort white v-necked short sleeved tech shirt. Forgetting how big they ran last year, I ordered a 1X. I'll be happy sleeping in it, it's way too big. How odd that a race, even a race for women, actually gets shirts in real sizes. Hopefully next year I'll remember to order my real size instead of going up a couple of sizes. As I'm not fond of white shirts I don't mind that I won't be running in it.

back of the shirt

Even though the previous weekend I had a great run I knew I wouldn't do as well at the race because my breathing wasn't smooth for the past few days. When I got up on Sunday it was overcast and cold and I had hopes that my sinuses and lungs would be happy with that but no such luck. I revised my estimated finishing time from about 3 hours to hopefully about 3 hours.

With my wonderful grasp of directions I decided I'd better cough up the extra $5 parking fee for the lot near the start and finish areas. I had visions of wandering around for hours after the race, looking for my car. For my sanity I parked in a location I could find later. The paying/parking process went quiet smoothly so I was very early for the race. It was due to start at 8:00 am and I got there before 7:00. I wandered over to the start, used the porta potties a couple of times and stood in line to check my sweatshirt.

And stood in line. And stood. The gear was being stowed in plastic garbage bags and tossed in the back of a truck. People would get to the table, bag their stuff, tear off the bottom of their bib and attach it to the bag. This was taking forever. It was getting closer to the start and the line snaked around the entire area and finally someone had the genius idea to go down the line and pass out the bags so that they just needed to be turned in. Perfect, line gone!

I think there were about 1500 people running the half and around 1000 running the 5k which started a bit later. The area was crowded with women and their families. It was obvious that there were some people who had done this many other times, and some people who were running (or walking) their first race. I saw maybe a dozen men with bibs and I'm not sure how many actually did the race. Although there were pace markers along the road I saw many people obviously lining up too close to the front.

The gun (or whatever it was, I didn't hear) went off a little late but even way back in the last group it didn't take much time to cross the start line. I had on a tank top and shorts with gloves and standing around I was shivering. I started off very smoothly and slowly, trying to keep myself from having breathing problems right at the beginning. It worked well since we also had a tail wind there. The large group pounded down the street.

I tossed the gloves after about a mile or two and heated up (have I mentioned that my internal thermostat has been wonky lately?) more than I had hoped. It was completely overcast, about the mid-50's and windy. Since it was behind me I didn't mind the wind at all but I wouldn't feel the same when we were going the return direction.

It was fun doing some people-watching and eavesdropping on some conversations. We women sure do chatter when we're running and not trying to win a race, don't we? I felt good the first 3 miles until we hit the bridge, then slowed down some. By 5 miles my breathing was getting bad and my legs were getting tired. I understood the first but the second had me baffled. I had done good training, I had eaten well during the week, it should have been easier.

By mile 8 my 9:1 run:walk was out the window. I was doing a steady 4:1 at that point and it was working to clear my lungs and rest my legs. But at about mile 10 I was toast. Legs and lungs were rebelling and my brain wasn't very happy. We were on the trail at that point and I got pretty grumpy because of two things.

There was a woman who was doing what I thought was a 2:2 run:walk and we kept leapfrogging past each other. Her watch or whatever beeped her intervals was loud. Annoyingly loud. Because we were such polite women we'd pass each other then move over to the right. So instead of going straight it was weave around, weave back, weave around, weave back. I tried walking more and it didn't help. I tried running more and that didn't help. I tried running and walking her exact pace to stay behind her and that didn't even work. As the trail was congested it was very annoying (and I imagine I annoyed her as much as she annoyed me).

One point of repeated congestion was a group of deaf cyclists. Actually, deaf bike riders since I hesitate to call them cyclists. One young woman was wearing flip flops and it would be upgrading some of the bikes to call them beaters. I think they were a tour group and yay good for them for getting out and enjoying the shoreline, but it was readily apparent that there was a race going on and they could have used a little courtesy because hey, they were deaf, not blind. Their leader would speed ahead and stop to let the rest catch up. And they'd all block the trail while waiting. Then they'd pass again, one by one, sporadically, without (of course) calling out to let us know they were coming. Then it would happen all over again.

As a frequent trail user I'm a firm believer in sharing the trail with others, be they runners, walkers, cyclists, skaters, families, dogs, whatever. I don't care who you are or what your circumstances are, share the damn trail. Politeness doesn't hurt. And if you keep getting in my way and obstructing the trail and almost crashing into me and other runners I'm going to lose my sparkling good nature. No, I didn't say anything to them (what would be the point if they couldn't hear it) and I didn't even give them dirty looks. I just quietly fumed and wished they would move along.

When we crossed the bridge for the final 3 miles things got better and worse. Since we were running in the street there was more room and we didn't have to weave around anyone. The bike riders went somewhere else. But the wind picked way up. It was, no joke, about a 20 mph headwind. Direct headwind. Smack in our faces pushing us backward. Although I knew it was coming I wasn't physically able to handle it well. My 4:1 became a whenever:whenever. I ran from crosswalk to crosswalk, walking whenever I had to (which was frequently). I was actually a little faster than I had been on the trail, probably because I could go in a straight line, but it felt as if crawling would have been quicker. I had my buff pulled over my nose and mouth so that the wind wasn't directly on my face; I'm sure I looked remarkably strange but at that point I didn't care because it helped me to breathe.

We finally reached the park with the last 1/2 or 3/4 mile and changed direction enough that the wind was no longer as bad. It was farther to go than I wanted since by my Mr. Garmin's reconning the first 3 miles were just over 3.1 miles (I never saw a 1 or 2 mile marker). Most of the other mile markers were very apparent and were a mile apart. I cut tangents whenever I could so that didn't make up the difference.

There was a chip mat a bit before the final finish mat so the announcer was calling names of finishers. I put on a burst of speed with my little remaining energy and crossed in 2:54 (pitiful, even for 13.25 miles). There I came upon the one thing I would have changed about the race: the chip removers were literally right at the finish. You had to come to a dead stop immediately and I'm sure I wasn't the only person to get dizzy and nauseous from the sudden halt.

I got my medal, this year more of a traditional medal than last year, and looked around for my chocolate. I had been told at packet pickup that this year they wouldn't run out of chocolate because they had two vendors, but I didn't see any.

shown for scale (the bittersweet wrapper is empty)
(certainly not shown for clarity, stupid camera)

I was just starting to get my dander up when I saw the booth with not only chocolate, but champagne glasses to hold them. Cool! There were 3 piece in the glass, 1 from Hershey, 1 from Ghiradelli and 1 from -- uh -- some fancy other place (sorry! I threw away the wrapper without writing down the name! but it was good!). I ate the fancy stuff immediately (but kept the wrapper to take a picture and remind me of the name - whoops) and walked on.

as presented

There were lots of choices for food and beverage. There were bottles and glasses of cold something-ade (I don't drink the stuff so I didn't notice which it was). There was a table with fruit, cut up bagels with peanut butter and stuff to put on them if you wanted, Strawberry Bliss Attune Bars, bags of Popumz in chocolate cookie dough and probably more that I didn't even notice.

back of the glass

Popchips had a table where they were handing out samples and small bags of their original and one other flavor chips. Bear Naked had a large booth where they were handing out the small bags of their Fruit & Nut flavor granola and they had samples of each of the different flavors covered with fresh yogurt and blueberries. Continuing along the line was the shirt pickup for people who hadn't received them earlier and they were handing out extra goody bags to anyone who needed a bag (this contained the same things as the bag I had gotten on Wednesday with the addition of a sample tube of Aquaphor).

Sweat bag pickup was a breeze, possibly because most of them were gone. But the people there were helpful and seemed efficient and I'd be surprised if anyone had troubles. I don't think it took more than a minute to get my stuff.

Then it was time for champagne (this year it was Barefoot - my favorite cheapass wine). There was what looked like a table with just beer and next to it the champagne table. The champers table had a very very long line. But then I saw that at the end of the beer table a man was pouring champagne into plastic glasses and there was nobody, but nobody, in line. As I walked up a couple of other women did too. The first woman had him pour the champagne in her new glass. The second picked up the pre-poured plastic glass which contained about 2 ounces and asked if he'd fill it up. Yep he did, so I did the same thing (except I told him not to fill all the way since I was driving).

Although there were lots of groups of people sitting around on the grass, there were many tables and chairs set up so I found an empty table near the finish line and plopped myself down to start consuming food and drink. Once I had cooled off it was chilly so I dug out my sweatshirt while I ate the Bear Naked/yogurt/blueberries and drank the champagne. I watched the finishers coming across the line, by this time mostly either walkers or women like me who just pooped out along the route. Everyone looked incredibly happy to finish. I was surprised so many were still out there.

I hung out for a while and then decided I'd better get on with my day. The champagne had given the day a rosie glow and I'm surprised I still felt as crappy as I did. My legs were tired and my lungs hurt when I inhaled. No worse than for a regular long training run, but I had hoped the booze would be more anesthetizing. Don't get me wrong, I was certainly still sober. Just happy.

In retrospect, I'm very impressed with the race this year. I'm not sure if I feel we got complete bang for the buck but that's because it was ridiculously expensive ($91.99 at the end of April (including Active.com fee), plus $5 parking) for a local low key race. But with that, we got a decent shirt, a goody bag, a couple of free samples, abundant finish line food, sufficient porta potties throughout, enough water stops with helpful staff passing out water/ade/gu, good street control (except for the trail which certainly wasn't the organizers' faults), a varied route (for Alameda), a nice medal and a very strong feeling of sisterhood. That last item is almost priceless, even for someone like me who ran alone (but Bree, Anita, Sandy, Mary Ann, Pam: I missed you!).

Now if next year they could just get rid of the wind!