Wednesday, November 28, 2012

With a Little Help From My Friends

It's been awhile I realize. I should have called sooner. I promise to try harder. Now on to business.

This Sunday I will be running in the California International Marathon (CIM). I have mixed emotions about this race. CIM holds a dear place in my heart. I ran this race exactly 5 years ago as my 5th marathon, and to this day, it still holds my elusive PR; a number I've chased since, but have fallen short each time. Sunday I will run it as my 15th marathon. Normally I would stare that PR down come Sunday and tell it "you're mine". However, life sometimes has other plans.

At the time of this year's CIM, it will have been 8 weeks since life handed me those other plans. 8 weeks ago I was told I needed "emergency eye surgery that would cause a lot of trauma". If I didn't do it "now", and by now, I was told I needed it within a few hours of learning this news, I could jeopardize my chances of having any vision at all. Long story short, I was told no running for 6 weeks. The key time I needed to prepare for this year's CIM.

I debated running in CIM as I knew I couldn't beat my PR and I wasn't sure I wanted to taint my memory of this course with a less then stellar performance. However, like my friend, Diary of an Average Runner, I need to end this year on a good note. I need to go out on Sunday and with each step celebrate the fact that I still have vision and think of all those who do not or face other difficult challenges. In each race, when I'm feeling the need to quit, I always dig deep and remind myself how lucky I am to have the ability to run, to live in a country where I can afford luxuries like a marathon and frankly, wake up to see another day.

Sunday is not the time to feel sorry for myself, or to be upset that I wasn't able to train properly. Sunday is about celebrating my wins. And I will do this with a little help from my friends. About 15 gals, give or take, will be running in this race or screaming like crazy from the sidelines. All this in POURING down rain, according to the that is dedicated friendship.

See you all Sunday. I'll be the drowned rat in pink arm sleeves!

As always, this race is dedicated to my sister who faces her own marathons each and every day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oakland Running Festival 2012 Race Review

Grade: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Would I run this event again: YES!
Would I recommend this event to others: YES!
Is this a course good for PRs: YES for the 1/2 marathon, MAYBE for full marathon, NOT LIKELY for BQ 
Is this a good spectators course: YES!

I wrote previously about my Oakland Marathon 2012 race recap, but wanted to spend a few moments reviewing the Oakland Running Festival itself. For only being in its 3rd year, the Oakland Running Festival puts on one heck of a show. It is one of my favorite of the 14 marathons I have participated in. Honestly, JOB WELL DONE by these folks. Every marathon will have its good & bads, but this race certainly doesn't have the share of "bads" that I think most marathons do. Kudos to all involved.

The Oakland Running Festival is comprised of 5 events: Full Marathon, Half Marathon, 4-Person Relay, 5K and Kids Fun Run. My review is based solely on participating for 2 years in the Full Marathon.

The Good:

  • Received a great price on this run using an San Fran Marathon code. Take advantage of these codes while you can. They are a great way to participate in a marathon at a discount rate.
  • Great start time of 7:30. Not too early. LOVED IT!
  • I liked that the half marathon started at 9:15, not only did it ease congestion at the start, it allowed us to potentially run into our friends around mile 17 of the full/mile 4 of the half and all finish about the same time.
  • The volunteers. The volunteers, as was the case last year too, were fantastic. They were easy to spot in their orange t-shirts, had a smile for all the runners, cheered their hearts out and made the overall experience better. I don't think folks realize how much effort the day before, the day of and post-race goes into a race. They are out there, rain or shine, setting up, marking the roads, getting into place and then stand there all day cheering. Great job to all who volunteered to make this running event happen.
  • The course. Yes, the full marathon is brutal, built in with many hills. However, the entire course is great. It offers a wonderful view of Oakland. It has many twists and turns so you never know what is around the next corner. For the most part, the roads were fairly void of potholes (except on Piedmont) and all-in-all just offers a good variety of scenery and running surfaces. In addition, GREAT support from the local Oakland police and fire departments. They were out in full force directing traffic, cheering us on and offering great smiles.
  • Aid Stations. For the full marathon, the aid stations were plentiful and stocked with smiling volunteers. I never once thought "When will another aid station be coming up". They had plenty of aid stations, plenty of folks handing out water and Gatorade and a few Gu stations to boot. Well done on this front.
  • The Finish line. See below on the negatives for the finish line, but there were a few positives. The finishers chute was very wide and offered a lot of room for spectators. It was great running this last bit (despite the hill). It was nice and wide. The event also offered space blankets and they handed out water on *both* sides of the post-race chute. You didn't have to cut across people to grab some water.
  • The timing chip. The timing chip was built-in to the bib this year. And it wasn't one of those thick foam bib chips either. It was flat, discreet and did not get in the way of wearing the bib comfortably.
  • The Start. I was able to easily find close parking, and for those coming in on BART (half marathoners only, BART doesn't run early enough for the full marathon event) it was easy to jump off on the 19th Street station. There was zero wait time for the port-o-potties (likely because I used them 5 minutes before gun time), bag check was a breeze (I didn't use it, but my friends did) and the start line, although crowded (heck, it's a marathon) was easy to be part of and get into a good stride. It was great having a few food trucks at the start to offer coffee and other tasties for those spectating or standing around waiting the 1 hour 45 minutes until the half marathon started.
  • Facebook. Good use of the Oakland Running Festival Facebook page to stay up to date and ask questions. I received quick replies whenever I did ask a question.

The Bad:
  • I personally was not a fan of the start/finish area; Snow Park. It is a grassy field with large trees situated on a hill. If it rains in the days leading up to the marathon, which it did this year, it turns into a wet, depressing, dark grassy field. I would prefer a flat surface with a mixture of grass, pavement and plenty of seating and enough space to accomodate all the runners & spectators.
  • The expo was very limited. To say it took 5 minutes to get through the expo is not an understatement. There are very few booths, and many are irrelevant to a marathon or just someone giving a sales pitch for their product. I realize this is a small marathon, but more attention should be paid to creating a great running vibe at the expo.
  • The virtual goodie bag. This year, the Oakland Running Festival wanted to go green and instead of handing out a goodie bag at the expo filled with many useless coupons/advertisements and some fun trial size freebies, they did a "virtual goodie bag" which consisted of an email being sent with just a handful of "coupons". Of which, 100% were not useful. Runners love freebies, bring back the goodie bag!
  • Emails, emails and more emails. It's great when a marathon is communicative, but there comes a point when TOO many emails are sent out. This year proved that true. I think I received at least 3 emails in the week leading up to the race.
  • Timing Mats/Athlete Tracking. The Oakland Running Festival had promised the ability for loved ones to track runners online during the event. Apparently, due to the "expected rain", the marathon did not set out the timing mats, nor the race clocks at each mile. Why they didn't do this, I don't get. Many marathons have timing mats and race clocks in the rain, so not sure why they didn't provide this. As someone who ran the full, knowing my 13.1 and other split times is critical. Bad move on the Oakland Running Festivals part. They knew rain was coming at least two weeks in advance, they could have planned better.
  • The finish. Most of the finish was great, as noted above, however, it was void of "pomp & circumstance". Traditionally, there is someone there to say "congratulations" and place a medal around your neck, not this year. This year I had to walk over to some random person and ask for my medal. No "congrats" or big to-do about it, they just handed it to me and *I* placed it around my neck.
  • The race shirts. For the full marathon, they gave away cheap polyseter long-sleeve zip shirts. They are not made from a technical fabric, so one cannot wear it while running. They were also VERY SMALL and felt cheap. I know I heard a lot of folks complain that they also resembled the Oakland Raiders colors. But come on people, it is an OAKLAND marathon. So I don't care about that part. But PLEASE, if I am running 26.2 miles, give me a decent finishers shirt (in a technical fabric).
  • Race results. Apparently, the Oakland Running Festival said it was having issues with in uploading the full marathon results. In addition, the site was constantly "too busy to process the request". It's the day of the running event, both the Oakland Running Festival and should realize their site will see an increase in usage. They need to plan for this and have a fail-over plan in case site usage exceeds expectations.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oakland Marathon Race Recap (2012)

There comes a time in your life when you pause and think to yourself, "How did I get to this point?". I did that yesterday as I prepared for my 14th full marathon. I wasn't surrounded by runners growing up. I was never in track or cross country as a child. I am not sure how I found this sport. As I thought about it. I realized, I didn't find the sport, it found me during a time of transition, re-defining myself and at a point where I could move forward with vigor or wallow. And so it began...

The Oakland Marathon would mark marathon #14.

This marathon was different. For the first time ever, I was going to run the entire distance with another runner. Not only that, this person would serve as my pacer, motivation, cheerleader and drill sergeant. His goal, get me in under 4 hours. I kept saying "I'm fine with under 4:30". Nope, not for him. Only 4 hours would serve the purpose. Meet, Dennis. The oddest part, I'd only met him once before, when he jumped in along with Page, Katie and Jessica at mile 18 in the Nike Marathon to help cheer me on to that finish.

I had a great time the day before meeting many great runners at the expo, then hosting 4 of my running friends at my house for the evening. After some pasta from my favorite joint; Lo Coco's, some chatter about running, what we will wear, cats and more, I retired to bed around 10pm. As is typical for me, I didn't sleep much and got up before my 5:50am alarm. I quickly realized my Garmin, although attached to the charger, wasn't plugged in. I thought "Oh no, is this really how the day is going to start?". I quickly changed mentality and realized, not important. The only thing that matters, is to run.
Cate, Me and Layla
The Gang

PavementRunner and Me
We all got ready, I decided last minute which of the outfits I would wear, grabbed my stuff, said goodbye to the dog and told him I would see him in 26.2 miles. And headed out for my journey.

The start line is only 2 miles from my house and we made great time down there and easily found parking. The weather was looking fantastic. After days of watching the weather and seeing only "rain, rain, rain" in the forecast, I was pleased to be greeted with nothing but clouds, blue sky and even some sun for the entire race. The perfect running weather and great weather for the spectators and volunteers.

At 7:10, we walked to the start so I could meet-up with Dennis, the aforementioned pacer. I used the port-o-potties at 7:23, found Dennis at 7:26 and we lined up literally as the starting gun went off. Talk about feeling relaxed and just nonchalant about a race. This was Dennis's 3rd time running the Oakland full marathon and my 2nd time. We were old hats at it. As a bonus, I was able to quickly spot and say hello to PavementRunner as we lined up for the start.

Decked out in pink, both of us, the first few miles flew by. Dennis and I chatted about each mile and how each one was behind us and broke the rest of the course up into chunks; let's get through 10 miles and be done with the hills, we only have a long training run left, the first half is behind us, easy training run left, etc. We stayed very positive, at least in the first half. I should stop and mention that Dennis had run a marathon the Sunday prior in 3 hours 12 minutes. So this race was an easy Sunday for him, running at my slow pace ;-)
Photo courtesy of Angela
The course itself is a continuous uphill in the first 10 miles. We kept saying "Let's just tackle the hills with force. Get through them.". When we reached the top, we high-fived and I felt such a relief to have the hills behind us. I felt quite good about how we stayed strong and steady through them.

Now Dennis's real work started. I warned him prior to the race "I fade in the second half. This is where you will really need to encourage me and not let me fall off.". Around mile 14, Dennis asked "how are your legs feeling?" and I replied "Not good". I could feel the result of 10 miles of hills pressing down on my thighs. They felt heavy, sore and like they wanted a week off. I knew the next 12 miles would be a true test of endurance. I kept chanting something a friend had told me to get me through the miles. The miles seemed very long and very hard.

Dennis did an amazing job keeping my spirits up, encouraging me and pushing me in the right ways. He would fill my water bottle when it was empty, get me oranges, tell me we need to speed up or "keep this pace, we can do a sub-4 if we keep this pace". I could not have asked for better companionship through 26.2 hard miles than what he was able to provide.

Around the 17 mile marker, we merged with the half-marathoners. This was a blessing and a curse. It was good to have more runners around, more energy and I was excited to try and spot some of my friends. However, it was a curse as the half marathoners were only in their 4th mile, their legs were fresh, I could hear some of them saying "I feel great", I was being was a blow to my mental energy. But I kept going.

Dennis really had to keep chanting "Dig deep. Let's finish strong" as he could tell the final miles were taking its toll on me. I kept saying to myself "Where is that next mile marker?". I knew the road was long, but I kept thinking about how great it would feel when it was all over.
Mile 21: Me trying to keep up with Dennis (photo courtesy of Beth)
We finally came into view of Lake Merritt, which meant less than 3 miles remaining. I loved this site. This is the lake I train on. I knew that lake like the back of my hand. I knew its every curve. This was our home stretch. While many around us were starting to walk, Dennis just kept saying "Finish strong". I kept thinking about the finishers chute and the friends I might see cheering me on. It was great motivation to give it my all.

We hit mile 25. Such a great mile, because you know the next mile marker is the last. We rounded a corner and there it was "Mile 26". After such a long, rewarding and tough journey, there is no sweeter site than knowing you are .2 miles from the finish. The finish line was at the top of a 100 yard fairly steep climb. After 26 miles, my legs did not want to see another hill, but right on cue, I hear "Finish strong". So I gave it my all. Now, to the outsider, it might not have looked like much, but to me, I felt like I was the wind at that point racing to a gold medal finish.
Photo courtesy of Aron
Photo courtesy of Aron
My eyes darted left and right in search of familiar faces. I saw so many and my smile got bigger and bigger. Then I saw it. The finishers clock. Dennis had done it. He got this old gal in under 4 hours. Despite my hemming and hawing about trying to achieve another sub-4 at this point in my life, he never let up and coached us right in under 4 hours. 3:58:28 to be exact. It was a course PR by 4 minutes.

After the race, we made our way over to the gals. Everyone was easy to spot in our "heart compression socks" we had previously all planned on wearing. Got the usual post-race photos, chatted about our runs and walked away knowing we left everything we had out on the course. As is usual with this group, everyone gave it their all. Many achieving a PR, some overcoming race injuries, others just out to prove they still got it in them. And clearly, this gal does...
East Bay Runners. This group logged 170.3 miles at the Oakland Marathon & 1/2 Marathon
Dennis and Me Post-Marathon (showing off the heart socks)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oakland Marathon - PreRace Post

Hello blog, it's been awhile. Some good things have been happening since I last posted. Unexpectedly great things actually. Much to be thankful for in life. Now on to running...

My Marthonversary is coming up. When I step back and think that is has been almost 7 years since I first towed the line, I often wonder whose life I have been living. It all seems a blur. In those 7 years, I've completed 13 marathons, 3 half marathons and have seen some of the most beautiful landscapes and met some of the most amazing people. Funny how running can change your life like that. I've run for causes. Run for strangers. Run for family members. Run for myself. Even ran for my dog once. Through it all, I find myself facing down yet another marathon. This Sunday marks #14.

This marathon is in my backyard; The Oakland Marathon. I ran this race last year and found it to be one of the most well organized races. For being still a "new" marathon, they really do put on a good show. The course is not easy, it will challenge you like no other, but it brings about a sense of accomplishment. Check out the course profile, uphill the first 10 miles! For those that think Oakland is not a beautiful city, just come run this race. It'll change your mind.

I am not sure why, but marathons always make me reflect on my life. I think because I know it is a monumental moment. One that will call upon my deepest levels of strength, will have me pushing harder than I think I can and will prove me humble in the end. I've been sick this past week, making me more nervous about Sunday. I have bouts of "Can I pull this off?", "Will I make it through?" and all I can think is "There is only one way to find out".

This Sunday will be a bit different. I will be running with a pacer. Oddly enough, we've only met in person once, when he jumped in to save me at mile 18 of the Nike Women's Marathon. He ran the Modesto Marathon last weekend in 3:12 and graciously agreed to intimated me, I mean, keep me company over the course of 26.2 miles this Sunday. I've never run a marathon with another person before, so it should prove fun and interesting. I've named us "Team Jannis" (Jana + Dennis). I'm also encouraging him to wear pink, my racing color for this marathon. Although, that isn't proving successful just yet ;-) I'm also very excited to have many of the "amazing people" I mention above racing as well.

It's been a tough road the past 7 years. Running has proven a great outlet, mentor and all around muse. And how times have changed. In my first marathon, I signed up the day before, bought my race outfit the day before, wore cross trainers, hardly had trained, wore regular sunglasses, carried a flip phone and a walkman during the race. Oh how times have changed :-)

So, T-3 days until #14 is under way. See many of you at the expo tweet-up organized by PavementRunner!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Run

Sometimes life can bring you moments where things seem a bit blue and leave you wondering what's next. While it doesn't cure the blues, a great run and great friends sure does help remind you what is important in this world and brings a smile to your face.

10 miles in sunny SF w/Alyssa and Sesa

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 in Review

I'm not a huge "make a big deal of the new year rolling in" gal, but I do take a moment to think back on the past 365 days and reflect on the path taken.

2011 was a year of highs, lows, sideways, backwards and forwards. Through it all, I weathered the storm and came out all the better.

Highlights of 2011:

1. Leonard (aka BootNabber) came into my life, or me in his, not sure which

2. I found the most amazing group of runners and am lucky to feel part of a running community. I posted about this before, but they will never truly understand what they bring to my life.

3. I stayed gainfully employed. I never take this for granted.

4. I was lucky enough to say goodbye in person to an amazing women. A women I called "grandmother" for many decades.

5. I continued to complete 26.2 miles this past year; twice over

6. I felt loved all year long by my family

7. I was graced every day with wisdom, kindness, love and attention by my best friends; Sandi and Ben.

8. I've grown as a person a lot in the past year. I think my friends would say I am stronger, wiser and braver than I have ever been.

9. While I haven't found love, I have met some wonderful people along the way and still believe the love of my life is out there; somewhere. Yes, I'm a romantic at heart :-)

Friday, December 16, 2011

So this is what morning looks like...

For a good part of the year, I had been longing to make it out for a morning run before work. But my efforts typically went like this:
  1. Make a running date to meet early
  2. Wonder late at night why I made such a date
  3. Set alarm
  4. Cancel alarm in the middle of the night
  5. Text running date cancelling
  6. Lay in nice warm bed
I was determined to make this happen before years end. This past week I emailed Aron of RunnersRambles and pleaded with her to HELP ME MAKE THIS HAPPEN! She quickly responded with date & time.

So on a cold Wednesday morning, I met up with Aron for a hilly trail run. We started in the black of morning and were treated to lovely views as the sun began to surface.

 Why, hello early morning moon!

UC Berkeley Campus

While getting up wasn't easy, the workout, the views, the accomplishment and especially the company made it more than worthwhile. SO GLAD I accomplished one of my goals. YEA ME!

Happy camper; early morning camper!

Thank you to Aron, you are a great addition to my 2011. Looking forward to 2012.