Friday, July 21, 2017

Race Report: Tamalpa Runners Track Meet 5K


To summarize some semi-relevant stuff I've posted in the past, I've only really ever run one 5K in my adult life where I was healthy and in good shape & training kinda-sorta heavily (to the extent that I ever train "heavily"), which is where I set my current PR (20:44/6:40 pace) in May 2012. It was so much faster than nearly every other 5K I've ever run that after a while it didn't really feel real, like "WHO ME RUN MULTIPLE 6:40 MILES IN A ROW? Phhhbbbt, that's not a thing that actually happened." Well, after massively PRing the marathon in December, I figured, what the hey? Let's take a crack at thing and see just how sturdy that dusty old PR is.

So, I registered for PrideMeet on June 17. (ProTip: If you want to run a fast, accurate 5K, do it on the track. Just don't weave too much.) I was in 60/40 not bad shape going into it in early May, then spent about 6-7 weeks adding some serious speed workouts. The workouts were tough but made a nice change from marathon training, and other than a sketch right calf muscle, I felt good going into the meet.

One sentence race recap: I ran a 6:52 mile which felt weirdly easy, then a 6:41 mile and still felt good, then proceeded to pull my calf so badly I couldn't put weight on it for several days. {Shakes fist at sky} Sure, I was bummed and frustrated, but another part of me could not believe I had run those splits and felt so good doing it. Sure, the plan had been to run this one 5K and then get serious about San Jose half training (10/8), but somehow I just could not let it go. What if I let the calf heal and run another?? Could that seemingly-untouchable PR seriously be about to fall??

And you know where this leads.

Tuesday, July 18 was soon circled on my calendar.

There were a few tricks involved. One, I had to get my leg healed, and I would not really have time to do that AND run huge volume. Two, I'd never run a week day or evening race as an adult. Three, I was scheduled to be in Sacramento running a workshop that day (ie, likely a more intense, busy day than average). But 5K training and half training aren't THAT different, so I added the July 18th meet to my RunCoach profile as a non-goal race and figured I'd just play it by ear.

Not even joking, by the time I left Sacramento at 4pm on the 18th, I still hadn't made a decision. My calf felt good and I'd brought all my clothes, but realized that day that I hadn't brought my watch, so it would be go tech-free or pony up for a basic stop watch so that I'd have at least *some* sense of my pace. (I wish I could say I'm good enough at the 5K to run it by feel, but alas that is not the case.) It had been a long day and I had not slept much the night before and honestly I kind of just wanted to go home and sit on the couch, but another part of me was like, "Do the hard thing. Do the brave thing. Choose the bigger life."

In the end I think I made the decision as I rolled up to the literal fork in the road between heading to San Rafael or back to San Francisco, mostly based on the fact that if I didn't run in the meet, I probably wouldn't end up running at all that day, given how late it already was. So off to Terra Linda High School it was.

After a quick stop by Big Five Sports to spend way too much money ($25) on a watch that looked way too fancy and did way too little in my opinion (did you know that most basic sports watches won't record your manual laps for you? I did not), I rolled up to the high school, found my way to the track still in Fancy Lady Presentation Clothes, and signed up for the 5K just as the first event was starting.

I knew going in that these meets were low key affairs, but I was relieved to see just exactly how low key--maybe 20 people, a huge range of ages and fitness levels (including kids!), and everybody clearly just out there to have fun. (At least two people ran all six races!)

I got changed and warmed up while the rest of the races went off, trying to strike a balance between warming up enough vs. not asking too much of my calf. I felt pretty good and as the field of maybe 8-10 of us lined up for the concurrent 3K & 5K races, I thought, Maybe this was not a mistake. Maybe I'll have a great, super fast race and all will be well.

But ugh. It was not to be, and I knew it in the first quarter mile. At Pride Meet I'd gone out at about 6:00 pace, WAY too fast, so I was making an effort not to do that. I came through the first 200m in right at 50 seconds (~6:40 pace), pretty much exactly where I wanted to be. So far, so good. Alas, by the time I finished the first lap in 1:40 (~6:40 pace), I was hurting, badly. Like, I-don't-know-if-I-can-run-even-one-more-lap-at-this-pace badly. I fought so hard not to slow down and even kept trying to think "Speed up!" in an effort to just stay at the same pace, but by the time I finished the 2nd lap (in 3:30), my average pace had already slowed to 7:00/mile, meaning I'd run lap two at 7:20 pace (ie, slower than my usual 10K pace).

Things did not get better from there. I hit the first mile in 7:01, I think, and felt like I was going to die. At that point, to be honest, all I wanted was to quit--I'm not going to get what I came here for, so what's the point?--but more or less forced myself to be a good sport and at least finish the race with some integrity. For better or worse, my calf muscle took care of that issue for me; as I headed into the last 100m to finish mile 2, I felt a sickening twinge in my right calf, the same one that sabotaged me at PrideMeet. It wasn't quite as bad, but after a few more steps I thought, "There is just no reason to risk this, stop it, now," and stepped off the track in pretty much exactly the same place as at PrideMeet. Apparently my second mile was ~7:20 (and I have never run a 5K slower than ~7:05ish average pace, even as a fresh-faced newbie road runner, even completely detrained and barely post-injury), so there was really just nothing on the line to balance out the "Heyyyy how about I DON'T 100% re-wreck my leg this time" feeling.

The bad news is that I spent a good 20 minutes being like, "Do not get in the car and sob, do not get in the car and sob." Oof. That was a bit rough. The good news is that the Tamalpa Runners were just the nicest most friendly people and so kind and empathetic as I was sitting there just barely not losing my shit. Of course, everything seems super clear in retrospect; I should have stuck to the original plan, which was run PrideMeet 5K for fun, then concentrate on the half. Instead I let the stupid calf injury highjack my rational decision making & got caught up in feeling like I had something prove, like I needed revenge on the track 5K somehow. Which would have been maybe not so terrible had I not injured myself at PrideMeet. I should have said, "You know, it would be cool to run another 5K soon, but that calf needs to get better, and a month is just not enough time to both do that and keep up 5K fitness."

(Also, I really should have suspected that an evening race at the end of a long day on potentially not enough sleep would never be optimal.)

So, at this point I'm doing my best to just put it behind me & say, "Look, you gave it a shot. The calf is clearly still not quite 100%. Time to let the 5K PR visions go for now & start concentrating on San Jose without worrying about how to squeeze in non-goal races." I only have one other race on my calendar before RNR San Jose, Race to the End of Summer 10K (also in San Jose), and I may think about throwing in another 5K at the end of October (several weeks after the half).

Onward & upward!!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Like I said, these meets happen about once a month during the summer in San Rafael, hosted by the Tamalpa Runners.

Location: It sounds like they usually happen at the San Rafael Track, but this summer are being held at Terra Linda High School due to construction.

Date: Tuesday evenings once a month, May through September

Price: Free!

Deadline / Sellout Factor: I get the sense that as long as you sign up for a race before it starts you're good.

Parking: Plenty of easy parking near the track in the HS parking lot.

Staging: All you really need to be able to find is the table by the finish line where you sign up and get a bib. It was super easy & everyone was friendly and helpful.

The Course: It's a track, so pretty much as good as it gets in terms of flat & fast. As per usual we started at the waterfall line near the 200m start, with the finish in the normal track finish spot.

Schwag: Just your own personal pride!

I think these little meets make a great time trial opportunity if you're looking for something low key & cheap/free. 10/10, would race again.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

SJRNRHM Week 3 of 14: If life could stop kicking the crap out of me, plzthnx....

Ugh. I can't say I'm not beating myself up a little over this past week's mileage and other various running failures. I've been super swamped with work stuff, which actually should not affect running that much time-wise (I mean, weekdays I'm generally running *maybe* 2 hours tops?), but it's been sapping all my energy and motivation.

On top of that, there have been a lot of social things going on. And don't get me wrong, I have wonderful friends and I love the social things! They are good for me in lots of ways, and when I'm feeling rested and motivated it's not usually a problem to plan ahead and get done what needs to get done. But this week I completely failed at that, and it feels pretty terrible. There is definitely a part of me that is looking back at those posts about big-hairy-audacious goals and trying to peak at 75 miles a week and run a 1:35ish half in October and then looking at myself in the mirror with a raised eyebrow like, "Are you sure you really want that? Because right now you kinda seem like maybe you don't really want it all that much."

It's not that I'm unmotivated; in some ways, I'm extremely motivated, which is why it feels so bad. Instead it feels more like mileage and workouts were something I used to fight for, desperately (because that's the only way it ever happens), and lately I don't seem to have much fight.

But, what happened happened (or didn't), and all I can really do is look forward to the 11 weeks I have left and try to do better.


* * * Rock 'N Roll San Jose Half: Week 3 of 14 * * *

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Books 2017: Quarter 2

Guys. Where is the year going. July?? Crazy pants.

As you probably already know, I've been reading a classic a month for the last two years. It started as a one-year project in 2014, but I've enjoyed it enough to keep going with it & will probably continue until it starts to feel like a chore. You can find my past reviews by clicking on the "books" tag at the end of this post, or be my friend on Goodreads. (You can also just go to the site & hunt down my review feed without being my friend, if that's more your speed.)

ICYMI, the classics I selected to read in 2017 are here.

On to the reviews!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SJRNRHM Week 2 of 14: So far, so good + Another 5K?

Happy post-Fourth of July! As usual, we mostly just saw glowing clouds here.


Nothing super exciting to report this week; still pretty low mileage, but a gradual bump up from last week, including a bit of speed work (with no calf pain! Yay!), which is what we call progress. Also, it's kind of funny how quickly you start to lose your endurance. Going into those 8-10 milers, I'd be thinking, "Maybe I'm being too conservative, maybe I should go a little further." And then 75% through or thereabouts, I'd find myself thinking, "Nope, that was just about right!" I've also been lifting more consistently (#goldstars) but my legs aren't quite used to it yet, so that also makes things a little harder than usual. But overall, I'm happy with how the week turned out.

In other news, I'm debating taking another crack at 5K on the track next Tuesday in San Rafael. I'll be working in Sacramento that day so the only reason it's even a possibility is because the 5K is the last event, but I might also be completely exhausted by then & just want to go home & sleep. I also know that I won't really be ready for it the same way as I was on the 17th, coming off of a pretty low mileage month and just a couple of short speed workouts vs. a pretty decent mileage month with quite a lot of 5K-focused speed work. But I definitely have a habit of only ever wanting to race when I know I'm in really good shape & well-tapered & etc., which honestly means I don't just race for fun as much as I'd like. So....maybe??

* * * Rock 'N Roll San Jose Half: Week 2 of 14 * * *

Friday, July 7, 2017

SJRNRHM Week 1 of 14: run in tahoe, try not to faint

Oof. This training cycle is not starting out the way I'd hoped! My plan was to race an awesome 5K on 6/17, then spend a couple of weeks building easy mileage back up to the ~40 range, then start workouts & gradually build to training mileage. Alas, that calf strain or whatever it was during the 5K really threw a wrench into that plan. Instead of easing pretty much right back into easy miles, I had to take an entire week completely off, so obviously the week after THAT I was not going to immediately jump back to 40+ weeks & speed/tempo workouts.

Instead, the story of this first week of SJ Half Training has been let's-try-to-get-maybe-some-nonzero-amount-of-miles-in-without-re-injuring-the-calf. By now I've learned my lesson about trying to do too much too soon after even a minor injury, so my only goal was just to take it day by day & see how things felt.

And, it was not a bad week. We ended up going to Tahoe Friday through Monday so that Don could ski (yes, there is still skiing in Tahoe because #california) and I could spend a few glorious free days working, reading, running, & lounging by the many many swimming pools. (We had to Hotwire a swanky resort because we waited too long to book anything reasonable. It was not cheap but at least we did get a pretty huge discount on the normal price, and I gotta say, man, sometimes I totally see why people go to resorts.)

Skiing in July!

You didn't know there was a swimming pool & a hot tub at the top of Squaw, did you?

Tahoe adventures included kinda sorta pretending to (briefly) be a trail runner, seeing a real live bear way too close for comfort, & nearly passing out on a run. (Heat! Hills! Altitude! They do not screw around.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Clamoring back on the wagon....

In a way, the timing of my ill-fated 5K was good. My taper happened to coincide with some busy weeks at work, and the week after when I couldn't run because of my messed up calf, I was traveling for a kind of intense workshop with K-12 math teachers. I usually stop lifting the week or two before a race, which worked out well since there was no time for it anyway, and I didn't feel the need to jump right back into it the week after.

But now I'm back home, and not traveling for more than a day or two at a time (that I know of) for a good while, and work is a bit calmer, so it is time now to clamor my way back up onto the srsbzns training wagon and get my shit at least in the same general vicinity as together.

How the wagon feels sometimes

(Also, I ran just a few easy miles on Monday and Tuesday for the first time since the 5K and my leg feels back to normal, so hopefully it won't revolt again!)

I know that sometimes people lament their inability to do something consistently, day in and day out, but honestly, I've come to realize over the years that that's just life. It's impossible to train hard core day in and day out, to eat like a lean mean machine year round, to get in the strength work and stretching and rolling and whatnot come hell or high water. You just can't. Nor should you!

And that doesn't just apply to we humble age groupers. Even most professional and elite athletes make a real point of taking breaks and letting their bodies and minds fully recover before launching into another super intense training cycle (and the internet is littered with the cautionary tales of those have tried to go hard week after week and year after year and suffered physical setbacks, mental burnout, or both). So I don't feel bad about having had a few easy weeks and one completely off before I for-realsies put that 1:35 half marathon in the crosshairs & prepare to take a big ol' fatty swing at it come October.

While training for CIM last year, I kind of threw the time goal out the window & instead focused on process goals, which worked out pretty darn well, so that's what I'm trying to do this time around as well. (I mean; I still have 1:35 in the back of my mind, but on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis, I'm going to not worry about the numbers on the clock & instead concentrate on the process.)

So. Here are the goals:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Race Report: SF Track & Field Club Pride Meet

Photo credit: SF Track & Field Club

TL;DR - I was having a GREAT race until pretty much right at mile 2 when something in my calf felt like it just popped and I nearly fell over due to the ice pick-like stab of pain that went screaming through my gastrocnemius. It was an instant race ender, which is super disappointing, but there's also some pretty amazing silver lining.


I'd been excited about this race for a couple of months now. I've wanted to dip my toe back into the world of track racing for a while now, but the timing has never worked out -- I've either always been injured, recovering, traveling, or aiming for some other big race that conflicted with the Bay Area track meets I knew about. This was finally the year!