Month: September 2012

San Francisco (Half) Marathon 2012

This was, by far, the best race I’ve ever done.  I was unsure about what to expect with the hills and all.  Like many other runners, I’ve been shy to share my race goals, but since I actually hit my goal, here they are:

A) Sub-2:00
B) 2:08
C) 2:12

I really didn’t think I could hit A, was really hoping I could beat my first half-marathon time (2:08:03), but I felt there was a chance that the hills could slow me down and in which case, under a 10:00/M pace would be great. I suppose D was to just finish, haha. I was ecstatic that I finished in under 2 hours!!

1) 9:08
2) 9:01
3) 8:57
4) 9:07
5) 9:22
6) 9:38
7) 8:52
8) 9:05
9) 8:34
10) 8:44
11) 7:51
12) 8:48
13) 9:05
13.29) 7:58

Pre-race: I jogged/walked the 1+ mile to the race start early in the morning when it was still dark outside. It was exciting to see all the other runners! While I was looking for the UPS truck for my bag drop-off, I heard a voice yell out, “RUNNERS COMING THROUGH! MAKE WAY!” I was confused until I realized the ultra-marathon runner’s were coming through, approaching the finish! Their race started at midnight. Wow, so hard core and very inspiring.

I turned in my warm-up bag and headed towards the Wave 5 start. When I registered, I had put down 2:15 as my estimated finish time, putting me in the 2:11-2:20 group.  Someone else had told me that I would feel better starting in a slowing group and speeding past people than starting in a faster group and getting passed up.

It was in the 60’s that morning so I wore my new Athleta shorts (with a pocket in the bag for my Gu), a gray tank top with pink edges from Target (haha), Pearl Izumi sleeves, Drymax socks, and my Brooks PureCadence. I can’t believe I didn’t take a pre-race photo!

Miles 1-4: The start was flat and as usual, everyone was going out fast. I had to REALLY make an effort to try to ‘slow’ my pace and while my plan was to start around 9:30, I ended up going faster. Then I reminded myself that the course was flat in the beginning anyway so I would likely slow during the uphill. I let myself go a little faster.

Miles 5-8: Water break in mile 5 and big hill in mile 6, as clearly reflected in my pace! 309 feet of elevation, 65 feet of descent in mile 6. I had decided that I was not going to walk any of the hills. I was determined to keep running, even if I had to slow down a lot. There was a girl that was yelling out encouraging words on the hill, “Almost there!!” or “High knees!” and once she reached the top, cheered! Despite the burn in my legs, it did put a smile on my face! If I hadn’t felt the need to conserve my energy, I would have cheered too. I sped up once it flattened out in mile 7 on the bridge. It was an amazing feeling, running over the bridge. The fog prevented us from seeing very far ahead, but there was just something majestic about looking up and seeing the famous bridge. It was on the return portion of the bridge that I realized my pace was faster than I had expected and there was a chance I could hit sub-2:00. It was a little tricky maneuvering around people on the bridge since the lane wasn’t that wide, but I did the best I could. I just kept telling myself to keep my turnover up and take smaller strides. I took small gulps of my Triple Espresso Gu once I got past the first half of the bridge, knowing that there would be water soon. It was just a slight downhill but I took advantage of it and let my speed pick up. I can’t even remember who told me now, but someone had told me to just let gravity carry me downhill, so, I did. Quick water break in mile 8 once we were on the other side of the bridge.

Miles 9-12: I was feeling pretty damn good about how things were going in the last third of the race and my motivation was high. I knew there was another big hill, a downhill, and then rolling hills with a gradual ascent to the end. Again, I wanted to speed up to prepare myself for the hill, and I ended up keeping a pretty good pace! Mile 11 Had the long downhill and I just flew down, again, keeping my turnover up. The last mile or so was the toughest. My legs were getting tired and going uphill was definitely a mental challenge. My pace would slow down going uphill and the second I had some relief and was going downhill, I’d let my speed go back up. I had to tell myself, “just another mile!” Once I was past 13 miles, I pushed myself to pick up the pace. And of course, once I neared the finish line, I pushed it harder to finish strong! I even posed with my arms up as I crossed the finish. 🙂

I was so elated when I looked down at my watch and saw my time!!! I got my medal and a blanket thing before grabbing a water and walking over to get my photo taken. You know what was the most awesome feeling? I saw a crazy long line for the bag pick-up and realized it was for Wave 4. As for Wave 5 pick-up? NOBODY. Hahah, sweet. The people in my wave were mostly still on the course! I felt pretty bad-ass, not gunna lie. Then, I went through to pick up food and Irish coffee. They had bananas, apples, mixed fruit cup, cereal, Zico water, chia seeds, packets of nuts, Lara bars, and yogurt. I drank some Irish coffe, ate a banana, put on my warmup clothes, snapped some pictures with my phone, returned some texts, and walked to the bus line. It hit me how tired I was once I was on the bus, almost falling asleep, haha. I picked up some chocolate milk once I got to the marathon start/finish but couldn’t get into the section with the jamba juice! It was just as well though– my stomach was starting to hurt. 😦 I did talk to a marathon runner who had run SF a few times and had hit his goal of sub-4:00! Haha, one day…

By the way, NO BLISTERS!! These Brooks are a keeper. 🙂 Anyway, I stuck around to wait for my friend Alice to finish the second half– she ended up finishing it just over 1:50!! It was finally time to go and her boyfriend drove us back. Unfortunately, my stomach was not feeling great for a few hours and I had to skip the celebratory brunch, opting to curl up on the couch and snack on French bread and ginger ale. Eeks. How do I prevent an upset stomach post-race??


Book Club: The Age of Miracles: A Novel

The book club is back!  It went on hiatus when the girl who started it quit her job and went traveling around the world with her boyfriend.   Cool, huh?  Anyway, Ruth started it back up again and our first novel was The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker.  Skimming through’s reviews, I gathered that this was my type of book.  I’ve always been a fan of dystopian novels such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. The online description:

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

Human behavior fascinates me and human behavior under pressure even more.  I was curious to see how Walker’s characters would react to the changes, and curious to read about the predicted resulting scientific changes on Earth.  Perhaps people see what they want to see, but when reading about the novel, I completely missed that it was actually more of a coming-of-age story more than anything else.  The rest was just background– situations and settings to help develop Julia’s story.  WARNING: I’m going to write freely about the novel, so there may be spoilers.

First, the good things.  I thought the background story was really cool.  The slowing of Earth’s rotation and the consequential lengthening of days– I’m curious to know how this would actually affect people. Would our internal body clocks adapt to the change or would it mess us up?  What would cause this to occur and how would it affect the other planets?  So many possibilities!  In The Age of Miracles, most people react as expected– people panic and think the world is coming to an end.  No surprise– people freak out over much smaller events, like when the year 2000 approached.  In the story, the lesson that I learned is that no matter what’s going on in our environment, life goes on.  The earth’s rotation may be slowing and exposure to sunlight may become highly harmful, but life goes on.  Julia experiences loss and love just like any other pre-teen girl (possibly more than usual for her age).  She catches her father with another woman, forced to recognize that parents are people just like everyone else, hardly the perfect examples that we once naively expected them to be.  Julia’s experience triggered my memory of making that realization for myself in high school (in a completely different situation). I liked that Julia’s life wasn’t unbelievably happy– the best friend abandons her, the grandfather dies in an unfortunate accident, the mother goes through a breakdown, and her first boyfriend becomes ill and moves away.  Not that her life was portrayed as one big tragedy, but her life was real with both ups and downs.

As real as her life seemed, I felt uncomfortable with Julia’s development.  Her reactions to her life’s event were strangely stoic.  When Julia catches her father holding suitcases at her neighbor’s house, I felt a sense of anger and betrayal for her– surely this would have a long-term effect on her. Her father had been portrayed as the strong parental figure, a moral compass, the glue that held the family together.  All that was shattered in a heart-breaking moment. Julia is angry at her father but manages to hide it from her mother, and doesn’t seem to be affected much after that.  I expected to see more growth as a character through her different life experiences, but she seemed to stay the same over time.  For a coming of age story, I would especially expect to see more development.  It just felt too simple.

Overall, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t amazing and I wouldn’t read it again.  It had a lot of potential, either going the sci-fi direction or the coming-of-age direction, but it seemed to partially develop both without really standing out in either area.  It was Walker’s first novel and received a lot of good reviews so maybe it’ll appeal more to others, but I was somewhat disappointed.