Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A nice thing .... and I feel like a brat

So awhile back I wrote a little something here blasting the Nitro Trail Half Marathon, which I ran with Sarah in May, because I got lost on the poorly marked course, missed two miles and lost out on a personal-best. The rant (which wasn't even that severe) was really meant for the likes of Mom and a few friends, but through the magic of the Interweb, the race director (Sam) found it.

He e-mailed me this week to apologize.

"I'm really sorry that happened to you and I'm really sorry that you thought I had no compassion for your getting lost -- I actually felt horrible that anyone got off course. Things definitely got a bit disorganized and confusing, especially for the faster runners like you. It won't ever be that way again. I hope you at least liked the shirt and had some fun running there."

And then offered me a free race entry into one of his other events. Brazen Racing puts on something like four races a year, all in the East Bay not far from where Sarah lives in Oakland.

"I can assure you that all of those races will be much easier to follow."

I feel a little embarrassed for bad-mouthing Sam's race, but I'm really impressed by the way he responded. So I'll probably take him up on the offer and try another course, maybe even rope Sarah into running with me -- or in front of me, as the case may be.

And Sam's right about one thing. I wear the shirt all the time.

Tough run

So Felix was right. Don't tell him I said so, but he was right when he said the Jungle Run in Los Gatos would be hard.

This was the race the Tuesday morning crew had trained for. Intervals at 6:30 a.m. Tempo miles in the middle of our long runs. Tapering. We were going to run fast -- 8-minute mile pace was the goal, which would lead to a 1:45 finish and a huge personal best.

But I got food poisoning. I can't point fingers at where it came from, I just know that I woke up nauseous around 2 a.m., then spent the next hour trying to keep it together before giving in and giving it up to the toilet. This was really frustrating -- not just due to the 7 a.m. race -- but because I just don't get sick. I brushed my teeth with tap water for two weeks in Guatemala and was fine. I eat warm yogurt without so much as a burp. But something finally got me.

I considered skipping the race, but the Web site had promised cool finishers medals and I was too proud to admit defeat from the bathroom floor (and also too hard-headed to tell my running pals about my predicament). So I went.

The race went well for the first half-mile. I don't be Debbie Downer here, but the rest of it was fairly terrible. I think a bee stung my thigh before mile 1 (I still have a huge welt). Then we hit the main road, where the sun already beat down and temperatures felt like they were 100 degrees. Realistically, it was probably verging on 80, and not even 8 a.m. yet.

I lost the crew (all of whom ran amazing times!) between miles 4 and 5. From there, most of the run was spent convincing myself that dropping out now would be futile, embarrassing and, ultimately, more frustrating that plowing on ahead. With about four miles to go, race bandits Blair and Felix found me. They had sport beans and stories. Blair even carried my waterbottle, and having the distraction of company really carried me through those last few hot, mildly hilly miles.

My final time, though no where near the goal pace, wasn't anything to scoff at: 1:54:37 is still a personal best.

What was even better was Scotty and John both getting personal bests and Lynn taking second place in her age group. Good job!!


I have new fancy new shoes.

They're from a local Santa Cruz company called Somnio. The gimmick is the shoes are custom-made for your feet -- my left shoe has different support in it than the right -- which can be really helpful, especially for injury-plagued runners.

I wrote a story about the shoes. (That photo looking up my skirt even made the newspaper... and the thing that looks like a gash on my shin is actually a laser. I'm not sure why the coloring is all screwy.) The article explains a lot more, and the company's Web site has even more information and sells cool T-shirts with the company logo "for the long run" which I love.

The new shoes have only been out twice, for a 12-minute easy pre-race run Saturday morning and then five miles before work today. We'll see. They feel good, but most new shoes feel good. The verdict is still out on whether these are magic slippers, but the company name means "dream" in Latin, so perhaps that's a good omen!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Toiling through the taper

I'll come right out with it: tapering makes me crazy.

(Yes, this is the place to make the comment that I'm already crazy. Now, moving on...)

I'm limited to 12 miles this week. That's the rule. We're tapering for the Jungle Run half marathon on Sunday. So from Monday to Saturday, 12 miles. That's it. Any mile beyond that costs me $1 at the post-race breakfast.

So I'm crazy -- I stayed up past 1 a.m. a couple nights ago dicing strawberries to freeze, slicing veggies and cleaning out the fridge -- but feel lazy. Also, I have a small amount of guilt after just polishing off a discus-sized toffee cookie.

I understand that tapering will help me run better come Sunday morning, and that this is what we've been gunning for. So I'm sure I'll appreciate it then. But right now I'm trying to figure out what to do with my Saturday? The lack of a long trail run or scenic bike ride will be devastating. Also, I don't have cable to distract myself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

This is cool!

Brooks is making a mostly-recycled marathon racing flat, and it looks super snazy!

The NY Times wrote about it. Even though the shoe won't be released until February, the company is already promoting it. I couldn't find anything on how much the shoes will cost ...

Thursday, July 9, 2009


It's running of the bulls week in Spain!

The full force of the festivities won't hit until the weekend, when something like 25,000 people will pack the streets of Pamplona to party all night and watch the bull run in the morning, but already the scene there is thrilling -- five people were hurt during Thursday morning's record-worthy run. The race through the city's narrow, windy, cobblestone streets was 30-60 seconds faster than normal, according to reports.

Seven years ago, I was in Pamplona for the festival. We were studying in Gijon, about six hours southwest (by bus) and decided to skip class to see the event made famous by Hemmingway's "The Sun Also Rises."

I fancied myself a good candidate to run, but was strongly encouraged by locals that this was not a good plan, as I was American, a girl and likely still going to be drunk when the gun went off. Of course, all of these things were true. Another Oregon girl, Grace, and I had spent the night drinking in the street, then dancing in a dimly lit night club with some skeezy guys who tried to separate us in a dark alley. When we left them, we found some other men bent on teaching us how to drink red wine from leather canteens -- arcing the alcohol more than a foot from the mouth of the canteen into our own mouths. Our white pants (a requisite for the running of the bulls) were never the same.

These guys also taught us how to roll spliffs. It's fair to say neither lesson stuck.

Regardless, by daybreak Grace and I were ready for bed, not a three-minute stampede to safety. Some nice teenager (probably a drug addict, we decided) kindly help us find the race. Instead of entering, we found perches on a wooden fence that walled-in the race course that promised fantastic views of the action.

However, this was not meant to be. Some police, or at least men in uniforms with weapons, told us to get down. Apparently the fence was not intended as a spectator area, but rather a safety feature so racers in imminent danger of being gored could fling themselves over the wood to safety.

We had no idea.

This left Grace and I in front of a throng of people -- many still drunk like us -- anxious to see the marquee event. The gun went off and the crowd surged. We slammed against the fence. For a brief moment, I thought we would have the second-best vantage point (after losing out on our fence-top seats).

Then the cops came through, wantonly swinging their batons to urge the crowd back. Grace took one in the arm. I got it in the jaw and went down hard. Luckily, there were so many people around me, I never hit the ground, just fell on top of others caught in the trample -- and we weren't even on the bulls' side!

I righted myself as fast as I could (while holding my bloody lip) but the white- and red-clad runners had passed. I snapped off one photo of a white bulls' ass shuffling away from me.

It was one time the book was better than being there in real life.

Since then, I've thought about going back in hopes of having a more positive experience -- people know how to party at week-long Spanish street festivals -- but still think this is one race I would never consider entering.

Unappreciated running comments

Nothing in particular happened to make me think of this, but here's a quick rundown of the things I despise hearing about running.

1. Forest Gump references. When was that movie? 1994?
2. Calling it "jogging." I don't jog. Never have. Prolly won't start any time soon.
3. Equating the use of an elliptical machine at the gym to what I do. It's just not the same. If that's your thing -- for whatever reason -- good for you. Seriously. But it's not for me and it's not running.
4. Asking if it's fun for me. I think that should be obvious.
5. Then asking if I can teach you how to run. Prolly not. If you'd like to come with me, OK, but I really have no desire to coach you out of your couch potato-ness.
6. Believing it's a phase. It's not. It's my thing. Chances are good I like running more than I like you. (Sorry, but it's prolly true.)

Happy trails!

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."