Tuesday, September 10, 2013

6 month redux

When I started this blog, I genuinely believed that I would be able to, at a minimum, be able to keep up on posting once a month. I believed that running and racing would always be primary to me and I'd continually have all sorts of tales to tell. And while I knew my life would change when Nathan and I opened up our bakery/cafe M.H. Bread and Butter, I really had no concept of what that truly meant.

It's been 6 months since my last post. A lot has happened in that time, a lot has changed. We have now been open for 15 weeks and almost every moment has been consumed by making it a success since we got keys in hand in April. I've been running less, often times so dead on my feet after 14 hours of hard work on my feet that a run resembles more a waddle than a run. But even with sacrifices of (way) less running, less sleeping, more work, more stress and epic struggle, the last 6 months have provided me with a profound sense of accomplishment. I look at what we have (begun to) create and I have an immense amount of pride in building it from nothing. I may want to run more, sleep more, relax more but that doesn't mean I'd change a thing in what we've created. I look forward to continuing to bust our butts making MHBB something great and hopefully in the meantime find some space for balance, sleep and running.

Some highlights from the last 6 months:
 My pregnant sisters! Sarah & Kristin helping me at Bluxome Winery Meet Market

 Bestest everest arrives to help get doors open!

 Doors open!

 Trying to fill the case in the early days.

 My husband looks great in a tux!
 All dressed up for a black tie wedding!

 Morning after fancy wedding sounds like a perfect time to run a marathon!
2nd place at the San Francisco Marathon in 2:52. Not bad for not training.

 We all learn from our mistakes ( like don't drop the mixer full of dough)

 Running baker outfit.

 Words to live by

Finally having a morning off to watch the sunrise on a long run
to the city to see my new nephew!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oakland Marathon Race Report

At the start line with speedy friends. Caitlin, Penny and I.
Photo by Chris Jones.

When I couldn't run Napa Marathon a few weeks ago due to overwhelming stress with opening our business, I quickly changed my plans to run Chuckanut 50k last weekend and after the race hop in the car and help my sister and her husband with the drive from Seattle to San Francisco (they moved down which makes me so incredibly happy!!!). I also signed up for the Oakland Marathon when I signed up for Chuckanut. The way business has been going, I am never certain which race start line I will be able to show up at. So I wanted a back-up plan, just in case. Chuckanut went really well and I was very satisfied with my run and had a fun little road trip Bin-Yanko style.

My legs didn't feel bad after Chuckanut except for a little niggle in calf/ankle/foot that sent me running to Psoas Massage to see Scott, not once but twice this week. While my legs felt pretty good, my body in general didn't feel right. I had a laundry list of symptoms including massive water retention (like 15lbs) while not peeing. Coupled with all the other symptoms, I made a b-line for my doctors office on Thursday morning to make sure that my kidneys weren't shutting down. My doctor advised that I not run the marathon if we didn't get the bloodwork back. It would be dumb to run a marathon if I was having acute kidney failure. Obviously.

Thankfully, my bloodwork came back the next day and my kidneys were fully functional. The bloodwork did however reveal (especially when compared to my bloodwork from 6 weeks ago) that my symptoms are due to my thyroid swinging from hypothyroid (which I have been medicating for 6 years now & had dropped my TSH too low) to a more hyperthyroid state. This explains why I have been struggling to feel great since the beginning of the year. While my iron levels have improved, giving me more energy, I haven't felt right for nearly 3 months. I have had insomnia, been hyper emotional, intolerant to heat and extraordinarily hungry. I just figured that some of the symptoms (insomnia, anxiety, being emotional) were because opening a business is stressful. But after hearing from my doctor and understanding what hyperthyroid (even a temporary hyperthyroid like mine- my meds just have to be adjusted) means for my body.

After receiving clearance from my doctor, I decided last minute that I would run Oakland Marathon. I figured it would be an awesome way to see Oakland and even better, it would be a chance to hang out with my mom (who just moved to Oakland) and have her see me race! I didn't taper at all for this race. Yesterday on my 11 mile run, I pondered whether or not this might just end up being my slowest marathon ever. I was/am still retaining water weight (which makes you feel kind of gross/heavy), but I decided that I should give Oakland a go. After all, a week after racing a 50k and not tapering really put me in the mindset of "come what may". Given the nature of the course, I figured I could just run it as a workout. I knew it had the potential to be a long ride on the pain train, but I also knew that with no expectations, I might just have a flipping blast. And I did.

 Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News

I spent the evening in Oakland at my mom's house and made pre-race dinner for the two of us. The usual: greens, chicken and lots of sweet potatoes. Her new place was perfectly located to roll out of bed after a nice long sleep (9hr!!!) and run less than a mile to the start line. I ate a pre-race banana with sunbutter, lots of coffee and headed out into the perfect morning. It was clear and cool without being cold. I jogged over to the start line where I ran into Caitlin who was also running. I was excited to see her as I hoped it meant I might have a workout partner for the race. I knew from previous years results that the women's winner often ran the entire race alone. Knowing how speedy Caitlin is, I knew that I would have to have a pretty good day to bring home the win. As I warmed up with her and then with my good friend and training partner Liz (who was running as part of a relay), I wasn't sure how I felt. I didn't feel bad, but I wasn't sure how 6:xx pace was going to feel.

I had spent the evening before the race figuring out what 2:45-2:50 pace looked like and I hoped I was going to be able to muster then 6:29 min/mile average it would take to run 2:50. But I really wasn't sure.

I lined up a few rows back with Caitlin and my darling friend Penny (who wins pretty much every trail marathon in the entire bay area). It took me 3+ years to convince Penny to run a marathon, now she crushes dozens a year!

The gun went off and off we went. I went out comfortably, but was also well aware that my pace was ridiculously fast given my goal time. My first miles were 6:01 and 6:00 respectively and I knew that I need to pull back a little. The first half of Oakland Marathon contain pretty much all of the near 1,000 feet of climbing for the whole race and I wanted to be conservative until I was done with the hills at mile 11. The course pretty much goes uphill from mile 3 until mile 11, so it was unrealistic to maintain that pace, but I went with it to get my legs spinning. After two miles, I settled in to closer to 6:20 pace and made my way along. I was feeling good and happy. Just content to be "feeling" it. My body was allowing me to clip along without protest, despite all the demands I have placed on it over the last week.

I really wanted to negative split and have enough for a fast finish style long run, so I did not push too hard on the hills. I went comfortably through the Oakland hills, chatted occasionally with my two bike pacers (as the lead female I had a bike pacer) and tried not to get run over by any cars or miss any turns.

It was a strange thing, everytime we came to an intersect it was a question of whether or not the cops were actually going to stop traffic or if I was going to play a dangerous game of frogger. Thankfully my bike pacers did a good job getting ahead of me and making sure I didn't get creamed. But there were a few times when I literally was weaving through cars. The turns were not well marked as there were often cones in every direction. Again, thankfully my bike escorts showed me the way, but it was awfully strange to have the course be so unclear. In fact, with less a half mile to go we came off Lake Merritt and neither I nor my bike escorts could tell which way I was suppose to go! There were no race marshalls at the turn and I ended up back running traffic, scrambling to figure out which way the course went. Thank goodness we went the right way!

For much of the first half, Caitlin was about 20 seconds behind me. I knew she planned her workout to also be a fast finish long run, so I pressed myself to not let off the pace. Miles 7-11 averaged in the upper 6:40s, but I was feeling really comfortable and looked forward to flying down the hill on the other side. Mile 12 was a nice 400 foot loss of elevation and I picked up the pace dropping a 5:44. I let it out a little but didn't get to crazy as there was a lot of race left. It got my legs spinning again and I was able to drop 4 more miles at sub 6:10 pace.

By mile 20, I was feeling tired, but not anything worrisome. More like tired because I raced a week ago and didn't taper and was at mile 20 kind of tired. I resolved to just continue to maintain my pace and not worry about pushing it too hard. Around mile 21, one of the bike pacers told me my lead had grown to 2:20 over Caitlin. I knew that I couldn't let off the pace or do anything that would cause me to blow up, so I just dug in and maintained.

The last 4 miles seemed to take forever, but eventually I made my way around the Lake and closed in our the final stretch. Fittingly, the race finishes up a hill, so I pushed myself up the final hill and waved my arms to pump up the crowd as the announcer called my name. It was thrilling. I had started the day not even knowing if I would have the strength to finish the race strong and instead, I won. Even more satisfying, I set a new course record in 2:47!!

Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News

I think the most thrilling part of it all is the fact that this is the first time my mom has got to see me win a race. It was awesome to be able to give her a big hug just after the finish and see her so proud!

I am very pleased with how the race went, how I felt and how I handled the ups and downs of this week (heck of this year). It makes me very excited for the races to come this year and to see what I can do!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Chuckanut 50k race report- A battle of will

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

It started pouring about halfway to Bellingham. Not just raining, raining so hard I could barely see out the front window of the car as we drove through the early morning pre-dawn darkness. I was not enthused. I was downright ready to turn around and drive back to my sister's house and not run Chuckanut. I felt like a cranky little baby. I didn't want to slog through the pouring rain and mud. I was lacking killer instinct for racing, in fact, I was lacking any inclination to race at all. My mind has just been so many other places recently, under so many other stresses, that it lacked the ability to focus on the idea of racing.

I did in fact make it to the start line. Nathan wouldn't give me the opt out or play into my vacillating. He simply got out of the car and laced up his shoes to race and I followed suit, grumbling the whole way.

I saw lots of familiar and friendly faces at the start and felt more at ease. Unlike road races, the energy at the start is much more casual and laid back. I didn't feel like I needed to be "on" from the word "go". I had time to get warmed up AFTER the gun went off. And off we did go...

I started out on the interurban slowly, pretty far back in the pack considering I know I have the speed to take the race out fast. I was probably 20th female through the first half mile, but gradually moved up in the first few miles, dropping my pace down into the 6:50s. It felt pretty easy and I worked my way up to run with Alicia Shay and Cassie Scallon. I assumed they were running 1-2, but was quickly corrected that last year's runner up Jodee Adams-Moore had taken it out hard. By the first aid station just after mile 6, we were already 3 minutes behind. I thought to myself, "well, guess she'll either set a huge CR or blow up- it's a race for 2nd now!".

Yeah, Glenn Photo!!! Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

I never felt truly in a race mindset. I struggled with my motivation as I went up the first slippery climb, my calves protesting. But after all the debacles, fails and craziness of this year already, I resolved no matter what, just to keep moving forward as quickly as my body would allow.

Once at the top of Cleator, I fell into a nice rhythm on the ridge and loped along, feeling neither good nor bad, just pretty steady. The ridge is particularly choppy and has lots of dicey footing, but I managed it better than I've managed anything technical in a long time, probably since I fell last September and hurt myself badly.

The stretch along the ridge from Aid Station #3 to the Aid Station at the bottom of Chinscraper is a long stretch and I just tried to stay focused on moving forward. I glanced over my shoulder a few times to see if Alicia or Cassie were still right behind me but I didn't see them. I ran with a few guys along the trail and tried to prepare myself for the slog up Chinscraper. By the time I actually arrived, I was perfectly fine with the idea of it sucking, taking forever and being a power hike. I figured I could just push the last 10 miles. I hiked as fast as I could up Chinscraper and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was shorter than I remembered. 5 years earlier, I ran a 4:41 and won but my memory of Chinscraper was that is was about 3 times longer. Glad my memory was incorrect.

 Smiling because I know seeing Glenn means I am at the hardest part/near the top

Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Near the top I glanced down and saw Cassie, she was a few switchbacks below and I knew that I had my work cut out for me in the next 10 miles. Cassie and Alicia are both very speedy runners and while I too am fast, I didn't know if I had the heart and will to really race to the end.

I hit the road and started descending. I glanced over my shoulder and saw Alicia speeding along behind me, Cassie not far behind. I mentioned to the guy I was running with that I was going to have to do battle. He told me just to bide my time and wait for the last tiny hill with 2 miles to go to make my move. I assured him I was not feeling peppy enough to put moves on people, but he laughed me off and told me I'd be just fine.

Alicia fell into step behind me as we descended down the trail. I really liked running down the trail instead of the road the way the course use to go. Much more beautiful and sets you up better for the flat less than scenic final miles.

We were nearing the bottom when I could sense someone wanted to pass me. I thought it was Alicia, so I said, "nice work Alicia" and moved out of the way. It wasn't Alicia it was Cassie and she was blowing by me like I was walking. It seemed the battle was on. I checked my waterbottle and there was enough water seemingly to get me through to the end of the race. I didn't want to spend time at the final aid station nor carry water I wasn't going to drink. I hate carrying hydration.

I blew through the aid station, as did Cassie and Alicia. I am quite adept at running with very little hydration or fuel, so I figured this worked most in my favor. I quickly took back the lead from Cassie and she fell off the pace. The transition from flying down hill to the extra flat is brutal and I took advantage having running very moderately down the hill. Alicia was hot on my heels. We had over 6 miles to race and I needed to figure out how to get my head into the game.

I hadn't felt like racing all day and there I was, in the throws of battle, trying to find a way to get my mind up for it. I have been reading a book called "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock. It is a fascinating book and talks about how the brain functions and how you can optimize your focus and "direct" our own brain through understanding the science of the brain. I was failing to talk myself logically into racing hard, so I decided to use some of the idea in order to release the right chemicals in my brain to put up a fight. And sure enough, I managed to get enough adrenaline and dopamine flowing in my brain to be hungry for a fight. I was focused and I was into it. I was ready to have fun.

At this point Alicia, had made a little move on me. Moving ahead of me quickly, but only gaining about a 20 foot advantage. I knew as soon as she didn't instantly pull away that she was mine. She had hoped to break me, but instead I could see that I was feeling a lot fresher and had more confidence in the remaining distance.

I pulled past Alicia with 4 miles to go but didn't drop the hammer. I was waiting for the little hill with 2 miles to go to do just what me earlier running partner had advised. I stayed comfortable, alert and ready. I checked back at Alicia occasionally around turns and got myself excited for a final 2 mile tempo.

I crossed the road and hit the little hill and made my move. I simply went, without regard for potentially blowing up. I knew I could do it. I knew my body would respond. I dropped the pace and pushed. It was fun. I hit a 6:50 mile, then for my final mile dropped a 6:38. I looked back a few times and soon could not even see Alicia anymore. I didn't relent. I just pushed to the end. It was incredibly satisfying.

I crossed the line in 2nd place in 4:22, nearly 20 minutes faster than when I won in '08.  Jodee had obliterated the course record and ran an amazing race. Alicia finished 2 minutes behind me and Cassie 2 minutes behind her. Nathan came in a few minutes after that and we said quick goodbyes and hoped in the car back to Seattle. The reason we'd come to Seattle in the first place was not the race but to help my sister and her husband move to San Francisco! (So excited for them to be here!) Nothing says recovery like an incredibly long road trip.

All in all, the weekend was a blast. I did battle in my mind and found new ways to give myself the will to fight. I got up for the occasion when it mattered and I had fun doing it.

Thanks to Krissy for putting on a fantastic race! Chuckanut is a classic!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wasn't/Was: a tale of two races

A few months ago, my friend Ian Sharman sent me a message suggesting I run Carlsbad Marathon on January 27th. There was great elite support and a good prize purse/incentive structure that could make a good training run worth my while. I was in! Since I hadn't raced since Kauai Marathon in early September, I wanted to jump back into racing and use a race as a good training run.  I signed up and worked it into my training schedule with my coach.

Finally celebrating our honeymoon!

After a great first week of January, I was feeling confident in my training. I had rocked out a fun adventure run with Larissa and completed that week with 113 incredible miles feeling healthy, strong and fast. The week after that it was off to Mexico for our belated honeymoon.

Mexico was amazing. We surfed and did yoga with WildMex, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and still managed a daily run. My mileage wasn't great in Mexico as there were not a ton of great places for me to run, but I didn't mind since we were so busy doing all the other activities. I finished each day exhausted. It was awesome to get away after such a hectic 2012. 

I felt pretty tired over the duration of our trip and on the last day had a really bad stomach ache. We returned on January 16th, back to work, life and the hecticness of trying to get MHBB off the ground. The fatigue and stomach ache persisted. I didn't have any other symptoms other than excruciating pain after eating, but consulted with my on call doctor brother in law for some answers. Thankfully, after 5 days the pain went away. Unfortunately, the fatigue did not. I ran over 80 miles that week, but just felt dead the whole time. I started to worry that Carlsbad was going to go extremely poorly. Race week came and flew by but I still felt weak and tired.

For some reason, I decided to fly to Carlsbad anyways. I hoped for a late miracle burst of energy or something. I hoped that I could simply train through the tired. I was wrong. I should have listened to my gut. From the moment the gun went off, I just felt dead. I was able to push myself into the low 6 min/mile range but was fighting myself the whole way on the very tough course. At mile 14, I simply stopped. I was digging myself into a hole and I wasn't enjoying myself. I was cooked. I had said that this race was suppose to be a workout, so what would I have done if it were a workout not a race? I would have stopped. It was a bummer, but it was clear to me that something was wrong.

After assessing the weeks leading up to the race, it was quite clear that there were two things going on. First, I likely had come down with something in Mexico and secondly, my iron was low again. I hadn't taken my iron supplement for nearly three weeks and whilst in Mexico didn't eat much iron rich food. When I returned back from Carlsbad, I immediately started back on my Floradix and scheduled an appointment with my doctor.

Coming on the DNF at Carlsbad, I wanted to go back to training but wanted to ensure that I wasn't simply going to pile on more fatigue and exhaustion. I decided to listen to my body and run when and for however long it wanted. By mid-week, it was actually turning into a good training week. On Wednesday, I was at San Francisco Running Company's soft opening to help Brett and Jorge out. The evening was capped off with a fun group run and a great turn out at the store. It was so much fun to see Brett get his doors open! Go check them out in Mill Valley. While there I was catching up with my friend Peter and frequent training partner when we still lived in the City. I knew Peter was going to run the KP half marathon on Sunday and was suddenly struck with an idea: running it with him. I inquired as to his pace/race plans and he said he wasn't sure since he was coming off a cold. I said, "I don't know sounds like a good plan to me, want to run together?" and promptly signed up. Although I was inching my way towards a 100 mile week, I decided that putting myself back into a race might help dissipate some of the bad feeling coming off Carlsbad. I didn't expect to PR or even be able to manage my marathon pace, but I wanted to run a race again before Napa, which is a race I want to do well at.

On Saturday, I went out for the grand opening of San Francisco Running Company and ran with a huge group of folks that showed up for a celebratory 10 mile jaunt with 1700+ feet of ascent in the Headlands. I was feeling better than I had been and hoped that Sunday's race would at least be a slight improvement over the previous week (aka not wanting to just lie down in the middle of the race).

Nathan dropped Peter and I off at 7:15 in the park. We collected our numbers, did a little warm-up, discussed our race "plan" and deposited ourselves near the start, greeting many friends along the way. Our race "plan" amounted to somewhere in the range of 6-6:20 min/mile pace. Or more like, just start running and see how we feel.

The gun went and off we went. As we made our way east out of the park, I felt surprisingly good. I felt like I was super comfortable and cruising. I was also afraid to look at my watch for fear that that feeling was because we were running more like 7:00 min/mile than the low 6's we'd talked about. Thankfully, when I finally plucked up the courage to look, our pace was actually 5:58 for the first mile. Sweet! I felt a smile creep across my face and I knew I was going to have a strong run. I still wanted the race to be a workout paced run, I didn't want to over-reach, so I settled into the slightly sub 6/6 min range.

I don't generally run shorter races such as this, but I have to say, it was a blast. I am hooked! I had an easier time pushing myself and playing with my paces because I knew that the race would be over before I even had a chance to think about it. I was having so much fun. 

Going into the turn around just before mile 10, I could see that I was in 8th place. I was pretty close to a few other ladies and so I decided to push the last few miles and go one gear beyond the easy cruise I'd been in. I was just happy to feel like I had another gear, I was just happy to be flying. I powered back down the Great Highway into a strong headwind and caught three ladies in rapid succession. I flew back into the park and crossed the finish line in 1:18:57.

After the race, Nathan, Peter and I did a nice cool-down through the park and I finished out the day with 23 miles. I was tired, but happy. To me, the place/ time were not the important thing, the important thing was feeling like myself in a race situation. What was lost at Carlsbad was found in my own backyard. Needlesstosay, what a difference a week makes.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year's Eve Adventure: Point Reyes to the Golden Gate

2012 was coming to a close. I had had a great first half of the year, packed with races and challenges and working to better myself as a runner. I lost my fall season to an injury but was enjoying a December full of 100+ mile weeks and getting back into the form I lost with my injury. My 2013 schedule was taking shape.

But as the end of the year approached, I knew there was one last thing I wanted to do before the year ended. A few years ago, Suzanna Bon mentioned that you could run 50 miles from Point Reyes to the Golden Gate. Immediately I knew that HAD to try that someday. Early in December, I decided that New Years Eve would be that day.

I pulled out my trusty Tom Harrison maps and started plotting a route that would take me to the bridge. I also enlisted the company of Larissa to join me on the adventure. Adventures are much more fun when shared with great friends. I came up with a route that included some of the best parts of Point Reyes, Mt. Tam and down to the bridge. I wanted to avoid having to do zig zags in the Headlands, so instead I had us run up and over Pine Mountain to the lakes and up to East Peak on Mt. Tam. The route was challenging, beautiful and almost perfectly 50 miles.

Nathan was nice enough to drive Larissa and I out to Bear Valley in Point Reyes for a 7 am start. It was 29 degrees when we hopped out of the car, but was looking to be a perfect day. And it was. The day unfolded into an incredible bluebird day.

I wish there was more to say about the run itself other than I just felt present. I felt great the whole time and was shocked that my body felt so strong considering the run doubled my longest run since June. It was a perfect day and I am so glad I got to share the experience with Larissa. The year felt complete when we arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge. An adventure, a journey to round of the year, inspiration of more fun runs to come. Happy New Year everyone. May the new year be full of adventure!

The journey in pictures:

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