The Russian River is an amazing place. The past two winters, while California struggled in a long drought, rainstorms upstream turned Guerneville (former home of the swim start for the Vineman) and Monte Rio into Atlantis – that is, they were momentarily underwater. These towns are used to the river overflowing its banks, however, and are resilient. Monte Rio was quiet as ever (though overrun by a bunch of triathletes) as I prepped for my second Olympic distance race.
Here we are! A year after what I had originally planned as my first triathlon. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned since that decision!
First off: huge thank you to Topo Athletic, the incredible team behind the shoes that have taught me that running isn’t the WORST and that it is actually kind of fun and the team that has supported me since I met them at the Oakland Triathlon last year. What a wonderful group of people!
Secondly: thank you to my mom who has supported me at every race she can attend and all throughout youth sports, and my sister who attended her first triathlon – slightly reluctantly, but she was lured by the presence of PokemonGo in Jack London Square.
Thirdly: thank you to the fabulous members of Oakland Triathlon who allowed me to bounce questions and ideas off them (Chris, Karolina and Rachel), practiced shoe exchanges in Oakland parking lots (Lydia), and kept me training hard (Chavon).
And last but not least: thank you to USA Productions race organizers, volunteers, and spectators!
I have procrastinated massively in writing this up. It isn’t short. I’d like to say I’ve moved past this, but I can’t lie – I haven’t. I’ve had ten flats in less than two months, and now every time I ride I feel the anxiety pit in my stomach: will I flat again? Will I be stranded in the hills? Will I be forced to walk to my destination?
It’s been a little rough.
I’m going to attempt to get what I need out of this, and still enjoy looking back.
First of all, the Monte Rio Triathlon holds a special place in my heart. This was the first triathlon I ever raced (…a whole year ago). It also is the first race I’ve ever repeated – raced more than once – so far. The course is beautiful, Monte Rio is a quaint and quintessential California vacation destination, and the organizers are pros (ran/run Ironman Vineman 70.3 and [independent] Vineman 140.6, now both Ironman races). Despite what seemed like perfect conditions, my day did not go as expected. If you look at race results, I’ve got a super strange (..slow) bike split – and that’s due to my first-ever flat (and first-ever flat change under pressure).
Second of all, I hate to fall on ‘excuses’ for why a race didn’t go the way I pictured it. Unfortunately, a flat derails anyone’s race – from beginner to professionals – and I’m learning that it’s how you react that makes it into an ‘excuse’ or ‘race day condition.’
Last year, this race required you to pick up your timing chip in the morning at the parking lot (four miles away from the start) – they fixed that for this year. Packet pick up was just as easy, timing chip included, as last year. I scoped out the swim, and my teammate confirmed what I’d been hearing: there was most definitely a current in the Russian River, but it was also much deeper than last year!
And then… I wandered over to the finish line.
I knew it existed, and I really didn’t want to remember that it existed. Especially after my body’s reaction to a finish line sprint at Half Moon Bay.
I learned a big lesson from this race. Without support, you cannot succeed.
You may have read about my blister. Or maybe you saw my post about my flu-turned-cough? Ya. One of those turned out to affect me a whole lot more than expected. Had I not started the race with a group of teammates, and been found by another teammate, I probably would have written this as soon as possible and literally left it at “I am never running again” – oh ya, that good.
This year, runners had the option to attend an Erdinger-hosted Happy Hour on Friday for packet pickup. Since I live in Oakland, I decided that I’d run to the Expo as a tune up on Saturday. That worked out really well! Nice 2.5 mile jog (that’s a soft ‘j’), picked up my packet, strolled through the vendors, and caught the bus home. Uneventful, easy, well-planned. Corrigan knows what they’re doing.
One of the best parts about the half marathon in the Oakland Running Festival is the start time – 9:10 am. Well, ok, maybe that’s a tough part on hot days in March, but this year it was going to be cool outside so no complaints. This also means that there’s an option to tackle the “Run the Town” Challenge and run the 5k at 7:30 am and then head back to the start for the half marathon. I am crazy, but I am not totally crazy, so no, I did not participate in this challenge. But! I was able to warm up before my own race by heading down the hill to Peet’s, grabbing a coffee, laugh at cheer for the marathoners at mile 3, and make my way to the start with plenty of time!
After the flu and blister setbacks, I decided I’d push my pace back a little bit. I didn’t want to blow up at the start and have to walk in the second half of the race. I lined up with the 11:10 min/mile pace alongside a bunch of OTC teammates – it was one of their birthdays!
We heard words from the Oakland Mayor, Libby Schaff, the National Anthem, and the race started. I was very happy joining my teammates through the streets of downtown Oakland – they were following a run-walk plan and I was just cooling my pace down a bit while they were walking. Another teammate found us (we’re pretty recognizable) right around mile two, when the ladies ducked into Taco Bell for a pit stop. I could not stop laughing, but *spoiler alert* they had the right idea.
My teammate and I continued on our way, pretty solidly on pace. I felt great as we looped back toward downtown and passed my mom. We were really doing pretty solid! Then my buddy broke off for a pit stop, and I continued on, starting to feel really really warm. I took my long sleeves off around mile five and tied the shirt around my waist.
Then I hit mile six.
Out of nowhere – place your bets on blister or flu here – I could not breathe. It felt like I was having an asthma attack, which hasn’t happened to me since I was swimming at Tufts in Hamilton Pool. So, I walked. Felt a little better, started running, and then couldn’t breathe. So I walked again.
If you wanted to read a post inspired by a broken record, I could outline the rest of the course for you. Instead, here are some highlights:
First, this glorious shot:
My buddy caught back up to me at mile six. Unfortunately for him, his calf was starting to really act up, because he had raced the 5k that morning. Fortunately for me, he had raced the 5k that morning and his calf was acting up – otherwise I would have been left in his dust. This also meant that he was 100% in support of run-walking.
The birthday crew caught back up to us shortly after, and carried us in their wake to the Crucible – definitely a highlight of the Oakland Running Festival. Sorry to my teammate who I totally blocked in the pictures…
At West Oakland BART, a bunch of people were handing out daffodils to the runners. It was cute and a nice gesture, but I can’t imagine running with a flower! I’m sure the photos were awesome.
There’s a long straight stretch on Mandela Parkway, and at the end someone had set up a giant mister to cool all the runners off. It was definitely warm for me at that point, so that was very welcome.
THERE WAS ALSO A MINIATURE PIG on Mandela Parkway. Yelling “PIG ON A LEASH” will definitely get your competitors attention!
Lots of churches had people outside handing out water – that was also really nice of them, since we ran by during a probably fairly inconvenient time on a Sunday morning!
At mile twelve, the sky opened up and it POURED. It was like an East Coast rain storm! We got to run in the rain for the next 1.1 miles.
My buddy and I managed to run up the last hill to the finish – at least we didn’t have to walk over the finish line.
Like I said, I learned a lot this race. Had I not had a teammate next to me for the last seven miles, I would have DNFd. There’s no shame in a DNF – and I should have taken one. How do I know that? I got to take my first trip to the medical tent after the race because of…well, dizziness? And maybe some return of liquids that I didn’t think I’d see again.
I really wanted to stick around and enjoy the party, but I couldn’t. I knew I needed to get home and warm up, get in bed, and let my body calm back down.
Was I sore? No. Was I tired after my nap? Not really. So that tells me I was pretty prepared for my race – my lungs just couldn’t handle it after that flu.
Lesson Learned 1: Listen to your body. I refused to believe my body when I was sick. I kept going in to work (new job and all) and kept having to leave early. If I had taken care of myself day one of feeling crappy, I may have had a shorter cycle of the flu.
Lesson Learned 2: Race with what you’ve got. If there were a 10k in the ORF, I think I would have dropped down to that. But that wasn’t an option. So I should have either deferred or dropped to the 5k. But I was (unreasonably) determined and pushed too hard.
Lesson Learned 3: Look at the bigger picture. So despite being sick and walking the second half of the race, I came out of it only four minutes slower than my first attempt. That first attempt had me walking, too, and I could barely walk the next day. This year? Stayed on pace, walked, had dealt with the flu, and I could walk the next day. I’m pretty happy with where my fitness is, but now this race will just be looming as something I need to conquer (still)!
The race was fantastic, but I’ll be honest with you – I was miserable.
Not through anything the organizers, volunteers, or other racers did. I have no idea what happened, but I was in pain, I was exhausted, and I hated every second of that run. I was unable-to-walk-sore for a full day, literally parked it on the couch for a full 36 hours afterwards, and have absolutely no explanation for it. Check out Brazen Racing’s Bay Breeze Half Marathon/10km/5km. Finish: 1:03:07.
Well, maybe one explanation: I told myself I was going into this as a training run.
Was that my mistake? Was my mental game SO off that I psyched myself into this? Was it that my body just physically exhausted and because my mentality was not hyper-competitive, I couldn’t muscle my way through it? The world may never know…
So, as you can see, my pace died. I died. It was really hard!
Parking: Well, this park simply isn’t made for this many people all driving separately, so parking is a little tight. The organizers warned participants that there’d be a walk, and a walk there was. Doesn’t bother me when it’s a running event – were this a tri, it may be a different story (multisport equipment weighs…a little more than running gear!!). I got there early (well, early enough), found parking, and had time to pick up my bib and get going. No biggie.
Venue: San Leandro Marina Park is pretty cool. The day of the race was pretty overcast and chilly, but it’s a huge park that I had no idea existed. There’s some hotels, restaurants, and golf courses nearby too. The venue itself seemed plenty large for all the participants.
Course: A little background: Brazen is typically a trail run race company. Is the Bay Shore Trail a…trail? Kind of, but it’s paved, so I wouldn’t count it as a real ‘trail’. The organizers offer a hiking division, which is supposed to start before the half marathon for all distances. Then the half marathon starts, then the 10 km, then the 5 km. The out and back course is flat as a pancake, which was pretty nice considering I hate hills with a passion. The trail was wide enough for the most part. But, as I hit mile 5, I realized I was in for a huge surprise: walkers. Lots, and lots, of 5 km walkers. Walking in 2-, 3-, and yes, I counted, one 7-across packs. Considering I had been on the course for nearly 50 minutes at that point, and they had started 10 minutes back, this seemed like pretty poor planning. But, not race director planning – the organizers had the ‘walking’ division, so maybe it was laziness of the participants? The 5 km started so much later than the walk division they maybe just didn’t want to get up early? I don’t know. I already felt awful and I was upset by this. Otherwise a great course, and if it were more convenient to my house, I’d probably train out there.
Volunteers/Support: Fantastic as always. We hit three aid stations on the 10 km, and the volunteers were super nice and surprisingly talented water-passers. Thanks!!
Expo: This was my first race with Brazen, and now I see why they have such a following.
Their post-race expos are incredible. Ok, maybe this one was extra special because it was easily accessible to vendors (and not in the hills), but I have never seen a post-race spread of food this huge before. Major highlight? An It’s It before 11 am.
I definitely plan on racing in another Brazen event! Super chill, great organization, and they treat their participants really well. Just need to get my new Topo Runventures in the mail! And, I’m sure my teammates will too – several members of OTC were there, including one woman who demolished her goal time of breaking one hour in the 10 km!!
No, I’m not asking for your empathy or pity. Just hosting my own little pity party from my bed.
So I needed to run 5 miles according to my half marathon plan last week. I didn’t get up in the morning and brought my stuff to work, instead. And forgot socks. I never get blisters, and I’ve put in almost 200 miles on this pair of shoes, and I wound up with a massive (ok, not compared to some of the monstrosities Google can present) blister on my right arch.
I’ve been carefully treating the bad boy for several days, and since it lives on the bottom of my foot, there’s very little blood flow and hence… slow recovery.
And, shocker, this morning I discovered that in the process of growing the giant blister, subsequently ripping through the giant blister, and not stopping, I actually had formed another blister within the giant jerkface blister. Yep, read that right: blister on raw foot skin inside blister one. EFFFF that. I’ve got 11 days until the Oakland Half Marathon, so you’d think I’d be training through it, right?
Well, nope, because I”m in bed. With the flu. Which has gone around my whole office and I thought I missed. Apparently it only lasts 48 hours, but I’m only on hour 24. Wish me luck.