Peace out, 2011!

My last run of 2011 was a windsucking 10-miler on the paved trail from the River Ranch to Tahoe City.

I was supposed to run 15 miles.  One source on the internet said the route should amount to 14 miles and I figured I’d continue running another mile to the entrance to Squaw Valley then turn back.  But it was not to be…

I was sacked.  I can’t use the altitude as an excuse since I’ve been in Truckee 6 days.  I have no excuse.  I was plain vanilla tired from start to finish.  Knowing what Coach Craig used to say about the body having the capacity to press on even though the brain is sending mayday signals to stop, I probably could have pushed further.  But my husband and kids were waiting for a ride home after a morning at Alpine Meadows. My time was up.

But not all was lost on my final run this year.  It was a brilliant winter morning.  Sunny, comfortably nippy, barely a wind.  The crystal clear Truckee River escorted me until I reached the majestic shore of Lake Tahoe. I spent a few moments standing there pinching myself. If you have never been to Lake Tahoe, you must go. Run, bike, or walk there, if you can. It will take your breath away – this blue rock-lined watery expanse nestled within the jaws of tall mountains.  It will remind you of the smallness of humanity compared to monuments of nature that have existed long before us and would subsist better, really, without us.  And you will feel glad, at least, that your little body got there on its own terms…breathing steadily…dodging ice patches…moving forward all the way.

Tomorrow is another day.  Another year, in fact.  Many other chances to complete a run the way I intended.


Gear review: Oiselle Gilman Vest

The gear: Oiselle Gilman Vest, white, size XS

The verdict: A must-have

Out-of-the-box assessment: Light-as-a-feather 94% polyester 6% spandex ripstop fabric. Reflective details at chest graphic and zipper openings. Slim fit with elasticized arms holes to trap heat. Cropped length, hits at the waist. I would say best for slighter builds and smaller (A-B) chests.

Test conditions: A 10-mile run on a cool, damp, overcast 48-degree day that felt more like 40 degrees because of the dampness. Underneath the vest I wore a long sleeve technical top and the ueber-awesome cotton-polyester Oiselle Run On Long Sleeve Tee. I also had on knee length capris, a lightweight beanie, and microfleece gloves.

Detailed results: The Gilman Vest packs serious heat, protects beautifully against the wind, and stays nice and dry throughout the workout.

I was amazed how warm the vest kept me a considering its weight. Twenty minutes into the run I needed to shed the Run On Tee, which kept my arms perfectly toasty at first but proved too warm by mile 2. I hate being cold so much that I tend to err on the side of feeling cozy from the get-go, only to shed layers and tote things around my waist for the remainder of the run. But lately my distaste for clutter while I run has really grown. The Gilman Vest is the perfect solution to my dilemma. I just need to get better at ignoring that initial feedback from my body that it is freezing.

[Oiselle posted a great primer on dressing for cool-weather runs. Rule of thumb is to dress like it’s 20 degrees warmer and you are going to be standing around outside. I should have trusted their advice!]

A few words about the design. The vest is simple, compact, clean. The lack of bells and whistles might disappoint those looking for more of a pack mule of a vest. The Gilman features two small hand pockets – that’s it. If I could ask Oiselle to change anything, it might be to add a loop inside the collar so the vest can be hung on a hook. But I’m happy with the Gilman Vest as is. It is a great basic piece of outerwear that I will reach for again and again through the season of 35- to 50-degree running.

2011 year in review















2/6 Kaiser Half Marathon — worst racing experience ever, killed my spirit
3/20 Emerald Across the Bay 12K — the race that restored my spirit
3/27 Oakland Half Marathon — first forfeited race registration of the year, decided to chill in Truckee and spend the birthday with family
5/8 DSE Mother’s Day 5K — finished 2nd in my age group (OK, it was a small field), proud of my two boys who ran the 0.25 mile fun run
6/5 See Jane Run Half Marathon (PR) — first sub-2 finish!!!
6/25 Southport Freedom Run 5K (PR) — 2nd in my age group again, first time starting a race to the sound of a cannon, best race prize ever (see left), the only race of the year with my husband
8/20 Northstar Mountain Run — hardest race ever, all uphill for 10.2K from 6,330′ to 8610′ elevation
8/28 Giants Race Half Marathon — second forfeited registration of the year, didn’t feel ready
9/6 Donner Lake Run 6K – first time volunteering at a race, cheered on my husband and our friend
10/2 Bridge to Bridge 12K (PR) — best race performance ever
10/16 Nike Women’s Half Marathon — one hard-won hilly-ass sub-2 finish
12/4 California International Marathon — third forfeited registration of the year, blindsided by an injury 6 days before, recovered 6 days after

Brightest moment: finishing the 18-mile training run strong, despite a miserable 16-miler the week before
Darkest moment:  pretty much the entire Kaiser Half, but especially mile 8
Funnest race: Northstar Mountain Run (I’m determined to go back and get a respectable finish time next year)
Biggest surprise:  getting injured while on vacation
Biggest regret:  missing the deadline to register our team for Hood to Coast 2012
Biggest lesson:  don’t underestimate the value of strength training

run a marathon without bonking
run more trails
learn to swim properly

Here we go again

Week one of re-training for my second marathon has begun.  The Hanson plan has been adapted.  Pilates, spin, barre/TRX classes mapped out.  Mysterious injury gone.  I am back in the saddle.

But it’s winter. Every December I kick myself for setting racing goals during the winter. How quickly we forget what it is like to run when you can’t feel your fingers and toes, when your eyes water from the sheer cold.  We forget when we live in a place that doesn’t snow. We forget what fair-weather wimps we are.

The March 4 marathon might be a mistake.  I might have rushed into rescheduling my second marathon after conceding that the December 4 race was a goner (thanks to the mysterious, ill-timed, last-minute injury).  But mistakes are magic, reassures a sign in my son’s kindergarten classroom.  In erring, we learn.  I’m willing to see what I learn from having 12 additional weeks to train versus pushing through a germ field, holiday distractions, and crappy weather to do it.  Could be good, could be bad, time will tell.

Surprise beginning

My much-anticipated second marathon ended in a way I never expected: I didn’t get to run it.

Apparently this is common in the marathon world. Of the seven people I know who signed up for the California International Marathon, only three made it to the start line. Of the four who didn’t, two had too many life demands to squeeze in the training, one had a death in the family, and yours truly got injured.

What triggered this injury is a mystery.  I was on a beach vacation in southern Thailand.  I ran once in four days there.  I did no other exercise.  The day I got home (five days before the marathon), I felt very sore in my left pelvic area.  A day later I could not take a step with or swing my left leg without debilitating pain.  It all radiated from the left side of the pubic bone and just inside my left hip at the oblique muscle.

In the days that followed, I popped some ibuprofen so I could function, visited a chiropractor twice, saw my primary care provider once, and waited as long as I could before deciding yay or nay.  I even consulted the Magic 8 Ball – something I always do in my most desperate hour of unknowing…

Will I get to run on Sunday?  Definitely

Will I suffer during the run?  It is unsure

Will I finish? You are not ready to know that

Encouraged by the 8 Ball’s prophecy and by being to walk pain-free, I set out to do a test run the morning before the race.  Wham!  Ouch!  Tightness all around the left hip joint.  Burning sensation left of my pubic bone every time I pushed off, deep soreness in my left oblique every time I landed.  My Garmin said I was doing a 12-minute mile, and I couldn’t even keep that up for more than half a block.  Up went the white flag of surrender.

I called my buddy Beth who I was going to ride with to Sacramento that afternoon, told her the news.  In typical optimistic Beth fashion, she began brainstorming which upcoming marathon I could aim for, which half marathon we could do together as part of my training.  All good, but I realized the only immediate consolation would be to watch my three friends rock this marathon.  I resolved to drive out the next morning to see them at the finish line.

I arrived to a picture-perfect marathoning day in Sacramento.  Forty-something degrees, dry, no wind, not a cloud in the sky.  I found my way to the 20-mile mark and within 15 minutes saw Beth cruising up.  Wasn’t able to find my two other friends.  I snapped some photos then jumped back in the car and headed for the finish line at the State Capitol.

I positioned myself next to the Mile 26 flag.  I looked at my watch.  The time was 10:53 and here came Beth.  She needed a 3:55 finish to qualify for Boston.  I got so excited I ran up to her (yes, on the course), hooting YOU GOT THIS GIRL!  I ran alongside trying to take a photo then drifted back to the sidewalk, still running to keep up.  Guess what? She crossed the line and the official clock said 3:54-something.  And I felt no pain running.

That’s when I knew the injury chapter was over and I could start running again.  Start training for my second marathon again.  I did not see the do-over chapter coming but I’m ready to roll with it.  The joy lies in the journey, after all.

The highlights from this last journey won’t soon be forgotten:  my newfound love of beet juice, the Wednesday morning 7-mile tempos along the Embarcadero with Superstar Beth, the brutal 18-miler on the Sawyer Camp Trail that our coach and friend Craig orchestrated to make the CIM feel easy by comparison, watching Craig’s “boys” (20-something Adonises from his running group) fly effortlessly back and forth on that trail while we were still going the same direction, the supposed marathon-pace run around Lake Merced in heavy rain when every timing device I had ran out of battery, realizing I could run distances of 15+ miles in my Nike Frees with no problem, wanting so badly to stop running the Nike Half Marathon at 8 miles then pushing on to finish under 2 hours, and, of course, watching Beth nail the Boston-qualifying finish.

Over and out.