Monday, November 3, 2014

Snohomish River Run Race Report

I registered for this race as a package with the Women's Half race by the same company last spring. I don't precisely remember what the discounted price was but for two half marathons it was a good deal and I thought having to races on the calendar would help me build a base and keep me motivated.

This did not happen.

My spring half marathon was a disaster. This had nothing to do with the actual event which I thought was nicely run, well supported and had a flat route. Yes, the route was a little dull and had a SOUL KILLING switchback at the end. But I was crazily undertrained so it was not a shock that I struggled just to finish the race.

After that race I felt so demoralized and pissed off at myself that I . . .didn't run some more! We moved over the summer and the lead in to getting our old house ready to rent and finding a new house and then moving the kids and BLAH did not lead to steady running. I am a crappy summer runner to begin with so this gave me just the push I needed to do NOTHING.

Coming into this race I knew that my self-esteem could not handle a bad half like the spring event. I am comfortable with the kind of runner I am - very slow and steady - but quitting made me feel like I would never get going again. It shook my confidence. So I dropped down to the 10K for this event and let the half goal go.

This turned out to be a great decision as I didn't train well for this race either but I can do a 10K regardless. Leading into the race my longest run in a month had been four miles so this was not a PR race for me.

The Snohomish River Run is put on by the Snohomish Running Company. It is supposed to feature a fast and flat and certified course. They promote it as being very PR friendly. The women's event last spring was that very thing and a lot of ladies seemed to PR. JR ran the River Run last fall and had a great event and time in his lead up to the Seattle Marathon. The course featured an awful switchback at the end that made the last few miles mentally very difficult. It also had an awful lot of dull highway running. For this event, and I assume going forward, they moved the course. The start is now in downtown Snohomish and the course is a little more scenic with the run going over the bridge and along the river. The start was strange, however, because it began with an immediate switchback less than a quarter of a mile into the race right back over the starting line. It was confusing, congested and just plain weird. Anyone looking for a fast start was just plain out of the luck because people were confused by it. Also, the half marathoners had to dodge 10K runners who were milling around for their start. It made what could have been an energized start feel flat and frantic - it beats the hell out of finishing with a switchback but given that the road along the river does go farther it seemed like a weird choice. I imagine it had to do with road closures.

The controversy in this race was that the 10K turn around was poorly marked. Actually it was unmarked and was supposed to be manned by a race volunteer who was late. Many if not most people missed the turn. My garmin died on the run (we had a storm the night before the race so I was scared to plug it in and have a power surge wreck it) so I am still not sure exactly how far I ran - it was farther than a 10K but I don't know how much. Some one was at the turn around when I went by but I thought he was a race marshall and I went right past him. I do not understand why there were not big signs and a person there. Snohomish Running Company did offer all 10K runners a discount on a future race but they are being kind of rude on their Facebook page to people complaining. I am sure they are tired of the complaints but this was not a cheap race and is not a charity race. Having your only marking at the turn around be a person is dumb and easy to miss and people are right to complain.

The new course is not as flat as the old one but is still very flat for this area. There is a long but very slight and gradual incline on the route back with the only real hill being the uptick to the bridge. The finish was very congested and awkward. It looked like the had plenty of volunteers and after race food but the area was MUCH too small to support it all. There were tons of volunteers and spectators walking into the finish area and blocking runners because there was nowhere else for them to walk.

My race actually didn't go too bad at all. I took the first 3 miles easy, running around 12:30 per mile. I felt really comfortable until I missed the turn and felt like I had to push a bit to get back. I really pleased that I had the legs to do that at all and I felt great until after mile 5. I've been having a lot of problems with numbness and burning in the balls of my feet and they were on fire at that point. My last mile (or two because WHO KNOWS) were pretty slow and awful. My final time was 84:36 which is way off my PR but in the results it lists my pace as 11:39 which means they think most 10K runners went over 7 miles. I think the truth for me is probably somewhere in the middle and I had wanted to finish in under 80 minutes so I think I would have done that without the turn issues. I am not much of an eater after races so I headed out pretty quickly.

Pros: Parking is quick, easy and free. The event recommends parking at Snohomish High School but easy parking was readily available on the street even closer to the start. There were plenty of volunteers available and lots of porta potties (something a lot of races do not do well). The volunteers at the water stops were encouraging and helpful and they had both water and electrolyte mix available as well as GUs.

Cons: That switchback at the beginning boggles my mind, it made the start very slow and awkward. The course is still not very scenic given the location and the lack of route marks was ridiculous. Moving the route to downtown Snohomish didn't add any atmosphere and didn't help the route. The staff is probably tired of being harassed about the 10K turn around but their attitude in public forums like Facebook is off-putting (though the email they sent offering a discount was nicely worded and generous). The t-shirt is supposed to be a tech tee but isn't something I would run in and is quite small. It looks almost identical to the one from the women's race last spring and considering the gorgeous long sleeve tech tees that they gave out last year I think it is disappointing. The medal design is almost identical to previous races as well so not fun for collecting but they are very nice medals.

I am not sure if I will do this race again. It is very convenient to my house and decently priced. And I love a small race. But it feels like the event took a big step back in the move and I am not sure they understand that. Unfortunately Snohomish Running Company bought one of my favorite races Everett's Hero's Half  (it is not reassuring to me that it says the site will be up by 10/31 and it is not up on 11/3), and I am worried they will not run that one well at all.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ugly Race Report

J's surgery and my new job ate my training.

I just didn't have time to train and my schedule changed enough that I couldn't go as early in the morning as I am used to. The truth is that this happens - you have to roll with the punches in training and once you have a family and a career you cannot plan your life around training.

The worst was I just lost steam. I didn't just miss training I just stopped running. Even though my body wasn't tired I just felt burned out on running. It is true that I was having some foot issues (something I still haven't sorted out) and my muscles are TIGHT (stretching and rolling help but seriously, I do not understand WHY I am so tight, I am ridiculous). But mostly I just lost momentum. For me, and I suspect a lot of people, running is this habit that builds on itself. I run and I feel great so I want to run more. I run more and I have endorphins and my body looks better and I eat better and I feel even better. I sleep great, I am more relaxed and calmer and that habit is cemented. The reverse is also true. I stop running and I feel my aches and pains. I start to eat like absolute shit. I am more stressed. And I am out of the habit. I think my running routine can survive a little ebb and flow but it is amazing how quickly progress can be lost.

My race was yesterday. It did not go well. In fact, I cannot imagine many scenarios where it could have gone worse.

To start - the good. The race I ran was the Snohomish Women's Run and it was a gorgeous race. Beautifully organized, so many volunteers, great aid stations and the medals and t-shirts were beautiful. This is my first race where I had a personalized bib which was a fun touch (and people were great about cheering my name when I came by). The course was beautiful (though it featured one switch back at the end that was AWFUL because I hate that feeling of it going on and on and on) and flat. If I had put the training in that I had originally planned this is a great course to PR on. The great news is that I registered for the sister race - the Snohomish River Run - this fall (they offered a great package) so I am trying to view this as a preview run.

So the bad. First, my training was not there. My muscles were so tight and I just didn't have it. Not a bit. This was a fairly flat course and I should have been able to get into a nice rythym but I honestly felt draggy almost from the beginning. Being a long event I had a couple of miles in there that felt good. I tried to enjoy them while they were happening - but there were just a few. There was a long out and back section and normally I hate this in a course but I liked it here because it was fun to cheer on the super speedy 10Kers and later the half marathoners (I was back of the pack all the way). That made the miles click by in a nice way. Everyone on the course was supportive of each other and even though I was much slower than I should have been and clearly struggling I never felt anything but supportive by the volunteers, race officials and the other racers. Unfortunately I had GI distress beginning at mile 3. I have NEVER had to so much as pee during a race (though hats off to a women's only race because all the porta potties even at the start were SO CLEAN. even after the race they were hardly even smelling, never at a race has a toilet been so nice) but I was in a lot of pain and discomfort very early on. That set the tone because the cramping never fully eased and I never really got hydrated correctly.

The drag about that is that my positive attitude really didn't hold after that. I tried several fuel sources - including bloks, chews and even GU. Nothing sat well in my stomach and I didn't fuel well (one of many downsides to being so slow is that fueling because weirdly out there so long means you need fuel even more than the speedsters - it is easy to bonk when you run for three hours). I didn't want the fuel but I felt so awful I kept trying it. The weather was supposed to be cold and rainy and we were lucky to get bright sun and warmer temps. I personally loathe running in the heat (this is relative heat I mean I think it was 65) and I actually got a little burned. The sun was nice but I think I didn't manage the salt intake well and with the GI issues things went pear shaped. I threw up a couple of times - mostly just water - but it didn't help my discomfort.

I was lucky and met a really nice woman on the course. She was running a much slower pace than I meant to do but she had the best attitude and kept me going. Towards the end she basically was dragging me to the finish. Since we didn't know each other she didn't know that I am stubborn and cheap so I wasn't quitting unless I had no choice so she kept worrying that I was going to quit. It is true that when we hit the 10K turnaround and I had already hit the porta potty twice that I considered downgrading myself to the 10K. But after that I really didn't consider quitting. Though I really wanted to quit so many damn times. I have always wanted to find my running tribe and a buddy and I enjoyed her so much. Best part of the race for me - I am hoping that she and I can do some training runs together.

The last couple of meals were rough. I bonked badly, I was so tired. I sent my buddy ahead because she had a shot at a PR (which she got) but I had no ability to help her. But J and my daughter had come and R ran me in. I didn't want her to see me struggling like that (I always want her to see me as strong) but maybe it is great for her to see that sometimes the things we want are not easy and you just have to keep going.

Today I am sore but it isn't as bad as I expected. I am plotting my summer and how to get back into the groove again. I am thinking of going for a 5K PR as I haven't really run one in a long time and my PR is slow so I could pick it up with a little hustle.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I have never had a pair of running shorts.

It isn't that I don't own any or haven't tried many of them on. I have tried on almost every damn short in my local running store. I own a couple of pairs. It is that they don't fit me and if I think about it long enough I am filled with rage.

Go to a road race and you will see every body shape and size known to man. This is particularly true in the women's race - because women of all body types are taking to racing. But you wouldn't know it from the selection of clothing available to runners.

I read this snarky comment from a fast running blogger about how she thought it was so WEIRD that so many women run in capris instead of shorts and how they must be insecure about their bodies and not REAL runners and it was awful and bitchy and I won't link her here because she is clearly ridiculous. And it was also missing the point. I think most people are wearing capris because they don't want the chafing on their thighs.

I don't have the classic runners body. I know that this doesn't matter. My body is strong and I love to run. I just wish that the running companies (including the ones that claim that they are fitting a real women's body) would look at other body types. It looks like they are fitting their elite runner and then scaling it up. And then not trying it on the larger size. I have a small waist and big hip ratio. I have large thighs. So the shorts all slide at the waist and squeeze in the legs and ride up like you cannot imagine. It is not flattering, it is not functional and it pisses me off.

Google women's running shorts that fit and you will see running board after running board with women with my problem. We've all tried the big brands like Nike and the small brands like Oiselle. And nothing fits.

I keep looking though, summer is coming after all. And maybe one day I will find that short for me. Until then I still want to punch that blogger in the face.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Letting Go

The last month has been a damn training disaster. JR has had two surgeries - injuries and nothing life threatening but it means he can't do any child care or household work. I started a new job. The baby is teething. It is . . just a lot.

I often am smug about how you make time for what is most important to you and I think that is largely true. But when your life explodes even the important things fall apart. I haven't honored my training program - not one bit - and my race is in a month.

I am starting to panic.

Though I keep saying this is my comeback race and I just want to finish the truth is I was planning to PR. And I was planning to PR by a LOT. This sounds crazy because the baby is not even seven months old and I didn't run while pregnant and I had a c-section. But the truth is my Half PR is actually pretty slow even for pokey me. I did both races within three weeks of each other and I was undertrained. So while I am incredibly proud of those finishes and I feel like they are achievements I wanted a faster time. And I had this weird plan to just crush my PR and act surprised.

That is not going to happen now.

Now I am back in the realm of struggling to finish. I don't feel strong. My legs and core are just not quite where they should be yet. Four weeks is not a lot of time to get into that place. It is more than possible that I will finish slower than I did before.

In the big scheme of things this does not matter at all. I will finish. It is my comeback! But it is still hard to let that dream go.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Riding the Natural High

I like to make a terribly unfunny joke comparing running to bipolar disease and it is not only unfunny but insensitive and it isn't like I really know anyway but I stand behind it in the most wishy washy way possible. What I mean is that some days running is just AWFUL. Your legs feel tired and heavy. You can't get a rhythm. Your favorite treadmill is taken or maybe it is raining. Running is just an asshole and some days are just like that. There is a weird achievement in overcoming that and running anyway I guess and I am never exactly SORRY that I ran. But occasionally a workout puts me in this frame of mind that my goals are unachievable and why am I doing this and I've made no progress and DIE RUNNING DIE. They don't happen all the time but in a training cycle you know you are going to have a couple. At the end you might have a couple in a row.

The flip side is that occasionally, sadly more rarely than asshole days but still they happen, you have a great run. Nothing is different - maybe you don't run faster than normal but it feels easier. That change in your stride you are working on just feels good and natural today. Your play list hits every song just when you need it. The sun is shining but you aren't hot and your outfit looks good but is also functional. And you just fucking NAIL THAT WORKOUT.

The result is that you feel like you are making progress! You are a real runner! Your pants feel looser and your calves look defined and you are going to kick ass at that goal race. You are all over this!

The difference in these two runs? May be like ten seconds of actual time. But a good one sets you up all day (best payoff of being a morning runner, I just had a tremendous day today I swear my kids were even cuter and better behaved).

Most runs are between this, they have good things and bad. You will always have miles full of doubts and miles full of joy. The bad runs harden your resolve, they make you hungry to prove that dark place wrong. The good runs are like a drug you can't shake. That feeling hits all sorts of buttons of achievement and natural chemicals.

I had a great run this morning. I hit my paces. I felt great. My feet felt light and my turnover was strong. My legs got tired but I could push through it. Yes, I white knuckled the last quarter mile but I was smiling while I hung on for dear life.

This weekend I was despairing about my half marathon - worrying that maybe I couldn't come back from having a baby. Maybe it was too hard for me. Now I feel refreshed in that goal. I don't have a time goal I have a finish smiling and feel great about my training goal.

And a secret time goal, I can't help myself.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Running Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde

I ran at the gym before work twice this week. I did three miles each time, and ran similar paces. the strange part how different the two runs felt. Tuesday my legs felt dead and I had to PUSH myself to hid my modest pace goals. Every step felt like a struggle. I never got into a groove and when I finished instead of a good high or an aura of smug accomplishment (both of which I am usually sporting after an early morning run). I just felt beat up. Thursday I ran the same distance, in a similar way but afterwards I felt amazing. It felt like a run that had a purpose for my training, it made me feel stronger and more powerful.

Sometimes running is an act of faith. There are runs that are truly terrible. They hurt, they make you feel bad about yourself and your training. And all you can do is keep moving, keep working, and trust that the bad moments will pass. I am sure there are tons of lessons that can be applied to other things in life here but mostly I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust that eventually it will feel great again.

Two treadmill runs both under 12 minute pace. 12:15-12:30 long interval pace with one minute periods of 10:30.

I had a root canal Thursday and since then my face has erupted and swollen and I am on a ton of antibiotics and pain killers. So my long run this morning didn't happen. Hoping that it will feel better tomorrow so that I can get a nice easy long run in the morning.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


My race training was supposed to begin this week. I chose a 15 week plan because I feel like for both of my previous races I was under-trained. I had only one run over ten miles. In both races (they were just three weeks apart) I struggled BADLY after ten miles. I just felt unprepared and my brain just shut down trying to push me towards the finish line. The longer plan has several runs over that ten mile marker and just more miles overall It was the plan I was using before becoming pregnant and dropping out of the half marathon last year. This was week 1 of that plan. And I failed at week 1. Failed badly.

Tuesday was great, 4 strong miles in the gym before work. But I had an ugly, embarassing weird injury in the middle of the week and didn't run the rest of my plan. Objectively I know that no one has failed at a race because they skipped a short run with strides. But I admit that those zeros in my training log make me feel uneasy. I think that this is common. Most runners I admit that do events have that obsessive side of their personality. They devote a lot of time trying to sort out the best way to get across the finish line.

Now this week is my chance to get going on the right track. We will see if I can get a couple of speed workouts in and work past this slow start.