While I am not, strictly speaking, a northland runner, I am a big fan both of running and of the northland! I left the snowy woods for the California sunshine years ago, so most of my running takes place in San Francisco or Berkeley...but I do make it "up north" a few times a year. And just in case that's not enough to keep you all reading, I promise to share plenty of embarrassing childhood stories about Kris, who is my big brother. :D
July 2, 2011: Free Run vs Green Silence?
Minimalist shoe shopping. I'm sure some of you have done it! Help!
What I'm looking for: I want to add forward/mid-foot striking to my running, but slowly. I'm not ready to jump all the way into the barefoot-style shoes (vibram's); I'd like something that frees up the foot but still provides a little cushioning. Right now the forerunners are...
Nike Free Run 2+: Lightweight and flexible, supposed to mimic barefoot running but with a little cushioning. If I bought this, I'd probably only run in it 1-2 times per week.
Brooks Green Silence: Ultra-light. I've gotten the impression that this is slightly more like a traditional running shoe, just super-light and comfortable. So, maybe I could also use it for my regular (heel) running as well. Eco-friendly is a plus too.
Also, there are myriads of other Nike Frees out there, with varying availability. A salesman told me the Nike Free 5.0 would be the best for what I want (enough cushion to ease the transition), but I haven't been able to find this anywhere...
How about other options?? If you've tried any of these or something similar, let me know how it turned out!
June 7, 2011: Bay to Breakers #100!
The race included 55,000 registered runners and about that many crashers. Let's break up the crowd by finish times, shall we?
1) The elite athletes. These are the serious ones who are here to win it! The top male and female finishers were Ridouane Harroufi (34:26) and Lineth Chepkurui (39:12). Add those times together and you've got mine! :)
2) The casual runners. Here's where the costumes start to show up. This crowd (usually) sticks with costumes you can run in: superheroes, cartoon characters, birthday suits...
3) People who registered but who are not there to run. Here's where the elaborate costumes come out! The royal wedding was well-represented with posh hats. The old man from UP! was there, with his balloons and his house. I noticed an unusually large number of dwarves. Are those en vogue now? Are dwarves the new vampires?
4) The party crashers. This crowd is usually drunk by the time they hit 9th Ave, and the random staggering is not usually enough to carry them up the stiff climb at mile 3. Creative costumes still abound, although many a costume will not last out the race!
I was running solo in my homemade Batgirl costume. It didn't take long before I ran right into Superwoman, who was also alone. I picked her up with a classic "I think we're meant for each other" line and it worked so well we kept together for the whole race.
I hadn't really trained for this because last year I spent most of the race dodging drunk Smurfs. But I was pleased to see that this year they'd implemented a wave start, which eased up the crowds. Superwoman and Batgirl kept up a leisurely pace; there were lots of sights to see along the way! At one point, two rival gangs of Smurfs were on the brink of a brawl. Another time, a Pillsbury dough boy, probably mistaken for the marshmallow man, was jumped by four suited-up Ghostbusters. And so on...
After finishing the race I backtracked along the course to find my friends. They were in the "drunk crasher" category and were dressed as lipid bilayers. (I have no idea what a lipid bilayer is, but apparently it has something to do with orange balloons.) It really says something about San Francisco that several people identified the costume. I'm not sure that it says something *good* about SF, but it does say something.
Then Batgirl was tired, so she hopped on the bus and headed home.
Next race: Gary Bjorklund half marathon! That's right, I was lucky enough to get in, so I will be seeing you all bright 'n' early on the 18th!! A certain older brother better be somewhere in the crowds cheering...
October 24, 2010: Nike Women's Half Marathon...or, "my love/hate relationship with hills."
I'm happy to report that my second half marathon is accomplished!!!
October 17 was the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, and I did the half. This one is popular and crowded...to the tune of about 20,000 runners. You have to win a lottery to get in, and many choose to do it as their first marathon or half marathon...
...which is absolutely nuts considering the hills on which San Francisco is built!
Ok, I know I won't get any sympathy here from Duluthians, whose ancestors for some reason chose to chisel their homes out of a sheer rock face bordering Lake Superior and call it a city. SF has a variety of hills, ranging from small to mammoth, but the total absence of snow and ice means there is no limit to how steep you can make your streets. And these folks for some reason thought it would be cute to bulldoze a path straight up the steepest part of the hill and call that a street. Or a running route.
But I get ahead of myself. The race kicked off in Union Square just before dawn, with thousands of women and a few guys. (Being a "women's" marathon doesn't mean that men can't run it; it just means it's geared toward women. Think heavy on the pink, and you get a necklace at the end. Handed to you by a fireman in a tuxedo.)
The first 6 miles are almost completely flat. I found a pace group running at a 9:45 min/mile pace, which helped me tremendously. At mile 6 we started a long, STEEP climb up towards the Golden Gate Bridge. I managed to stay with the pacer; the hill I most feared had not killed me! That climb lasted about a mile, with a little downhill/flat rest afterward. And then the second hill hit. It wasn’t as steep as the first one, but I had already burned through all my hill strength. I saw my pace group slip away...and before the top I needed to walk a couple minutes, and stretch. At 9 miles into the race I thought I was done for!
When I saw the next pace group pass me I jumped back in and gave it my all to get to the top of the hill. From here, it was a niiiiiiiiice long luxurious downhill stretch that lasted about a mile. This absolutely saved me; it felt effortless, and my knees weren't troubling me at all. I needed to make up time, so I did everything but sprout wings to FLY down that hill. It was probably recklessly fast; if I'd hit a small rock I definitely would have hit the pavement and tumbled several yards downhill! But the feeling was incredible; around mile 10 the Pacific Ocean was churning up huge waves against the cliffs below me, making me feel like I was flying above the water!
My goal was to rejoin my pace group...and I did! As the race worked past the Cliff House down to the beach I saw that little pacer sign bobbing above the crowd. The last couple miles were flat, then slightly uphill in Golden Gate Park, and then downhill again to finish it out by the beach. By now I was well out of my comfort zone, having never put in longer than 11 miles in training, and having encountered knee pain on all my long runs. What's more, I had really sacrificed everything I had to the hills and had _no_ reserves left!
I focused on just keeping my feet moving forward, knowing that if I could just keep moving, I'd finish with a time I'd be very happy with. And before I knew it, I was headed toward the finish line. Hundreds of people were cheering at the sides of the chute, so I gave it everything I had, tried not to puke, and crossed the finish line in 2:07:42!!!
I was (and am) absolutely thrilled with this time, as my training had been decimated by knee pain and I hadn't been entirely sure I'd be able to finish a half marathon at all. To make it even more wonderful, my husband had come to cheer me on and got to see me finish!
So my opinion of the race itself? Mixed reviews, for sure. The Nike is a HUGE, very crowded race with a lot of hype. Team in Training has a big presence, which is great; they've raised many millions of dollars for cancer research just from this race alone. Of course, the other entity looking to make millions of dollars is Nike, and participating in the race means being constantly flooded with marketing. It's also very expensive; it cost me $110 for the half. I'd feel better about this if I thought more of the money was going to charity, but there’s just so much extra stuff. In other words, I'd rather NOT receive a Tiffany necklace that I'll never wear and have more money go to charity instead. Unfortunately, I feel that many running events (and stores) that cater to women use this as an excuse to bump up prices. (Although I guess if it gets more women running who wouldn't otherwise then maybe it's justified...)
The course...can't be beat. As much as I complain about those hills they're included because they cover the most beautiful terrain in San Francisco. And the advantage of a big race is lots of aid stations and loads of cheering spectators throughout the race. Now THAT can really make a girl feel like a million bucks! And it does not hurt if you are wearing an SF Giants shirt when they are playing for the pennant...an excellent way to earn extra shout-outs along the course!! :)
In closing, I have to say that I promised myself around mile 11 that I would never, ever, EVER do a full marathon. And naturally, not a few hours later I became obsessed with the idea. If I plan one for the summer, I'll have lots of time to train gradually. And that gives me the option of doing the San Francisco marathon in late July. Or...Grandma's?
Does anyone have thoughts on this (i.e. Grandma's for a newbie)? The SF marathon is quite similar to the Nike course, meaning a little brutal. BUT since San Francisco is known for its chilly, foggy summers, I wouldn't have to worry about running on a hot day. On the other hand, the hometown course really draws me...we used to go and volunteer at Grandma's when we were kids, so it would be an awesome experience to run it as an adult!
September 17, 2010: 12k/half marathon training + more cow crossings
It had been awhile since my last cow showdown up on the Nimitz trail, so in heading up there last week I was a little perplexed to find a completely cow-less running trail. I was kind of disappointed -- I'd been looking forward to seeing those big ugly guys, although after the last time I wasn't sure if they were looking forward to seeing me. So I headed up again yesterday to see if I couldn't find my friends.
Besides the cow curiosity, the other good reasons for heading to this trail are the Nike Women's Half Marathon I am running in exactly one month, along with the Bridge to Bridge 12k two weeks before that, both in San Francisco!
Starting out on the Nimitz trail I was struck by the awesome view, as usual. This is a ridge trail, so you can see the San Francisco Bay on one side and the San Pablo Valley on the other. Some serious fog was rolling in as the evening started, making it a little bit fairy-tale-like.
Not long after I crossed the first cow grating into the pastureland, I found my bovine friends, trudging right down the trail toward me! This time, though, they didn't seem distressed or angry, so I went right on by, resisting the urge to reach out and skritch one behind the ears. Ugly as they are, they have a certain cute quality...
The fog turned out to be rolling in right on top of me, and I soon found myself in a thick mist in which only the trail and I existed. The approaching sunset gave the thick fog a pink-orange hue. Every now and then a cow suddenly appeared or disappeared into the pink mist, making for a trippy experience that made me wonder what was actually in that powerbar I'd eaten earlier.
Maybe it was the trippy cowscape, but folks on the trail seemed friendly that day. A cyclist slowed to ride with me for awhile as I jogged and she told me about some other nice local trails. As I rested after a big hill, a guy zoomed by me and yelled, "come on!" We finished the last mile together. I wasn't all that impressed with Roberto's tales of running grandeur and soccer prowess (actually he seemed to be breathing as hard as I was) but he kept my pace up for that tough last mile. I also wasn't impressed with his offer to buy me a drink afterward, but hey, it's nice to have some company on the running trail, at least!
This weekend the plan is a practice 12k, followed a couple days later by a serious hill workout -- some friends and I are going to Yosemite to hike Half Dome!! (No, I'm not planning on any sprints up the mountainside...)
June 10, 2010: Belated Bay to Breakers Report!
At long last, my update on Bay to Breakers! I don't have the pics handy, but I'll try to attach them in the comments later...
Bay to Breakers is San Francisco's most famous 12k race, covering the entire diameter of the city from the Financial District to Ocean Beach. First up are the elite runners, followed by about 30,000 casual runners, followed by another 30,000 or so walkers with costumes, streamers, and plenty of bubbly refreshments. Clothing options are (a) running clothes, (b) costumes, or (c) running shoes only. Probably a couple dozen people each year opt for (c).
Tommy the pink gorilla led off the elite runners, followed up by bumblebees, pro-wrestlers, fairy tale characters, and superheroes. Where's Waldo? was popular. There was a float full of plundering Vikings. There was a hot tub time machine and a whole box of crayons. One of my favorites was the Norwegian Olympic curling team. Somebody was an oil slick. (Didn't see any ashy volcanos though.)
And me? A hectic week left me with no time for wing-making, so I went with the Peter Pan / Robin Hood / Jolly Green Giant / Tinkerbell / fairy / elf costume left over from Halloween. In other words, it's a tattered green dress and green tights. :) I also ditched most of the accessories for fear of injuring someone (probably me) as I pushed through the crowd. I'd registered late, so was in the last corral of costumed walkers, meaning I'd have to throw some serious elbows (I have sharp ones!) and push my way up if I wanted to run.
After taking an early tortilla to the forehead (traditional pre-race tortilla fling) and getting hopelessly tangled up in a thousand-person human centipede, I began to make my way forward in the crowd. No easy task! Imagine a city block stuffed with a twenty-person-wide costumed crowd, running, walking, or stumbling; now imagine that same crowd going on for miles! Many other runners who had signed up late like me were trying to do the same, so we ducked and wove in and out of the pink gorillas and centipedes, using the sidewalks for brief all-out sprints but trying to avoid the dreaded parking meter lane.
The course started out flat but rose for a long climb around the 2.5 mile mark. I'd been looking forward to this as a way to make some headway in the crowd since I do a lot of hill running, and the steep hill would undoubtedly slow down/take out many of the bumblebees and Waldos. This was true, but the collective slowing made for an even more impenetrable roadblock. Eventually I took to the sidewalk aside the onlookers for the duration of the hill.
Shortly after, the madness eased up as the streets got wider and the hill had thinned out the crowd. At the 3 mile mark, I realized I'd been running at about an eleven-minute mile, which actually wasn't terrible considering all the Waldo-dodging (and parking-meter dodging) I'd been doing. But if I wanted to finish anywhere near my usual pace, I'd need to seriously turn up the heat.
As we raced up the Panhandle, bands played along the way and rooftop parties were picking up momentum. Next it was into Golden Gate Park, where the chilly, foggy air felt pretty good, as did the gradual downhill slope. At this point the course was still packed, but I had finally worked my way up to the folks who were running at my pace, allowing me to make up some time. After three miles through the park we hit the final quarter-mile stretch next to the ocean. Many people looked like they were struggling here, but since I'd been slowed for the first half of the race, I still had plenty of juice left. I sprinted and passed people right and left, earning me some shout-outs ("Go Tinkerbell!")
Final time 1:16:20. Slow, but a fun and much more-exciting-than-usual course! So what's a tired Tinkerbell to do when she reaches the beach? Turn right around again and keep running, of course! At least for a little bit. I made it another mile before copping out and hopping on a city bus stuffed with sweaty, costumed runners and headed back about halfway down the course to the Haight, where my husband and some friends had been watching the antics and had a cool mimosa ready for me! We sauntered our way down the course yet again to watch some of the final antics of the (by now, very drunk and unruly) crowd and then finally watched the motorcade of police cars and motorbikes signal the end of the race and back to normal San Francisco life.
So it goes. This was the 99th (!!!) annual Bay to Breakers, which makes it sure that next year is going to be a REALLY big party!