Thursday, April 4, 2013

Oakland Half Marathon 2013

Alternately titled, "How to go from half-marathon personal best to half-marathon personal worst in 7 weeks."

My neighborhood running festival took place the weekend before last, with a half, full, 5k, and relay.

I naturally defaulted to the half.

Or what I like to call, a half-plus.  Oakland's evolving course has been frustratingly long no matter what changes they make to the course and no matter how tight I run those tangents every year, and this year the course was even longer than the last two.

13.41 miles by my watch (and by the elevation map?), and I'm telling you, I was so desperate for this course not to be long this year that I even cut into turn-corners where I could, which explains why I got 13.4 while others like Cathryn got as much as 13.6 (!?).

The long course doesn't matter because I was not going to PR today, but it is still frustrating because it partially led to my demise (more below).

I did not, in the end, call him

credit Beth for the photos!

The course length matters much less when you are not gunning for a time goal.  Still, the long course was my downfall...

you see, I have clocked over 13.35 miles each year I run the Oakland half.  The course changed again this year, but I still expected it would be a long course, so my MISSION # 1 was to try to run the tightest tangents possible.  The tightest.  It seems like good practice. Like something I should learn how to do.

When I headed into the first mile at 9:15 a.m. (which was cursedly warm really seems like these U.S. coasts are experiencing complete opposite weather) I felt nice, and decided that the many turns in the first mile WOULD NOT GET ME.

The first mile turns....
So I did my best to skirt through the crowds of people and get an inner-tight turn.  What I was doing, without realizing it, was speeding up to get away from little crowds of people, so that I could get that tight turn.

This resulted in a first mile at 6:05.

Typically, I can recover from this.  I've gone out at a 6:10-ish pace before (See: Run with the Jets 2011, See Jane Run 2012) and managed a 6:30-ish pace overall.

But, I could not recover from it this day.  I am not in that kind of shape.  Two weeks of tapering for a marathon + 3 weeks of recovering from a marathon = very little speed work, and I'm simply not in great shape right now.

By mile three, I could tell it was going to be a rough day.  Not only was I feeling concerningly wiped already, but I hit the mile 4 marker at 4.2 on my watch, which was defeating.  I mean for fucks sake.  I tried SO hard to run the tightest tangents! This course is frustrating.

From miles 6-12, I tried my hardest to hang on, and every time I felt like I was running the effort of a 6:30 mile, I looked down and saw 6:55, 7:02, 6:58.

6:05, 6:25, 6:37, 6:18, 6:45, 6:43, 6:55, 6:59, 7:20 (stretch stop), 6:58, 7:10 (stretch stop), 7:01, 7:03, 2:45/6:41 pace

I felt all sorts of not good.  The usual leg-lock felt about as bad as it had last October, during the San Jose half, and so I stopped to stretch twice (miles 9 and 11).   The heel of my left foot was feeling really bruised (I have no idea what this is about? Came out of nowhere while I was walking the day before the race, and by the end of the half-marathon I could barely walk).  And generally not in my best running shape.

When I crossed the finish line, I felt like I was going to throw up all over the Raiders girls who were cheering.  I've never felt worse at the end of a race.  I've never finished a race of any distance feeling like I was going to throw up.  Wait--not true--I threw up three times after racing the 400m in high school.  Sprinting for a full 60 seconds will make everything you ate that day come right up.

All in all I finished 5 minutes behind my half marathon time from just 7 weeks prior, and over 1:30--something that hasn't happened in almost 2 years??

The over 1:30 sort of stunned me.  I took it for granted that I could run a half-marathon under 90 minutes, even if I haven't been training hard, even if my body doesn't feel great....I mean, I've run numerous sub-1:30 half's with the bum-lock problem I have and while it hinders my ability to run as hard as I want, I can still sustain a sub 1:30 pace with the thing.   (credit to Hollie for combining buttcrease with leg-lock to create "butt-lock," but since I'm sick of typing "butt" we will hereforth henceforth therefore call it "bum-lock."  Or not.)

It's like anything you take for granted.  You get so used to something being the way it is, that you get lazy and forget that you had to work to get it that way.  I seem to have forgotten that I used to actually run hard at the track and run long hard tempos on the treadmill.  Lately I've gently sprinkled in a few fast miles into a normal run, as if that will do anything.  That's no way to build up my lactic acid threshold! Or whatever a smart runner would say!

I want to say, "but at least I still had fun!"  I had a little but of fun, but I discovered something that I had not predicted.  Which is that running a race three years in a row makes the race much less exciting the third year.

Let's look at the monotony...

2011, back when running in baggy clothes was cool


2013, too sunny!  Freakishly similar stride to the year before

And more deja vu:


2013.  Even my breathing-hard-double-chin is the same :)

This is the first time I've run a race three years in a row.  

There may have been some boredom having run this race 3x....and the sun certainly didn't help.  It was high and hot at 10:00 a.m. on a warm California day.

The race also seemed to lack the energy from the normal Oakland crazies.  They are the best spectators! But I didn't see any. Instead it was a bunch of pyrotechnics.  For real, there were multiple parts of the race where fire was spouting from stuff.  Very steam punk.

The good news is that I didn't cave into my strong desire to quit and walk home since I was feeling awful....and the other good news is that my best day and my worst day are only five minutes apart (1:26:21 v. 1:31:08).  I'll take it, son.

I will definitely participate in the Oakland Running Festival again, although maybe next year I will do the full marathon "for fun."  It is a very tough course, and probably 26.8 miles, so not a goal race.

Comparing how I felt this year to last year, I remember how strong I felt and how easy it was to keep the pace low even for the last 3 miles.  I remember knowing exactly WHY it was so easy: I had been running 1-hour tempos on the treadmill, once a week.  That stuff WORKS.

So I know that if I want another half marathon PR this year (I do! I do!) besides the obvious (fixing my bum-lock problem) I need to re-introduce the tempo run, and probably on the treadmill.  I just don't have the focus to do that outside.  And the treadmill works.

Thanks as always for reading!


  1. As the person who initially had a Blog Fight (lo, right?) with you over this issue...I will say that I think it's fucking weird that their course is so consistently off. Officially weird. A race of this size should have their business figured out. Multiple years of course confusion/discrepancy is not acceptable.

    Anywayyyyy glad you had a little bit of fun! :)

    1. I got 13.3 for the second year in a row & in my race report I was all like "OMG FIX THE COURSE!!!" They commented on it & swear it's certified & was re-measured three times....which, fine, I'm not going to fight with them about it, but it is really, REALLY bizarre that so many people go over by so much (unless Oakland is in some kind of Garmin satellite Bermuda Triangle or something).

  2. It's so funny how almost everyone I know had the same experience this year at Oakland. My Garmin wasn't even working for the first 1/3 of a mile or more, and I crossed the finish line at 12.95 miles, so I at least ran 13.3-13.4. Next year, I think I'm either going to do the relay or just run for fun with the group I've been volunteering with (Running for a Better Oakland).

    1. Also, what's up with that elevation profile? Shouldn't a loop course start and end at the same elevation??

  3. You can't compare a long race (that .4 too long....1 or .2 fine but .4+ no) to another half. My halves have bounces anywhere from 1:25-1:34 in the last year so safe to say consistency is not my key...or courses are too long...

    A shame you didn't call the endurance could have run marathons, halves and whatever else together...happily ever after...I did actually get a really good laugh out of that poster though.

  4. Ack on the heel feeling like it's bruised! I'm probably just paranoid since I haven't ran since October due to a nasty case of Plantar Fascitis but for months before when I was ignoring it, I would explain that it felt like my heel was super bruised. I was in such denial that I was on the every other day plan. Run and then limp and ice the next day and then when it was better, run again. I remember barely being able to walk after a half I ran last summer. Anyway I don't want to get all doom and gloom on a blog I mostly lurk on but I know you have mentioned mild PF feelings before and the way you described the pain really struck a chord with me! Good luck!

  5. While I am not in a place where I can look at a 1:31 half and not get excited, I get that it maybe wasn't what you were hoping for.

    On the plus side, your photos this year were the hottest yet. White top is sexy. And we all know that at the end of the day, it is the sexiness of your race photos that truly defines you as a runner. Something like that.

  6. I second what Michelle said: many people initially describe plantar fasciitis as a feeling of bruising in the heel. It looks like you're still wearing Brooks - weren't those the problem shoes for your marathon? Maybe they just aren't a good shoe for you (I tried on the Pure Cadence last week and I'm debating buying them - I like the cushion and wide toe box, but they hit my arch too far back slightly. I can't decide if the risk is worth it).

    I know how you feel about repeat races. There are some in this area that are nice races and close by, but somewhat boring year after year. Luckily there have been a few course changes to keep things fresh, but still - every single race here finishes in City Park, party in Tad Gormley Stadium, blah blah. It does get old.

  7. Well, your hair gets darker every year. So there's that.

    I can't believe your race didn't start until 9:15. That is stupendously late. All the races I've run in Florida have started between 5:30 (hello, Disney) and 7:30, and 7:30 is considered a "late" start. Do you think heat contributed?

  8. That course just looks rough. I think the great thing about running is it's constantly humbling, just when you think you've gotten to a certain point or something should be easy it just isn't. It's challenging, but we still get up the next day, lace up our shoes, and get back at it. Maybe runners are masochists or just stubborn, but it's what we do.

  9. Thoughts on the bumlock issue... I have some kind of running-triggered leg pain that has been bothering me for a few years since changing to a mid-foot strike from years as a heel striker. It seems to start in my butt/leg junction. I talked to one of the trainers at my gym about it. He recommended that I try rolling my leg/butt area on one of those hard rubber medicine balls (about the size of a soccer ball in my case).

    It seems to help so far (it's only been a week and a half). My post-run pain that I feel in my hamstrings and even calf/shin area are lessened. He said to sit with one leg crossed over the other with the crossed-leg butt cheek on the medicine ball and to "Rholl dee sheet out ov eet" (he's French). There are a few spots that really hurt when I put enough pressure on the ball. The only tough part was finding a medicine ball that was made of hard enough rubber so that it wasn't soft/squishy when I put my weight on it. Maybe this is something that could help you.

  10. I'm sorry you had a kind of crummy race experience! You are so tough for sticking it out and finishing though. And you are still the most freakishly fast person I know. So there.

  11. You will get your mojo back soon enough! I agree that it is hard mentally to do the same race year after year...come down to So Cal and race!

  12. I had similar experience this year with Oakland half. Felt sick after the race and had to leave the finish before friends had finished their race.

  13. I love your "citation"... "See: Run with the Jets 2011, See Jane Run 2012) and managed a 6:30-ish pace overall."

    You're just missing the e.g. and itals. Perhaps (imagine the itals):

    See, e.g. Run with the Jets 2011 (going out at 6:10 pace and finishing with 6:30 overall); c.f. See Jane Run 2012 (establishing that Roserunner can "recover from this" and finish with fast time).

    And that long course bites.

    ~ Penny

  14. Other little runner chiming in ~ That is a great result with now tempo and speed work, wow! You have a huge aerobic capacity!

    I have the same Brooks shoes as you, and I think they are super fun to run in. Light and springy! They are very flexible in the sole in all directions. You can fold them any way you want. This is a problem for me in longer runs. For longer distances I want a less flexible shoe. I am wearing Saucony Mirage right now and like it. They are classified as minimalist - but I think they are more of a neutral trainer with a lower heal to toe drop. The Mirage has a 4mm drop, like the Brooks Pure flow, and are very light too. But more stable for longer miles, IMO!


  15. Yeah, that's nuts. I've never even tried to run tight tangents and in all my absent dodging and weaving, I still have never clocked 13.4. And it sucks that you had the added misfortune of feeling shitty on a long course. AT LEAST U R BEAUTIFUL THO XOXO

  16. Thanks for the shout out....that made my day after a grim toddler-parenting moment!

    You make a good point about the stupidly fast first mile...I think my first mile was so fast (for me) for the same reason, crowd dodging. The extra mileage is enough to put me off running it next year. I appreciate that few miles measure 13.1 precisely but that is significant extra mileage, and the late start time also would put me off a second time due to heat.

    It strikes me that most of us (SFRoadWarriorSpeedQueen excepted) had a bad day. Oh well, the shirt is great, I really like it ;)

  17. As someone with little experience running, but a lot of experience with injury, I want to echo both nrmrvrk and Michele. I use the Trigger Point massage ball, do the leg cross thing, and basically slowly lower myself on the sore point until the pain goes away. It hurts like heck! Like, a 8 or 9 on the ten point scale! But it is the only thing that allows me to run without too much pain.
    As for the Plantar Fasciitis - HIGHLY recommend Astym therapy. I suffered for 9 months before finally going to a PT who did this. I was barely able to walk by that point. He said I could continue my regular activities (including running) and it only took about 6-7 weeks - and I am 100% recovered!

  18. your white top is really cute! and now I am done spamming your blog. for now.

  19. I'm commenting solely one one little aspect... my sister and I use the term bootylock to describe anything involving that whole area. I love when I see any other reference to it! I almost died laughing (while actual dying) the first time my sister said it during a speed workout. Now I am talking about it at least once a week... or day.

  20. Alright, I said I was commenting on one thing, but I can't help it. With regards to anything PF related... I ran on PF for about 5 months (mine manifested mostly in the arch, less in the heel) and tried PT, stretching, strengthening, EVERYTHING. What worked in the end was going to a chiropractor who specializes in Graston and ART. It's the worst pain when they work the foot over (sweating, tears, labor breathing) but after about 4-6 visits it was gone. He also did some kinesio taping at first. I don't know if that made much difference. I have been free of PF problems since then (over a year now!) I still get occasional soreness or twinges on the run, but nothing on the level I felt before. Worth a look. I am a very firm believer in Graston/ART.


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