Tuesday, July 23, 2013

See Jane Run Alameda Half Marathon 2013

Looks like I'm devoting a post to a race that took place....7 weeks ago?  I've forgotten the formula of how to write a race recap.  I think I can do some reflecting and analyzing in order to learn from race failures and, you know, hopefully improve as a runner.  So there's value in posting about that angle.

See Jane Run Half Marathon, June 8, 2013
5th place woman/1534

The months leading up to this race were no joke.  I didn't just spontaneously show up one Saturday for this one; I focused on fitting in approximately one really hard treadmill speed session once a week for at least a couple months.

At some point I was flying through 10 half-mile repeats at 2:57 splits, and at another point I was running 9.5 miles in one hour for a crazy tempo minus a few short breaks off the belt to chug water and stretch.  But regardless of how much "easier" it is to run on the treadmill versus outside, there was no question that I was working hard.  It was pretty fun.  I felt myself getting faster (at treadmill running).  My leg-lock stayed the same, and I could never get past about 4 miles of tempo-ing without needing to stop and stretch it out, but I did get comfortable at the 6:20-6:30 pace, which is where I was hoping to stay for a half marathon.

There are some obvious possible reasons why, despite this hard work, I ran a 6:50 pace (by my watch; a 6:55 pace by the race results) instead of a 6:2x pace.

1) It was hot.
2) I had recently had the flu.
3) leg-lock

Hot enough to fry an ipod I SUCK AT CAPTIONS SO HARD RIGHT NOW

As for number 1.  Heat surely makes a difference, but....a 5 minute difference from my goal time? I don't think that should have been the case.  Maybe a 1-3 minute difference.  Maybe I'm a bigger heat wimp than most.  I heard the girl who finished after me dart for the shade right after the race that I was sitting in, and after asking her man support (boyfriend, husband, brother, who knows) what her time was, she replied "huh, about a minute faster than last year."  So I was thinking shit, this is PR weather for some people!? Then I should have been able to PR too.

The heat did melt me.  I tolerated it for the first two miles, and then the 3rd mile I ran my slowest ever half marathon 3rd mile.  I slipped to a 6:4x mile, which usually doesn't happen for me until I start to struggle around mile 8.  That was a mental shock, too, and so I slipped deeper into the heat funk, and all my remaining miles were somewhere around 6:40-7:05 (I think -- it's been, you know, SEVEN WEEKS.  And I don't hoard my Garmin data.)

der dee der.  That is the sound it looks like I'm making in every race picture ever.

I started out somewhere like 2nd or 3rd place woman (the first place woman was some sort of heat defying freak of nature who barely sweat at all with a 1:25:xx) and during that 3rd mile where the heat started to hit, one strong woman who I have seen at other races started walking.  And I thought, "I know exactly how you feel.  Like stopping right now."

you look like you're not running hard enough.  Oh hi Sushi House. 
Hey by the way, for all of you that are not perfectly located in the spoiled-weather belt of the California/Washington/Oregon coast, when I say it was hot, I mean mid-to-high 70s.  The exposed course made it feel a heckuva lot toastier than that, but just generally to be clear it wasn't what YOU REAL HEROES consider hot.  It was just TOO HOT for me to figure out how to race.  I've never done any speedwork in temps higher than probably 65 outside, 70 in the fart gym.  This is surely garnering me no sympathy with all you twitterers filling up my feed with your 95 degree tempo workout.

(Speaking of, follow me on twitter if you love people who post about once/week

2) The flu excuse.  Eh.  I sure felt heavy and slow this day, but sometimes thats just how I feel.

The reason I hesitate to give the flu excuse too much credit is because I felt just as sucktastic in March at the Oakland half, where I ran a 1:31.  It seems like something else is going on that isn't related to the flu, or the leg-lock (although it was pretty hot at the Oakland half too, keeping the heat in the running.)  Something else is sapping my energy.

3) The leg-lock excuse.  no comment for now.  Same old same old.  I stopped at mile 7 and 9 to stretch out the leg-lock.  A bicycling race support guy was like "don't stop! keep it up!" And I was like "you don't know me. ok fine."

That arm should NOT be glistening with sweat at the 1.5 mile mark.
So my alternate reason for falling 5 minutes short of my goal could be that:

1) I overdid it with the training.  Too much speed work, and then on race day I was burnt out.  Perhaps, but why did I feel pretty good week after week on speed work days? Occasionally I felt terrible and I would take the day easy.  Maybe the race just landed on one of those days that I happen to not feel good for no identifiable reason?

2) low iron? I haven't been very good about supplementing here despite regularly high miles.

3) Diet? I don't see or feel any weight gain, but I have been...how do we say...eating a lot of junk food.  Not enough of that good old quinoa and kale.  It's summer, there's a reason to eat ice cream and pie for dinner practically 34 times a week.  Maybe my engine is running low on some other good stuff that it needs.

4) Who cares.  A huge part of me doesn't care at all why I fell short of my 1:25 goal at this race, and just wants to give it another stab later this year.


Having run SJR in Alameda 3 times now, each year has absolutely been a different experience.

The first year was frustrating and I hated it (search the archives).  I got lost, the volunteers were severely unhelpful, the mass merge with the 5kers was a disaster.

The second year was great.  The volunteers were spot on, the weather was fab, I was grooving in first place until mile 13 (ugh.)

Blame Runners Rambles for taking all of these pictures.
This year was the year of marketing.  SJR pumped up their game, really spread the word (hence, I found my way on board as an ambassador for the race), pumped up the expo, pumped up the sponsors (See's Candy hell to the yes), and had a great crowd turnout. The volunteers were pro.

The event went smoothly.  I recommend the race, and even though the course is not exactly.... interesting the third time around, I may still run it again next year.

Still, I would highlight a few problems that need to be addressed, since the good news is that SJR has thus far done a good job addressing the problems that arise.

First, there was this incredibly thin, almost invisible fishing-wire type string at around waist-height separating the 5k and half-marathon lanes for the last mile of the race. It scared the shit out of me.  I kept imagining running into it and slicing myself in half, or at least tripping.  How about some thick yellow CAUTION tape or something?

Second, a summer race may need to start earlier.  A portion of the heat issue could have been avoided if the race started at 7:00 a.m. (when it was 68-ish degrees) instead of at 8:00 a.m. (when it was creeping into the 70s.)

Third, the finish line area is still a shit-show.  Has been every year.  Free champagne sounds lovely and all, but I have never bothered to try it given how long the line is with the finishing 5kers who have been milling about for a while.  I blame everything on the 5kers, sorry.  In a perfect world, I would hold that race on a different day or have them finish somewhere else, but neither are realistic options I'm sure.

Last, the SJR slogans.  the.....slogans....

SJR has so many fantastic messages that I support hardcore.  They are a loud proponent of the idea that running is for all women of any shape, size, color, background.  The running store owner's goal is to share her passion for running with EVERYONE.  She does not want anyone excluded.  The more the merrier.  Yay!

Somehow, by devoting the cause to the running of women in particular, SJR has fallen into some marketing schemes and stereotypes that are problematic and that make myself and others cringe.

Namely, "I ran for chocolate" or "I run for chocolate and champagne."

The medal this year (photo from another ambassador's blog)

At first glance, it's not so harmful to stereotype women as lovers of these two items.  I wouldn't be appalled if an all-men's obstacle course race had a slogan of "running for the beer and wings at the finish line" or something equally stupid.  No more harmful than the countless sitcoms that present the husband as a bumbling dunce and the wife as the ole ball and chain.

But, please read Angela's post here for a very insightful analyzation as to why this kind of logo raises concern for many women.  It may be all in good fun, but it is blatantly contrary to the message that "running is for women of all shapes and all sizes" when in the very same breath you state that running is also about burning the naughty calories you ate.  In other words, "running is for all shapes and sizes but don't forget to not get fat!"  This reinforces the message that running is an act of guilt to counterbalance calories in, kind of like saying..."I stick my finger down my throat so I can eat chocolate."  Ew.

I don't want to blow this out of proportion because I have no doubt that the slogan is in good fun--the intent is for a "wink wink, we are women and love chocolate" bonding thing.  And no joke, I was stoked when I found out See's Candy was a sponsor, my head dancing with visions of 20 pounds of chocolate for winning.  But just as when I was 5 years old, my love for running is independent of my enjoyment of chocolate.  I love filling my senses.  Filling my taste buds with excitement for the fat and sugar hit of a dessert.  Filling my legs with satisfaction when I spin them around the neighborhood.

I ran SJR because it is a well done, conveniently local all women's race.  I did not run it for chocolate. 


  1. I loved Angela's post and I agree wholeheartedly with you ref the chocolate/champagne things. Although those marketing slogans are NOT as bad as 'hunky firemen in tuxedos at the finish line'. That makes me properly angry.

    The thing that puts me (sadly, reluctantly) off See Jane Run is that it's a 'women's race'. I know that men are 'allowed' to run (if not to win prizes), but I just find the whole 'womens race' so totally out of line. Imagine if there was a 'men's race'. (ie. the Boston Marathon not so long ago). Surely we are all big enough girls to run with the boys!

    Okay...climbing off my soapbox :)

    1. I think I'm ok with only-women races...its kinda my only chance to outright "win" a race, and I appreciate that. But the hunky firemen thing is hilarious. Running in tutus is odd. It's just a shame women-only races keep turning into that fluff. The best women-only race I know of was by Dirt Inspires, a half-marathon in Aptos, but I don't think its happening this year. No fluff at all!

  2. "my love for running is independent of my enjoyment of chocolate" - UM THIS YES. I hate when perfectly good races are ruined due to alienating stereotypes. (I would also sign up in a heartbeat for any race that gave me See's candy, mostly because I love chocolate. More candy makers need to sponsor these things.)

    I think you might enjoy Fit and Feminist's post over here, too. http://fitandfeminist.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/my-problem-with-women-only-races-is-not-the-women-only-part/

    1. I love Caitlin, and I'm pretty certain I read (and probably commented on) that post! Hopefully I didn't accidentally retain her words in my brain and plagiarize them. I'm sure it's all been said before.

      Grace, let's call up See's and ask them to sponsor us in HTC next year.

    2. Heck yes. What a brilliant idea. See's HTC 2014, here we come.

  3. Ummmm, I think those slogans are over-done, but normally, I think of it as, "Fuck yeah, I'll run to a finish line where they hand out chocoloate! Thanks!". Not so much the "Thank god I don't have to puke out that chocolate because I just raaaaan 3.1 miles!"

    Don't underestimate the heat - especially the freakish California heat with the stupid sun being all bright and glare-y. If you're not used to running THAT pace in THOSE conditions, it could totally wreck your fast performance. Also, the flu - yeah, you might have felt fine, but your body was probably still depleted of nutrients or whatever sciencey things.

    1. You're right--that's definitely another way to read the logo. "I run because that way I get to the chocolate faster." I guess that's kind of cute?

      Thanks for validating my excuses :) Who knows though.

  4. I remember that Saturday distinctly (even if it was 7 weeks ago), and it was HOT. I know it's not as hot or humid as other parts of the country, but the difference for us is acclimation. We're just not used to it, plain and simple. So I think it's definitely a legit reason for not hitting your goal. But I also like reason #4 - just not caring. I think you'll definitely run a 1:25 half at some point, it's just a matter of time.

    Don't get me started on the chocolate and champagne thing. I don't have anything against all female races, but these types of slogans trivialize why women run as well as contributing to the unhealthy food-exercise relationship that Angela discussed. That said, I'm totally on board with See's being a sponsor of races.

  5. Lots of people run/exercise so that they can eat. Such a disordered and distorted way of viewing things, but it is what it is. Those slogans cater to the sparkly skirt crowd, methinks.

  6. I ran the half in 2007 and while I loved the course, I was a little annoyed with the "Girl Power" signs I kept seeing. I felt kind of torn about that, because I do love the idea that running is for everyone and think that if there are women out there who will do a women's race but not a coed race, then I'm glad there is an opportunity for them--but why do we need "You Go, Girl!" signs every 200 yards?

    Also the year I did it they had shitty truffles for their chocolate and I was sad about that, so I'm jealous that tasty See's was the sponsor this year.

    1. Yeah the chocolates this year were no joke. Four solid pieces of See's at the finish, and some bars and lollis at the expo.

      I don't know what to think about those girl power signs. I definitely didn't see any this time! Sounds fine in moderation, but every 200 yards is overkilllll

  7. 70s is still to hot for a half. It goes without fail if I post that I hate the cold, someone will post well at least you don't have to dela with -4000000 degrees. Same with the heat and humidity. If it's hot...then it's hot.

    I have found all the women's races I've done (including the Nike half...I will be biased and say it's my favorite race because of my PR) but are very all about the after party let's get our hair done, drink wine or champagane or wine and eat lots of chocolate. People would have a fit if there was an all mens race.

    I feel like I have commented much on the race itself for you. I'm sorry it wasn't that great and I hate when people make comments in any fashion to racers. Unless you have been with me every step of my training, stfu. i would have said the same thing to the cyclist.

  8. I think a serious runner can wear a sparkly skirt, as can a woman who runs for fun (or for the whole experience of the race). Why would we judge people's "real runner"-ness based on her outfit? Wearing a skirt does not equal a closeted bulimic who only runs so she can binge eat chocolate.

    Now, I'm going to put on my team sparkle skirt and go on a tempo run to prove my point.

    1. In the event you're referring to my comment...my experience with the sparkly skirt is that in a Venn Diagram of said skirts, runners and the "OMGCHOCOLATE" mentality there is a big common region of skirts and chocolate. I personally don't judge sparkly skirt wearers. In fact, some of my BEST FRIENDS wear them. And some of those friends are fast. I myself have worn one. I also don't consider "OMGCHOCOLATE"ers as not "real runners." Some "real runners" are closeted bulimics fitting your description. I'm not judging. Just putting forth my observations. Hope you had a great run :)

    2. hey grasshopper! I also don't judge skirt wearers, especially not as to whether they are a real runner. As long as I don't have to wear one, I'm fine with them. I think team tutu is crazy (and maybe crazy fun) but only because wearing a tutu seems so much harder than good old cotton shorts.

      But more importantly, I intended the discussion to be about potentially concerning marketing choices by running companies/clothes, not about judging individual runners.

  9. What bothers me more is people who care so much about other people's motivation to run/exercise. My husband hates exercising. Hate is actually an understatement. The only reason he drags his ass to the treadmill 4 times a week is because he doesn't want to gain weight. I have absolutely no problem with it, and I see it as a win-win situation. He stays in shape, keeps his heart healthy, and keeps his weight under control, and I get to be married to a person who will hopefully live a long and healthy life. I don't expect him to be in love with running like I am, and I couldn't care less if the only reason he runs is to maintain his weight. It's better than nothing.

    1. Power to your husband, but that is kind if irrelevant to the issue here, which is about women, and about the potentially unhealthy message that a running company may be sending to women with certain catchphrases.

      In no way did I discuss people's motivation to run or exercise. Your husband runs for health; good. Beyond physical health, there is mental health, and that is the issue I wrote about. If you read Angela's post, you will see that the concern is for the mental health of many women who already have an unhealthy relationship with the way they balance food and exercise. The slogan here reinforces the shame that some women have about eating certain foods, making them feel they must run (purge) to eat it. Again, if someone has that shame, I'm not judging them--I'm just wary of responsible brands that mimic that mindset.

  10. Jen said it: let's not trivialize women's efforts by tying our motivations to decedent treats. On your time -- eh. Someone once told me it's not all unicorns, rainbows and PRs so try not to overthink it. You love running. Make that the focus. As you do almost every day!

    1. Ahhh, yes yes yes. Everyday running is my rainbow, with a unicorn riding over it.

  11. Lol @ "running is for all shapes and sizes but don't forget to not get fat!" That's pretty much how it's always struck me, even though I know it's suppose to be in good fun.

  12. I ran the Seattle race (duh won the entry from you!) and I am so happy you bring up the medal because I had the exact same thoughts about it! Their slogans are all so empowering and are immediately contradicted by this "women's running=extra chocolate" notion. Ugh. So happy you pointed it out, especially as an ambassador...I feel like it's important for them to hear. Do you think it had something to do with the See's sponsorship?

    Also, our course was 12.85 miles long. Wtf?

    1. Whoa, that is a short course!! I didn't hear about that. Was this the first year? Hope they get that fixed next time. Did it get you a PR though!? ;)

      Not related to the See's thing, because it was the slogan last year too, and no See's. I think it was more that See's was a great fit given the pre-existing slogan.

  13. Oh my goodness, this was like my last half marathon in early June- everything about it! It was my first "hot" run of the year, totally not ready for temps near 80 and 80% humidity, no shade - I am not a strong hot weather racer - it nearly killed me and I was a good 9 MINUTES off my goal time in ideal conditions. My friend gave me a statistic (whether it's true or not is up for debate), but that your pace slows by 2% for every 5 degrees above the ideal 55 degrees to run a race in. Then, add any humidity and you're done. The girl who won the half I did broke 1:25 like it was nothing, never took water and hardly sweat at all, while I was about to hop in an ambulance, was puking and could barely walk. Great effort - it stinks that it was such a rough race, but you know from training that it was not a true reflection of what you can do. Keep it up!

    1. Who are these heat defying women!? Did you see the last Iron Man? Maybe they are made of fire like Gwyneth Paltrow.

      Now that you are acclimated to the heat of the summer, I bet you'd be one of those heat defiers.

  14. Sparkly skirt wearer here. But you did hit on my pet peeve... races that charge $$$ because of all the after-perks (massages, chocolate, free yoga, champagne, gourmet pizza) only for me to discover that by the time the 1/2 marathoners finish, everything has been consumed by the 5kers. I have nothing against 5kers - I've run some myself - but if I paid $100 for a stinkin' 1/2 mary I BETTER get my chocolate (or whatever)

    1. saggy old running short wearer here. My best friends run 5ks so I can make fun of 5kers ;) but seriously, I want to run a 5k someday. I will try to get out of the way of the halfers.

  15. That's a great time, although it may not have been as fast as you wanted... I actually ran the same race last year and got 9th, so you probably passed me at some point! Or I just never caught you? Anyway, you are pretty speedy! Luckily last year it was not as hot, but I did hate the milling about at the end of the race! In fact, I am not sure I would run it again, even though it is very close to home...

  16. Wait wait wait ... you can be an ambassador for something, yet still offer thoughtful, constructive criticism about the product or service? Mind=blown.

  17. I enjoyed reading your race recap. Your time is still impressive, despite the heat, flu, and leg-lock!

    1. Thanks JoJo! It's hard to fall so short of a goal time, but all in all, I'm still thankful these legs can take me 13.xx miles in 90 minutes. Thanks for the reminder

  18. Like Jojo said above, sounds like you had a good race despite the heat, flu and leg lock!

    Also, do you still have a standing desk at work? Feels like all I read about now is how bad sitting is for you. I looked up your posts about it, and you posted about it back in March 2012 - way ahead of the mainstream media! Runners World should be talking to you for story ideas.

    Mainly, I was curious how you set it up - did you use paper boxed and weight them down with books to keep the boxes from sliding around? Or tape down the paper boxes with blue painters tape to affix them to the desk? I really want to do a standing desk to help me physically. Main problem is my company is heavily paper dependent, so I almost need a paper box off to the side of my monitor to actually do my work on.



    1. My favorite topic! I can nerd out on standing up at work all day. I get teased all the time, and in all honesty I get the feeling others don't feel it is very "professional" of me, but it makes me SO much more alert, and I feel SO much less creaky and stiff than when I used to sit all day after a morning run.

      I'll try to get a new picture up soon. Right now I have a desktop screen on top of the modem, and then a plain brown box under the keyboard. I use a stack of law books under the mouse pad.

      Key for me is my desk is big enough that I have a chair and desk space on the "back" side of the desk where I can sit to flip through documents or handwrite/edit something.

      I'm totally in the market for something more pleasant looking than boxes. A partner at my firm has also been on the hunt, and my husband has been looking into making an apparatus out of ikea materials (google this, it looks like a great idea). Otherwise stand up desks can be very expensive!

  19. It still amazes me how you can run so darn fast, even when you are not feeling well, having body pains, etc.!!! You are one tough cookie and super speedy. And by the way, that race course looks like maybe the least pretty ever. At least from the few pictures that included the Sushi House, bowling alley, etc. I just used etc. twice in one comment. There should be a law against that.

  20. Nice event and photoshoot also!

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