marathoner

How far it goes- Houston Marathon 2019

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It is hard to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line on Sunday. It is hard to explain how far away I felt from the person I was when I ran the Olympic Trials in 2012. When I was running amazing in 2012, I never wanted to let that feeling, that rush go. I wanted to stay at that fitness level and see what I was capable of. And I had a great stretch there in 2012. But as any athlete knows, the highs and the lows last only so long. That time was over in the flash of an eye after a freak fall during a routine trail run in my new, at the time, neighborhood. Then came the bakery. And frustration, trying to run when my life of 100 hour work weeks wouldn’t allow. I stopped beating my head against the wall finally and realized that trying to do the same thing over and over again was unproductive. So I flew to South Africa and ran a marathon and then two weeks later, Ultra Trail Cape Town. It was the hardest 100km I have ever done, but I finished, proud in 3rd place. A few weeks later, I ran Javelina 100 and set the third fastest trail time ever (at the time). I enjoyed immensely the reinvigoration of my ultra running career that had taken a backseat to the life of a small business owner. 2016 brought golden tickets instead of OTQ’s as a realized my head and heart just weren’t into the quest. The fast marathon had become something overly complicated in my mind and I found myself self-sabatoging my races and really not enjoying myself. And so, I raced WS and finished 3rd. My satisfaction immense, my love for ultra running true.

And then came the struggle and the fighting for my running life. To be honest, the last 2.5 years have been intensely hard. I was fighting almost constantly just to keep my head above water. I suffered my first major injury in the fall of 2016 and at the time I thought it would be just a blip on the radar, but instead it became an incessant test of my fortitude and will. Sure, there have been amazing bright moments in the last 2.5 years- two top 10 finishes at Comrades, winning Leadville, 2nd in the 50km national championships, winning a marathon outright for the first time- but mostly, it has just pressed me to wonder if my best racing days were behind me, if feeling good as a runner and sometimes even just as a human, was something I’d feel again. The spiral began when my foot exploded and was misdiagnosed in March 2017, fast forward to major foot surgery and recovery, followed by a swift decline into extremely poor health in 2018. I’ve fought like hell over the past few years. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I’ve found myself lower than I could remember and it wasn’t just because of running or not running. I felt like I was floundering around in the world at times and being kicked in the face at other times. I started to joke that March was a cursed month for me after experiencing major illness and missed races, totaling my car and one other very terrible experience that I still cannot reconcile. When I was knee deep in it, I didn’t think much about how hard it was or the depth and breadth of all that was seeming to go wrong, I simply focused on trying to fix what was right in front of me, what I had the power to change or control. And sometimes, that was just my perspective. A perspective of gratitude and of hope was something I returned to again and again. 

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If I have learned anything in my life, from the very earliest of my days, is that you ultimately need to be willing to do what it takes for yourself. What it takes to feel better, what it takes to heal, what it takes to learn. I never abandoned my faith in myself, I never lost trust in myself that I could weather the storms. A few months ago, I was thinking about the moment in Billy’s movie, Life in Day, when I am sitting in the chair, unsure of how I can keep going. I realized, watching that for the nth millionth time, that I had been thinking about that moment wrong. I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I ended up in the chair. Trying to figure out how to avoid the things in life that stop us in our track. But as I watched that moment, I realized: it’s not about if you end up in the chair, it is what you do after you get out of the chair that matters. 

You get up. You move forward. That is what matters. What you do next is what matters. Its not the faltering or failure. It is what you do with it. It is weathering the storm, it is surviving and coming out the other saying “holy shit, I’m just soaked”. 

That is when I realized that I had to let go of the hurt, the failing, the faltering of the past few years. What mattered was how I chose to proceed. Would I play small and safe or would I again risk it all? It is scary to take risks when you’ve felt the intense disappointments of epic failures. I felt that last year when I tried to go all in post foot surgery on London Marathon. I couldn’t even toe the line I was so ill. Heck, I could barely move off the couch. Watching TV was exhausting. I had been humbled again by the sudden onslaught of a barrage of health problems, a pattern that had played out every few years of my running career, heck of my life. Once in 5th grade, I missed an entire month of school (probably the month of March ;) ) because I was sick. In high school, I spent half of a summer in bed with mono. My college boyfriend called me “sickly D” because I caught every bug that I came in contact with.

But last year really scarred me. And I became afraid to go all in on a goal. I raced sure and did some pretty decent things, but the reality is, I was undermining myself. Not allowing myself to risk too much, put too much on any one thing. While this makes for some fine results, they are pyrrhic victories. After a series of 4 races in 7 weeks of that sort, I emailed my coach Ian and said “I have the next great idea! I’ll do CIM!”. He responded in a way that I cannot appreciate more. He told me that if I want what I say I want (a marathon PR) then I needed to stop all the unspecific racing, traveling, stress and focus. He told me CIM was the wrong choice and I should instead focus on Houston Marathon. He told me that I had to go ALL IN. It was uncomfortable for me because it was true. I know I can perform at a very high level on non-specific training, but I also know I can’t run my best if I am not focused. And so for 12 weeks we focused. I narrowed my life down to this one goal. I set aside the fear. I showed up and did the work, day after day. I didn’t race, I didn’t travel. I just burrowed down into the details of this one goal. I put all my eggs in one basket. And while it terrified me, I knew it was the only way.

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Day in and day out, I was just married to the process. I removed unnecessary distractions. I did all the little extras. I neither stressed the failures or celebrated the successes to much, I just built myself brick by boring brick. When things went suddenly sideways in the first week of December, I didn’t panic. I suffered a crazy nerve impingement in my leg, got sick and then fell over my foam roller and broke a rib. I just stayed with the process and realized one bad week didn’t matter, I simply had to stay focused. And workout after workout, I saw paces I never thought I would. I found myself having to hold back instead of stretch. I arrived to my two week taper excited, confident. I had trained for 12 weeks, run hundreds of miles and only taken one day off. I knew I was strong and ready.

But as tapers do, I started feeling the doubts, I started to question what I had done, I started to question each and every brick I had laid. And then came the weird niggles and my legs #notfeelinggood. I honestly had to make an immense effort to get my mind right in the last 72 hours before the race. I read the book “Mind Gym” after taking the USATF Level 1 Coaching clinic and found these words to be the game changer for me: “Since you don’t know what’s going to happen, why not act as if you’re going to have a good day. When you are not afraid to fail, your chances of succeeding improve”. I stopped wallowing in the idea of “ending up in the chair” and started to embrace the infinite possibility of good. I didn’t focus on the weather report of 10-15mph winds and freezing cold temps, or my leg feeling weird. I focused on eating, resting and calming my mind.

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By the time I toed the line at 7:01am, I was free of doubt and ready to celebrate the fitness I had cultivated over the weeks and months. I lined up with the other sub-elites in the ADP corral and we shivered and finally were allowed our place behind the elites. The gun, the frenzy, I found myself calm among the surging masses. I started my Coros watch when I hit the start line a few seconds after the gun, but I quickly turned the screen to daytime, knowing I did not want the feedback of GPS pace. I settled in and chanted to myself “right effort, right mind”. I knew that if I wanted to run a PR, I needed to run on the more uncomfortable side of uncomfortably hard, but I also knew that I needed to stay calm and patient in the first half.  I floated through mile 1 in 5:45. Oops. There were people around as the half and full went off together, but I was surprised how, within 4 miles, I was basically running alone. Welp, guess I don’t get that CIM type group magic today! The wind gusted and I just hoped that that meant I would have a tailwind on the way back (spoiler alert, nope). 

Finding myself alone so early, I knew that I HAD to stay focused, I had to stay strong and on plan. I followed the instructions I had written on my hand for each Maurten gel. I followed the instructions for my mind. I smiled and remembered that this race was a celebration of my fitness. It is not a test, it is a celebration. At mile 12, a woman was holding a sign for me and I damn near started crying because it feels so awesome to have people out there rooting for me. 

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I hit halfway in 1:18:40, about 40 seconds slower than coach and I had planned, but I barely even acknowledged it (although to be fair, hit the 13.1 mile sign at just over 1:18 flat, but that mat was another 40 seconds beyond the sign). I was focused, focused on running a PR effort, even if the wind meant it wasn’t much of a PR day for me. I stayed calm, I stayed on it. I pushed as hard as I could and smiled as big as I could. I was wholeheartedly determined to have no regrets at that finish line.

I knew with about 12km to go that my goal of a PR was gone. I was running as well as I could, feeling good actually and just not able to take anything back from the wind. I remained undeterred, I would not back down, I was not going down without a fight.

At long last, I made my way back into the heart of Houston. With 1.5 miles to go, I reminded myself that my goal was to “drain the tank” and I pressed harder, unwilling to let go of the sub 2:40 and my fastest time in 7 years. I ran the last 1.5 miles in 5:43/mile pace. I powered to the line, 2:39:37 my 3rd fastest time ever (and my 2nd fastest time is a 2:39:36!). What a moment. Joy, relief, all of it. I ran the effort I came to and am so proud.

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It is what matters what you do after you get out of the chair that matters. Failure, faltering and flops are part of life. We must take lessons from them sure, but we cannot become defined by them. It is a choice where we go from the low points. It is a choice if we let it those things break us or lift us to greater heights. I know that in life I will surely find myself in the chair again, I will certainly cry out “but I don’t know how to keep going”, but I also know that I will get out of that chair and I’ll walk until I can run again. 

The comeback kid

Akron Marathon. September 2014

Akron Marathon. September 2014

It's been almost exactly 2 years since I really raced. This time two years ago I was getting back into phenomenal shape after a brief injury at the end of an amazing 2012. I raced a competitive field of ladies at Chuckanut 50k coming in 2nd, then followed it up a week later with a CR & victory at the Oakland Marathon. I was excited and inspired to see what I could do as a racer. 2012 had given me a glimpse of my potential, but I feel like I had not had enough time yet to truly reach my potential. And then the bakery happened a lot sooner and in a lot grander scale than we had imagined. I knew that my racing would be sacrificed and that I was willing to do what it took to get the bakery rolling. And I haven't raced since. 

You might say, but wait, you ran 9 marathons since then! And yes, I have started 9 marathons in that time but I haven't raced them. I have run them most with just general fitness (I can run a 2:48 like a boss!) or the ones I was in slightly better shape for have had complications due to work stress or health issues. I couldn't really do consistent work over the past two years. Workouts after a 10 hour shift on your feet in the heat of the day are not quality. Stress, anxiety and lack of sleep further deteriorate any chance at quality. For the remainder of the 2013 year after Oakland, I was relatively satisfied just running. I actually signed up for races just to get the weekends off! 

But as 2014 rolled in and the ultra that is opening a "big" small business such as ours revealed itself, my discontent grew. I was not ready to give up my goals. I was not ready to let go of the potential I have. I made a few attempts in 2014 to get things rolling, but the business was not ready. I knew I would not be able to race well until I could get my own schedule under control. Through many frustrations and growing pains, I realized with great clarity that I wanted more than anything to see what my potential as a runner could be. I couldn't let it go. And so, I bided my time, went underground in to my cave and began to plot my re-emergence.

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

I began to plot, I began to plan. I began to be able to do the work and workouts that would be required to gain back all the edge I had lost. I knew I needed to be all in. I had to commit. I couldn't do this half way. I had been trying to do that for 2 years and it just doesn't work. I had to put it all on the line. And so, with the support of Nathan, I went all in. I started signing up for races, committing to big hairy scary audacious goals and putting the pieces in play to make this year an amazing comeback for me. I took a really non-restful, back breaking quasi-retirement from racing and now I am on the hunt.

The first two things I did to begin to work towards my goal was signing with Oiselle and starting to work with Coach Jason Koop and CTS. Being a sponsored athlete is a commitment which I take very seriously. I want to be someone for my sponsors and for my coach. Oiselle has been amazingly supportive and made my have a sense of fashion at the same time. Working with Koop for the past 6 weeks has been an incredible endeavor. I have given myself over to the process and enjoyed simply doing the intense work. I don't think I have ever done this kind of work before. I never had the accountability. Now, I am focused, informed and ready to do the work as Coach intends me to do. I am sure Nathan is tired of me chirping "Koop said... Koop thinks...." but the reality is I have a coach now, not just a plan and someone to walk me through every step of the process.

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Now, I wake up on Monday mornings tired from an amazing weekend of hard work and buzzing with excitement for my big races to come. I am hungry for the work and the challenges. It is invigorating to be beginning this process and slowly emerging from my cave after months of toiling in the dark (literally and figuratively as I have been working 7 days a week on the night baking shift for 5 months which will so end). I am excited.

At the beginning of February, after a great month of training in January including some killer workouts while on our "annual days off" from the bakery, I raced Surf City Marathon. I had a rough day due to an over adjustment of my thyroid meds which left me supremely dizzy and lightheaded, but I was stoked to win the race, soloing the whole thing in 2:48. It was not an A race, so I was happy to jump right back in to training and start my coaching by Koop. After a few weeks with Koop, I was slated for another race, this time the Napa Valley Marathon. My big goal races for the year are Comrades and Leadville, my secondardy races are Two Oceans and Pittsburgh Marathon (at least until September after Leadville I am undecided), so anything else is in support of those goals. Napa, as it has traditionally been for me, is a fantastic training race. Beautiful weather, great course, lovely people, I was very excited to get back out there feeling fit. Last year was probably the most suffering I've done in a race in a long time as I was severely anemic and barely could walk it in at the end. I was determined to execute a controlled, even effort. Koop told me that he wanted me to run 6:20s and not let the race atmosphere push me into going faster. The point was to be able to jump back into workouts pretty quickly. I needed to stay smooth, comfortable and reined in. And I did just that.

Rolling with my homies.

Rolling with my homies.

When I woke up race morning, I felt great. I felt no nerves. I just felt bad-ass. I text Nathan "I am going to win. I hope you like wine" (since the prize is 5 cases of wine). From the gun, I took control of the race. I felt in control of myself and it just felt easy. I stayed in easy gear, tucked in with a few guys and just started rolling. I was right around 6:15-6:20 pace and felt like I was jogging. I considered for a moment whether I should push for the 2:43 and OTQ, but decided to trust the plan, execute the plan that Koop and I had decided on. I never looked back. The whole race I felt invigorated. This is me, this is what I want, this is how I want to feel, was all I could think. I smiled and smiled and smiled as the miles rolled easily. Around mile 20, I decided to pick it up a notch and dropped the guys who had given me great company for so many miles. Pick it up a notch at that point of Napa means, run harder with diminishing returns since there is always a headwind, but I did increase my effort. For my final 1/2 mile, I decided to put a little zing in and dropped down to 5:40/mile pace. I broke the tape in a winning time of 2:45:48- perfectly executed on plan for my third Napa victory.

Total elation

Total elation

Two marathon victories in two months? Things are trending well. I bounced back off Napa really well and we are back to work towards Two Oceans on April 4th. Yes, winning is nice, but the reality is, I feel like I am getting back to me. Devon the runner is coming back. That is so intensely important to me whether or not I ever win another race. I just want to feel like I am exploring the limits of what I can do. I can't wait to see how things continue to unfold.

A very special thank you to all of my sponsors especially Oiselle, Julbo and CTS! Thank you for believing in me!

False Starts

I thought 2014 was going to be a good year for me. I had looked forward to the business being stable enough, having enough employees to cover shift and allow Nathan and I some real time away from the bakery. I looked forward to getting my OT qualifier and maybe running a few races actually well trained.

I had hoped Boston would be my great comeback of 2014 after recovering from severe anemia and just under a year after opening the bakery. Instead, I had to DNF at mile 16 due to being severely ill. I was disappointed,  but also knew that sometimes patience is required in a comeback and bad luck happens. After the DNF and a good two months of working myself to the bone with no days off from work, I toed the line at Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon and won! I felt like my mojo was coming back. I felt like I was running happy and excited to sink my teeth into some big goals.

The summer promised for some good training. I ran SF marathon as a training run, easily running a 2:49 with no taper (it felt easy), did some fun adventures in the mountains- Rae Lakes Loop with Nathan and 4 Passes in Colorado with Krissy, got to do a train-cation in Colorado and ran another great training race at Akron marathon in 2:49. I was feeling fit and excited to go after a great time at Chicago which was my next planned A race, closely followed by Fall 50, the USATF 50 mile road championship two weeks later.

But instead of racing Chicago, I found myself at home in bed, seriously ill with what the doctors thought was an ulcer (hence determined not an ulcer). I was unable to eat much of anything for the week after Akron and tearfully had to withdraw from Chicago. I watched my plans, dreams and goals slip away. It was hard, I knew I was ready and my chance did not come. Once I felt better, I was determined to absolutely CRUSH the Fall 50. I was looking to better my 5:59 50 mile PR and felt that dipping under 5:50 was possible. My chance did not come. Things at the bakery became so busy and all consuming in those weeks that there was no opportunity for me to leave and run the race. I was feeling mostly better from my "ulcer", but to fly across the country to race was just impossible with work.

Honestly, I felt crushed. I watched everything I had worked for over the summer slip away. I knew it was not simply a matter of taking my fitness to a different race, I had missed my chance this time. While I did in fact sign up immediately for California International Marathon, I knew that race would be after not having a single day off from work (which I lovingly call Bakery-Cross Fit since it is such physical work) and my training would likely not be what I wanted. My schedule changed to nights and I worked every day with no days off. I did what I could in training, but struggled. My mind grappled with my goals slipping away, I became disheartened by so many runs feeling absolutely awful. There were times when I just wanted to quit, when I wanted to give up. What was the point anyways? I am not becoming a better runner, I am not getting faster, I don't love it anymore, not to mention that I don't have any sponsors and I am not winning races. I was just mad at running. I pondered whether giving up my goals and dreams would allow me to just love running again.

During the summer of training, I had gotten really excited about my 2015 schedule. LA marathon, Two Oceans, Comrades. I was ready to crush it. I was excited. The hard fall wore at me, made me wonder if I should give up those goals. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to just run those races, I wanted to RACE, I wanted to be in the mix, fighting it out to the best of my abilities. I don't want to just run, I want to push myself to become something better. I want to challenge myself and my limits.

I refused to give up, I refuse to give up. I love to run. I love to explore and challenge myself. Yes, this year has sucked and it has beaten me down, but I have faith I will rise again. I am excited to be in a place where I can just dig in and do the work and have an amazing comeback.

California International was not my comeback. I ran my fastest time of the year 2:46 and felt comfortable at my goal pace through 16 miles until my mind failed me, the doubts crept in and when I needed my mind to say "YES, FIGHT", I had nothing left. I slogged 8 miles in misery before my true self rallied at the end dropping my pace back down significantly at mile 24. This was not my race, but I learned that deep down I am still fighting, still committed to the comeback, still inspired as ever to see what I can be.

This year has been a series of false starts giving me false hopes and challenging my perseverance and fortitude more than I ever thought possible. It has been an amazing test of will and stamina. While I wanted more for my running this year, I cannot say that it wasn't worth it. Nathan and I have built a thriving business. And I have learned a lot. Now, standing here on the edge of a new year, I look forward with hope and commitment that I will be able to pursue my dreams and goals with relentless fervor. I look forward to going into my own little training world and emerging on the other side as something even beyond what I ever thought possible. The fire is lit and I am ready to ignite.

Finding my mojo

After my disappointment at Boston, I felt like there was a monkey on my back. I was eager to race and kick the icky feeling that comes with a DNF. Immediately after the race, I scoured Marathonguide.com and such to find a race that I could jump into quickly and "utilize my fitness" that I had built for Boston. If it had simply been a matter of finding another race quickly and showing up, I think I could have PR'd shortly after Boston.

Unfortunately (and I knew this going into Boston) after Boston, Nathan and I were faced with an unfortunately staffing situation in the bakeshop that meant he and I would be each working 1am-1pm on most days. This did not bode well for maintaining my fitness as I selected a race to pursue in the wake of Boston. I decided on Grandma's marathon which was in mid-June as my comeback race. I figured that I could just maintain my fitness during the tough work schedule and that I would just use mind over exhaustion to get my runs in and stay "training". 



And then reality sunk in. Trying to work those hours and get real workouts in was nearly impossible. My "maintain" mode turned into "just get in as much running as I can" mode. Weekday workouts were out the window as after a 12-14 hr shift my legs are so tired and swollen, it is nearly impossible to run fast. I would muster a good long run every week, usually with 12-16 miles in the mid 6 minute range, but my confidence and feeling of fitness was fading. I managed to run 65-90 miles a week somehow, but I just felt dull. As June began, I started to feel very worried about running Grandma's marathon. The goal at Grandma's is to run fast. That is it. That is why you fly all the way to Duluth. I was not feeling confident at all in my ability to run fast and was worried that if things started to fall apart during the race and I fell off my goal pace (to make the OT qualifier) that my race experience would be intensely negative. What I need was a good race, a good finish and a confidence boost. I needed to get the pack of monkeys off my back.


So in a last minute change of plan, I decided to not run Grandma's. Instead, I decided that it was best if I took my weekend off from the bakery and fly to Seattle for a run-cation. Complete with friends, food, and of course, a marathon! It so happened that the Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon was the same weekend as Grandma's. Even though I grew up in Seattle and lived there a few years ago as well, I never raced in Seattle. I felt like doing a more last minute race on a not fast course would allow me to just run and race and start building back my confidence.

Before the race, I read a great article about Training Your Brain to Run Your Best and I could really relate to the struggle of silencing the inner critic.  Over the past year, my inner critic has gotten loud and I've really struggled mentally in races when things were getting tough. I decided leading into RNR Seattle, that I would "shout down" my inner critic. On top of that, awesome coach Ian Torrence, suggested I use the experience to analyze my strengths and weaknesses so we can build from where I am. It was an interesting perspective to take because I felt more conscious of the thoughts, fears, doubts and criticisms that came up during the race and was able to play with and change my thought process a great deal. I was able to note the things that were coming up and actually take a hard look at where we can improve, where I am selling myself short (for instance by being super negative) and where I am doing well. I am so glad I opted to do a race as a building block, a starting point from which I can grow for my big goals over the next year.


The weekend was a blast. I got to spend a great deal of time with Jonathan (Bestest Everest) and his girlfriend Ariana, who were super lovely to let me stay with them and co-opt all their time. We ate great food, enjoy the awesome Seattle summer weather and got in some running too!

Bitterroot BBQ post-race! The cowboy killer.

I was super happy that the race was on Saturday. I like Saturday races. Sundays just feel like I am waiting around for so long for race day to come. This way, I got to get in the race and have the rest of the weekend to celebrate and enjoy (as my birthday was the Monday after the race).

The race itself? After the first 7 miles, when the half and full courses split, I was running alone. Up until that point, I thought I was very much in second place to 2 time defending champ Nuta Olaru who had taken off at 5:40/mile pace. I was clipping along on the easy section of the race in the low 6/upper 5:50s and had absolutely no inclination to chase her. It seemed suicidal on a course that she had only run 2:50 & 2:51 on. I knew the second half of the course was pretty hilly, so I didn't want to do anything ridiculous. And then it turned out, she had decided to run the half marathon. So from mile 7 on, I was rolling solo in first place.

The course is not an easy one. I headed south by the lake and around Seward Park. As soon as I turned towards the north to head back up along the lake and cross the I-90, I was meet with an incredibly strong headwind. Since I was very much by myself, I had no where to hide, so I fought off my negative brain and settled into an effort based pace. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying the Seattle sunshine, the course, the cheers from the spectators and half marathoners (when we shared the course). It was very lonely on I-90 from mile 16-22 when I was on the expressway going over and back to Mercer Island. I continued to listen to my brain, see what thoughts arose and practice positive thinking.

Coming off the highway into downtown, I nearly started crying when I saw my cousin Erika screaming and jumping up and down cheering at the bottom. I hadn't expected to see her and it gave me such an incredible boost. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I loved. It was a great feeling. I was smiling and laughing as I climbed the last few hills and made my way to the finish.


Coming up Mercer to the finish line, I was filled with joy. I had gotten the monkey off my back. I was going to win a race in my hometown and feel good doing it. I had enjoyed every step, the easy and the hard. I had found a way back to being the racer I know I can be. In the end, my time is no faster than I had run at any other marathon in the past year (although to be fair the course/wind were much harder than any other course- Check out my Strava for the race), but it was an incredibly different experience. I feel like my goals for the fall and for 2015 are within my reach and that this race experience means that I can toe the line with confidence instead of trepidation. I am excited and inspired in running again and that means more to me than anything.

Plus winning is fun. Really fun. 
Cheers to that!

Oakland Marathon Race Report

At the start line with speedy friends. Caitlin, Penny and I.
Photo by Chris Jones.

When I couldn't run Napa Marathon a few weeks ago due to overwhelming stress with opening our business, I quickly changed my plans to run Chuckanut 50k last weekend and after the race hop in the car and help my sister and her husband with the drive from Seattle to San Francisco (they moved down which makes me so incredibly happy!!!). I also signed up for the Oakland Marathon when I signed up for Chuckanut. The way business has been going, I am never certain which race start line I will be able to show up at. So I wanted a back-up plan, just in case. Chuckanut went really well and I was very satisfied with my run and had a fun little road trip Bin-Yanko style.

My legs didn't feel bad after Chuckanut except for a little niggle in calf/ankle/foot that sent me running to Psoas Massage to see Scott, not once but twice this week. While my legs felt pretty good, my body in general didn't feel right. I had a laundry list of symptoms including massive water retention (like 15lbs) while not peeing. Coupled with all the other symptoms, I made a b-line for my doctors office on Thursday morning to make sure that my kidneys weren't shutting down. My doctor advised that I not run the marathon if we didn't get the bloodwork back. It would be dumb to run a marathon if I was having acute kidney failure. Obviously.

Thankfully, my bloodwork came back the next day and my kidneys were fully functional. The bloodwork did however reveal (especially when compared to my bloodwork from 6 weeks ago) that my symptoms are due to my thyroid swinging from hypothyroid (which I have been medicating for 6 years now & had dropped my TSH too low) to a more hyperthyroid state. This explains why I have been struggling to feel great since the beginning of the year. While my iron levels have improved, giving me more energy, I haven't felt right for nearly 3 months. I have had insomnia, been hyper emotional, intolerant to heat and extraordinarily hungry. I just figured that some of the symptoms (insomnia, anxiety, being emotional) were because opening a business is stressful. But after hearing from my doctor and understanding what hyperthyroid (even a temporary hyperthyroid like mine- my meds just have to be adjusted) means for my body.

After receiving clearance from my doctor, I decided last minute that I would run Oakland Marathon. I figured it would be an awesome way to see Oakland and even better, it would be a chance to hang out with my mom (who just moved to Oakland) and have her see me race! I didn't taper at all for this race. Yesterday on my 11 mile run, I pondered whether or not this might just end up being my slowest marathon ever. I was/am still retaining water weight (which makes you feel kind of gross/heavy), but I decided that I should give Oakland a go. After all, a week after racing a 50k and not tapering really put me in the mindset of "come what may". Given the nature of the course, I figured I could just run it as a workout. I knew it had the potential to be a long ride on the pain train, but I also knew that with no expectations, I might just have a flipping blast. And I did.

 Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News

I spent the evening in Oakland at my mom's house and made pre-race dinner for the two of us. The usual: greens, chicken and lots of sweet potatoes. Her new place was perfectly located to roll out of bed after a nice long sleep (9hr!!!) and run less than a mile to the start line. I ate a pre-race banana with sunbutter, lots of coffee and headed out into the perfect morning. It was clear and cool without being cold. I jogged over to the start line where I ran into Caitlin who was also running. I was excited to see her as I hoped it meant I might have a workout partner for the race. I knew from previous years results that the women's winner often ran the entire race alone. Knowing how speedy Caitlin is, I knew that I would have to have a pretty good day to bring home the win. As I warmed up with her and then with my good friend and training partner Liz (who was running as part of a relay), I wasn't sure how I felt. I didn't feel bad, but I wasn't sure how 6:xx pace was going to feel.

I had spent the evening before the race figuring out what 2:45-2:50 pace looked like and I hoped I was going to be able to muster then 6:29 min/mile average it would take to run 2:50. But I really wasn't sure.

I lined up a few rows back with Caitlin and my darling friend Penny (who wins pretty much every trail marathon in the entire bay area). It took me 3+ years to convince Penny to run a marathon, now she crushes dozens a year!

The gun went off and off we went. I went out comfortably, but was also well aware that my pace was ridiculously fast given my goal time. My first miles were 6:01 and 6:00 respectively and I knew that I need to pull back a little. The first half of Oakland Marathon contain pretty much all of the near 1,000 feet of climbing for the whole race and I wanted to be conservative until I was done with the hills at mile 11. The course pretty much goes uphill from mile 3 until mile 11, so it was unrealistic to maintain that pace, but I went with it to get my legs spinning. After two miles, I settled in to closer to 6:20 pace and made my way along. I was feeling good and happy. Just content to be "feeling" it. My body was allowing me to clip along without protest, despite all the demands I have placed on it over the last week.

I really wanted to negative split and have enough for a fast finish style long run, so I did not push too hard on the hills. I went comfortably through the Oakland hills, chatted occasionally with my two bike pacers (as the lead female I had a bike pacer) and tried not to get run over by any cars or miss any turns.

It was a strange thing, everytime we came to an intersect it was a question of whether or not the cops were actually going to stop traffic or if I was going to play a dangerous game of frogger. Thankfully my bike pacers did a good job getting ahead of me and making sure I didn't get creamed. But there were a few times when I literally was weaving through cars. The turns were not well marked as there were often cones in every direction. Again, thankfully my bike escorts showed me the way, but it was awfully strange to have the course be so unclear. In fact, with less a half mile to go we came off Lake Merritt and neither I nor my bike escorts could tell which way I was suppose to go! There were no race marshalls at the turn and I ended up back running traffic, scrambling to figure out which way the course went. Thank goodness we went the right way!

For much of the first half, Caitlin was about 20 seconds behind me. I knew she planned her workout to also be a fast finish long run, so I pressed myself to not let off the pace. Miles 7-11 averaged in the upper 6:40s, but I was feeling really comfortable and looked forward to flying down the hill on the other side. Mile 12 was a nice 400 foot loss of elevation and I picked up the pace dropping a 5:44. I let it out a little but didn't get to crazy as there was a lot of race left. It got my legs spinning again and I was able to drop 4 more miles at sub 6:10 pace.

By mile 20, I was feeling tired, but not anything worrisome. More like tired because I raced a week ago and didn't taper and was at mile 20 kind of tired. I resolved to just continue to maintain my pace and not worry about pushing it too hard. Around mile 21, one of the bike pacers told me my lead had grown to 2:20 over Caitlin. I knew that I couldn't let off the pace or do anything that would cause me to blow up, so I just dug in and maintained.

The last 4 miles seemed to take forever, but eventually I made my way around the Lake and closed in our the final stretch. Fittingly, the race finishes up a hill, so I pushed myself up the final hill and waved my arms to pump up the crowd as the announcer called my name. It was thrilling. I had started the day not even knowing if I would have the strength to finish the race strong and instead, I won. Even more satisfying, I set a new course record in 2:47!!

Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News

I think the most thrilling part of it all is the fact that this is the first time my mom has got to see me win a race. It was awesome to be able to give her a big hug just after the finish and see her so proud!

I am very pleased with how the race went, how I felt and how I handled the ups and downs of this week (heck of this year). It makes me very excited for the races to come this year and to see what I can do!