Getting Over It

Two Saturday's in a row I have faced an enemy, an evil enemy. This enemy is bigger than me, stronger than me and on many occasions, harasses me more than once. I’m sure that you are familiar with this enemy for thy name is HILLS.

Two Saturdays ago, I ran 15 miles with an ascension of 1759 ft. and descension of 1714 ft. with the majority of it being on a couple mile stretch. This past weekend, our running group ran 18 miles with an ascension of 4054 ft. and descension of 4019 ft. reasonably spread out across the full distance. Some say the best way to conquer an enemy is to stand up against it and I would agree. My 15 mile hill run the week before more than paid off last weekend. I felt strong on the hills and was confident I could run strong not only to the top, but over and beyond. (Sure, I was sore as heck afterwards, but that just means it was a successful run, right?)

Here are some great tips to overcome hills and make them your friend (courtesy of Runner’s World):

Running Uphill
  • Keep your head up to keep proper form
  • Lean slightly forward to keep your momentum going
  • Keep your hands loose and avoid making fists to stay relaxed
  • Emphasize your arm action to drive up the hill
  • Avoid swinging your arms cross your body
  • Run the first 2/3 of the hill relaxed
  • Slightly accelerate the last part to carry your pace over the top
Running Downhill
  • Keep your feet underneath you to reduce shock on the body.
  • Shorten your arm swing to help shorten your stride
Why Run Hills?

Hills increase your strength, efficiency and endurance. Running on a steep grade at a fast pace can achieve greater “muscle activation” in the legs and hip area than running at a slow pace. Longer hills can also teach the body to recruit muscle fibers when they’re fatigued.

All good stuff, right? Hopefully the hills will be less of an enemy next time out. I know they were for me. With Big Sur coming up, making an effort to turn that enemy into an ally is going to be beneficial. Do you have any running enemies you're looking to conquer?


30 Mins or Less

Originally, I was scheduled to get in 5 miles this morning, but coming home late after a showing of Coraline (good film BTW, not to mention it's in 3D) the alarm clock needed to be on 'roids to get me up on time. So with a late start, my 5 mile run turned into a 3 mile tempo run.

Taking advantage of a rain-free morning, I grabbed the new leash (a foot longer in length) we purchased for Mika over the weekend and decided to put it of the true test, a road test.

Figuring 3 miles would take me 30 mins. or less which left enough time to shower and grab my breakfast before work, I decided to make up for the 2 miles I was going to miss by increasing my pace during portions of the run. I started with my normal 10 min pace for the first half mile as a warm up, then kicked it up to an 8 min pace for the next half mile. I did this a couple times for shorter distances along the route and increased my pace to 9 and 7 once I got the blood flowing.

Sometimes all we need is 30 mins. to get in a good strong workout. I could have easily slept in, but as the case always is, I enjoyed my morning run when all was said and done.With those of you in uncooperative climates (rain, snow, etc), how is your training going during the winter months? Any suggestions for those that could use a pep in their step?


ING Bay to Breakers

I'd like to welcome our guest blogger: Ami Kelly Hodge  [pictured above (center) with her hands in the air]. With the recent announcement about the changes in the ING Bay to Breakers 12k, I thought it would be appropriate to have someone blog about it with B2B experience... please enjoy:

When I first read that ING, the major sponsor for the San Francisco Bay To Breakers, was going to put in place a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol consumption, floats and nudity for all future races, my first reaction was "Well, there goes another San Francisco institution". Last year we saw the City try to put an end to the annual Halloween party in the Castro and now this! All because a few bad apples are spoiling what have always been fairly harmless celebratory events.

Originally created in 1912 as a way for San Francisco citizens to let off steam while still dealing with the repercussions of the 1906 Earthquake, Bay To Breakers has historically been regarded as more than just a foot race across town. Participants have been encouraged to show off their uniqueness, which perfectly reflects the diversity of The City. The 12K race, which begins near the Embarcadero and ends along the Great Highway, next to the Pacific Ocean, has attracted a record number of participants. Currently, the average number of registrants is between 70,000 and 80,000. Typically the front of the pack will consist of elite and seeded runners (including the "world premier" centipede runners) while the rear will be made up of less serious or slower partakers. The former of which have been a bone of contention for neighbors and sponsors over the past few years.

For the most part, the middle to the "back of the pack" includes folks dressed in costume or even riding on home-made floats which often contain a relevant theme to current events. Oh yeah, did I mention there were nude runners, too? Harking back to the late 1970's, a growing number of people, affectionately known as "Bare To Breakers" have been daring to let it all hang out from start to finish. In addition to the motley group of runners, live bands and encouraging friends, family and neighbors line the way to keep people motivated. This party-like atmosphere tends to attract revelers more than someone just trying to get in a good workout or make a PR (Personal Record).

I first ran Bay To Breakers in 2001. My son, Nathan, was two and my husband and I decided we would take turns pushing him in the jogging stroller. I had actually been dragging my heels (no pun intended) when it came to running a 12K. I really was not in good shape at that time. Even before I had kids I did not have the kind of stamina that I do now. My parents, who had been going annually for over 10 years, tried tirelessly to get me to come out and walk with them. Finally, I reached a point where I was seeing the benefits of jogging and decided I would take a stab at B2B. While we didn't run the entire race, we did manage to complete it in a little over two hours.

Needless to say, I was originally apprehensive to complete B2B. Walking, in and of itself, for 7.46 miles seemed like a daunting task. But with all the amusing diversions, I found myself so distracted I didn't notice how much I was really exerting. By the time the race was over, it didn't seem that difficult. I think that's a real positive aspect of Bay To Breakers. It encourages people who normally wouldn't want to run or walk that distance because they are in the midst of literally, an entertaining atmosphere.  

It's hard not to feel uplifted while being at Bay To Breakers and this is something we can all benefit from especially now. With the current economic crisis and financial woes spreading like wildfire, it's nice to have an outlet like B2B where we can be amongst others who want to spread joy and positive vibes. It's an event that is a great opportunity to forget about your troubles and jump-start those endorphins.

Now, as far as the folks that go a step further in their exuberance by getting inebriated at 8:30AM and acting like rude drunks should really be discouraged from coming out to the race. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol and Bay To Breakers has historically gone hand in hand. There is actually a group of people who plan months in advance on the best ways to get totally sh**faced during this event. To be honest, I don't personally object to the consumption of alcohol during B2B (technically it IS illegal...but so is public nudity!). I do take offense to disrespectful behavior. Apparently, last year's B2B had an outrageously high number of incidents of idiots who chose to use people's doorways as toilets. I know there is the argument that B2B planners could have put out more porta-potties but frankly, that's ridiculous. This was never as a big a problem in previous years.  

Other than this particular group of morons, there is no other aspect to Bay To Breakers that I would change (with the exception of some of the nude participants. Obviously, I realize this is completely subjective). I always adhere to two theories: If it ain't broke don't fix it, and If it doesn't hurt anyone then it's ok. Rather than squash a harmless tradition, I feel ING and Bay To Breaker organizers need to address the main issue at hand: removing the stumbling drunks who look like they're about to vomit. Trust me, anyone who is running naked, wearing a penguin costume or trying to push a float up Hayes Street Hill will not be consuming large quantities of alcohol. At least not until AFTER the race!

Thank you for that wonderful post Ami. All photos above were taken by Ami's friend, Reese Williams.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.


For The Love

Have you ever gone a few days without running and you're not sure how to handle? You start getting a little anxious to get back out there and it can't happen soon enough. Welcome to the world of long-distance running.

It isn't done intentionally. You meant to go running yesterday, but something came up. You couldn't go today because of that one thing and tomorrow doesn't seem likely either. So, your natural high starts to come down a little while your mood begins to sour and your answers become a tad bit "snippier." You know that if you could just get in at least 3 miles (preferably longer) then everything would be alright and the world would continue to function normally.

It is something that the world of long-distance runners know... Running is addictive. It is the one thing you didn't know you loved until you tried it. It's fantastic, stress relieving and absolutely necessary. If it were a movie, it would be Jerry Maguire because it completes us (sorry, I went there).

When people ask us why we run or why we decide to run 26.2 miles on purpose, we have generic responses that try to convey something that we can't find the right words for. We all know that it is a combination of feelings. It is something that hits you mid-run (or post-run) that reminds you: this is why I do it. For every runner it is different, but collectively it is the same.

It's almost as if there is a word that hasn't been created yet that will be all encompassing of the running experience. Perhaps libermazing (liberating + amazing).

Give it a try: describe running in one word. (word combinations highly suggested)


Rave Run

Location: The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA. 
Running along the Embarcadero is a popular venue to get your miles in any day of the week. The route is filled with a number of things to steal your attention away from your run or is an ideal location to focus your energy on the task at hand, depending on what works best for you.

For me, it is a combination of the two. At times, I'll be running and get lost in watching a dog playing in the grass and think about how Mika would love to be out there with me; other times, I'll see another runner maybe a quarter mile in front of me and focus on trying to catch up to them.

This past Saturday, I was along the Embarcadero running 13 miles with a couple friends. Six of those 13 miles were along the Embarcadero (roughly three miles each way as an out and back). With our run starting at 8am, the foot traffic was light coming through Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 and picked up a little near the Ferry Building (image above with nice stretch of the Emarcadero). Due to the Farmers Market, there were plenty of people along the way with the "Look at all the runners out today" faces, a common look among early morning tourists. 

After the ferry building (heading south-east) comes some great art: Louise Bourgeois’s Crouching Spider and Cupid's Span (Bow and Arrow) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, both with the backdrop being a fantastic view of the Bay Bridge. These are great locations to take a moment and stretch and enjoy outside art up close. 

After running along the Bay and below the Bay Bridge, the culmination of the Embarcadero run is AT&T park, home of Major League Baseball's Giants. Sticking with the theme of art, there are a number bronze statues worth mentioning outside the stadium. One is at Second Street of Orlando Cepeda, another at the south-east corner of the park of Juan Marichal, another at McCovey Point of Willie McCovey, and the other is at the main entrance off 3rd street of Willie Mays. All are wonderful pieces of art and viewable outside the ball park free of charge. 

On the way back from the park heading towards the Marina, I tend to enjoy the views of Coit Tower, Alcatraz, and the natural skyline of downtown San Francisco. Sure you can view these things on the way to the park, but I like to divide the 'out and back' into 2 different experiences. Either way, it is a fantastic 3 or 6 mile stretch that includes a number of visual stimuli and a great running environment with wide sidewalks to allow for the number of runners, walkers, cyclists, roller-bladers and tourists all enjoying the scenery in their own special way... perhaps for the first time.

If you have some RAVE RUNS, as Runner's World likes to call them, feel free to share in the comments below. Run Strong.


Race Report: Kaiser Half

Super Bowl Sunday, 13.1 miles, great weather, no PR, but a strong run. In a few short words, that is how my first event of 2009 went. I guess that could be the end of the post, but what fun would that be? So here it is, my race report for the 2009 Kaiser Half-Marathon:

(Note: I have received several requests to post a photo. So, there you are. Above is me at the starting line. Sorry, I'm not smiling in the photo — I was concentrating on holding it still. It is so difficult to take a self photo with the iPhone AND have it in focus. I'll post official race photos once they are up.)

The morning of the race was one to be remembered. It was a beautiful morning in Golden Gate Park and there was some energy and anticipation in the air. I was stretched, loose and ready to attempt a PR on the course where I set my 1:59 Half-Marathon PR. 

I started out feeling a little anxious, but finished the first couple miles at a decent pace (8:49, 8:51). Mile 3 was a bit slower than the initial 2, but I was still at my desired pace of 9 min miles. Since I train in Golden Gate Park, I was able to anticipate where the downhill portions of the course were and posted a couple fast mile times at mile 6 and 7 (8:16, 8:32).

With the first half of the race in the books (plus or minus 57 mins.), I was on track to set a PR if I could maintain my desired 9 minute pace. Here is the funny thing: mentally I was so concentrated on doing the Golden Gate section of the course successfully, my brain shut down when I hit the Great Highway. For those of you unfamiliar with Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway, imagine running through a gorgeous park filled with trees, grass, ponds, and a running energy that can be felt. That is Golden Gate Park. Now imagine running along an extremely straight road with houses that all look boringly the same on one side and the beach on the other. Don't get me wrong, I love the beach, but I've run this stretch so many times it feels like watching paint dry and every mile seems to be incredibly long. That is the Great Highway. On the course, it is a 3 mile out and back at the end of the race and here is where I essentially lost all the energy I was hoping to have. I knew this section was the last 6 miles of the course and this was my third time in this event, but Great Highway hit me in the gut and said: "nah, you're done."
After mile 7 where Great Highway began, my minute per mile pace got increasingly worse going from a 9:14 on mile 8 and a mile 13 at 11:23. My right calf started to cramp around mile 11 which caused the jump from a 10 min mile to an 11 min mile. It poked it's head up every once and awhile until the end, but at that point I had realized the PR wasn't a possibility and was simply enjoying being out and running my first event of 2009. I finished at 2:07 and change which is my best Half-Marathon time in a couple years and was fine with it. I had a good time, the weather was great, the finisher's t-shirt was nice (image above), my first 7 miles were fantastic and the last 6.1 were taxing, but still good overall. The way I see it is that this was a gauge for how my training is going in preparation for the Big Sur Full at the end of April. To date, my training has been successful, but I definitely need to kick it up a notch to get ready. 

Special Thanks to: All the Facebook friends that sent me well wishes before the race and congratulations afterwards. To Paul and Charlie for coming out and giving me a cheer and "Run Strong" on the course, that was great. To our Pasta Party crew for great conversation paired with good dining and to Tom for organizing it. To Larry for throwing a wonderful party the night before — Happy Birthday, sir. And last, but certainly not least to Lori and Gard for being great hosts and for letting me be lazy and sleep at their lovely home which was walking distance from the starting line.