The Pain of NOT Training a.k.a Running 10K Hellyer with Brazen

Last Saturday, I ran Brazen’s Hellyer 10K with my brother-in-law, who raced in the half marathon’s category. Summary: my brother-in-law set his personal record of 1hr25mins for the half while I finished my 10K in almost the same amount of time. Yup, I was not trained and I paid for every mile and some.

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I started at a new company in February that took majority of my focus, therefore, training suffered. I went into the race having ran ZERO miles that week (mistake #1) and having the task of preparing my husband’s surprise birthday party that would happen later post race (mistake #2, but really fun though!) I was undertrained in every part of my body, which resulted in hurting everywhere, except my hair and my fingernails! I actually felt worst than when I ran my first half marathon almost a year ago. I did not think that was possible.

I went into the race with a 7min run/1min walk plan — well, that worked for the first half. Then by mile 4, I was feeling pain in my right knee. By mile 5, I was just walking for most part. By mile 5.5, I said “F—it, the knee wasn’t getting better, so let me get off this pavement ASAP so I ran” I really was happy to have crossed the finish line!

My biggest problem was the lack of core muscle. Nothing held together – therefore my form suffered. It then just crumbled from there… Luckily, the surprise birthday part was later same day. Tequila shots and nice chardonnay helped with the pain. Seeing friends and having a wonderful time certainly helped!

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Lesson learned: TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN! The 10K helped me realize how my winter hiatus has hurt my fitness. It is time to get back in shape through better eating, consistent workout, and stronger mindset. I’m contemplating to register for Double Dipsea. That is a heck of a race… and one that DEFINITELY requires training. Going into that without proper training is like a punishment!

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First Trail Race, I (heart) Brazen Racing!

Finally, I participated in a Brazen Racing event. I’ve heard many good things about this local trail racing company and yesterday I finished the Bad Bass 10K at Lake Chabot Regional Park. I had originally signed up for a 10K race closer to home in June but had to drop it due to bronchitis. I was very much looking forward to the Bad Bass 10K, though with slight trepidation. 

For one, yesterday was my first trail racing. Although the race started with paved road, it had plenty of trail and hills throughout the course. I saw the course map before registering and was wondering about 650ft+ elevation gain. I was actually hesitant but my brother-in-law who had done the course encouraged me to try it. He did tell me that it would be a “giant hill”. 

Indeed, it was a giant hill. At the bottom of the climb, I had to stop and wondered if I wanted to run it or walk it. Well, it didn’t take long before the hills decided for me. I ran one small hill and walked the rest of the one-mile incline. My heart could not handle the aerobic activity from climbing over one mile on series of hills. 

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The saving grace was the view as I climbed higher and higher (and wonder when this was topping out). It was a gorgeous summer day, although on the warmer side. At the start of the race, at 8.30am, it was already 70F. Ideally, cooler would make it easier to run. In any event, the view made it worth while! 

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The uphill was work, but the real challenge came with the down hill. The 10K turn around at the top of the hill. I had to take a break and mentally prepared myself for the downhill. I knew I wanted to run it to see how I’d feel. I mentally went over the form (short strides, slight lean, minimize heel strike) and set forward the downhill course. I did well for the first half mile, but my right knee started bonking out half way. I had to really focus to make it through the entire downhill section. The fun part was it felt really fast (compared to the uphill!). 

The last 2.5 miles was flat with small rolling up/down’s. It felt so good to run that flat portion!! Trail elevation made me appreciate flat running like no other! By then I was pretty exhausted and I didn’t stop to take any photos around the lake. It was a gorgeous route. I wanted to focus on getting to the finish line because I was tempted few times to stop and walk it. My knee wasn’t feeling great but no significant pain. 

I actually made it to the finish line without stopping! But I believed the uphill and especially downhill took a toll on the legs. Right before I turned left towards the finish line, I had a misstep and slightly sprain my right ankle. I was not thrilled but with the finish line so close, I said “the heck with it!” I sprinted! It felt good to finish! 

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I hopped over to the first aid after catching my breathe. It wasn’t a bad sprain (phew!) so the medical staff helped me to wrap it for tight compression. The overjoy of finishing a trail 10K probably propped me up as a mood-elevator (no advil needed!) Other than the sprain, it was a very enjoyable race. Brazen racing has a new fan now! 

By the way, for my all Bay Area runners, if you haven’t done a Brazen, you have to sign up for one. It was so pleasant to run with them:

1) The medal was amazing, specifically and customized for each event. I loved that! 

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2) The race was well organized and intimate. I could tell there were runners who became friends through Brazen. It was a tight little community. The race was about 260 people for half marathon, 10K, and 5K. Very manageable. Unlike the RnR I ran, parking was easy and there was not delay at the start line! 

 

 

 

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3) Granted, there was no “cheerleaders” (spectators). The runners were just amazing to cheer you up. And let me tell you, there was fruits, bars, M&Ms, and ice pops at the aid station! Totally different and fun! 

4) Did I mention the trail running part? Away from the road, buildings, and crowds? 

I highly recommend Brazen Racing events. And yeah for me, first trail race done! I’m honestly considering a trail half marathon as my next project after November’s Morgan Hill Half Marathon 🙂 

 

Badge of Honor in the Shade of Black

** Warning: if you are eating/enjoying a good meal, do not enter **

After my first half marathon a month ago, I “developed” a badge of honor. Unlike the “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it is only one shade. In the color black. And it’s not as “exotic”. In fact, as I learn, it’s quite common, especially among long distance runner.

It didn’t bother me much except that first week it showed as it felt sore. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m now digging out of my sandals & cute high heels.

Yup, it’s the black toe! Thankfully, it’s only a half black toe 😉

It’s a bit unsightly but certainly acceptable. It will definitely give me a story to tell 🙂 From this black toe, I’m learning that I need different shoes & possibly socks.

For now, I may be considering manicure soon!

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13.1 lessons from my first half marathon

1) It takes quite a bit of planning to prepare for the race, especially one that is not local
I ran the SF RnR race. Technically, it could be considered “local” except San Francisco is an hour drive each way. Because of the time restriction of Golden Gate Bridge, the race started earlier than I expected at 6:30am. I decided to take the “early start” at 6.15am to ensure that I would safely make it to/back on the bridge. It was a tough call to stay overnight. It took some planning to book an AirBnB place that was about 2 miles from the start at a reasonable price. I had to pack well and that was when I realized running the half marathon was like going on a small trip itself. Before this race, I only did few local (like 20 minutes away) shorter-distance (5 mile) races. SF RnR was a whole different level! Note to self: next run will be a local run until I’m more experienced with running more races.

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2) Speaking of a small trip, planning for hydration and refuel was a new experience.
Last time I went on a “backpacking” trip was when I was 14 back at summer camp. I learned the lesson of “counting” and “rationing” for a 10-days hiking trip on the Appalachian trail. Well, I applied what I learned to the half marathon, except, I still ran a little short on the GU Gel packs. It was a good thing that aid station was passing out extras. In all honesty, that was in the last 5K of the race and at that point, I was running on “will power” anyway.

3) When in doubt, WALK, especially in the face of San Francisco hills.
As I said, will power carried me through and allowed me to finish. That said, my original plan of run 7 minutes/walk 1 minute did not pan out well, especially, with the rolling hills of SF. It was one thing to “read” the elevation chart of the course. It was a whole different ball game in actuality, experiencing it with my two legs. In the first few miles, I was able to keep up a somewhat 7/1 plan, but the hill getting on the bridge killed the rhythm. By the last 5K, I was feeling pain in my right knee. I walked even more then. I did not even want to push it. There would be another race…

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5) Mind over body. Until I experienced it, it was a pretty empty quote.
I’ve heard many coaches, trainers, and motivational speakers emphasized the importance of the “mind”. Mindset is the most important asset we have. Yada yada yada. Depending on how good the speakers were, I would feel really motivated for like 7 minutes. Well, now I could appreciate it much more. As I had mentioned, running SF RnR had surprised me in many ways from the unexpected planning to the hills and to the sheer distance of it (more on that later). By the time, I got off Golden Gate Bridge, I was half way through and also pretty through with my physical reservoir of energy. I started to feel pain from blisters developing on the right toes and on the left toe. It was not a good situation. The entire time, I just kept telling myself “one more step, one more breathe, and one more mile” I must’ve repeated that a thousand times. Somehow I made it to mile 13. I got a bit teary. It was totally mind over body. I drew on my reservoir of will power and determination.

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6) 13.1 miles is a lot.
Okay, there is a second part to the statement. 13.1 miles is a lot WHEN I did NOT train fully for it. It wasn’t a “pretty” take-away. It was more like wake-up call. Hooray to “mind over body” and finish it. BUT, seriously, no more procrastination on running a race without fully training for it. It was like that college term paper that I had stayed up entire night to write and at the end no one liked the outcome, including the professor.

7) Human body is amazing.
Okay, this one is like number 5 “Mind over body”, until I experience it first hand, it does not have much significance. As aforementioned, there was both pain and doubt during the race. The last 5K was particularly painful with the blisters rubbing against the shoes every freaking step of the way. It FELT as if it was bleeding. And of course, it was not. Then my right knee began to “twitch”. I could not explain more but intuitively I knew that feeling was a sign the body telling me to “stop”.  And yet, I was just so close (c’mon 5K!!) that I just walked more and jogged a bit. Looking back, I had to thank my body to perform amazingly!

8) Mental dialogues during an endurance race are … funny or weird, depending on the perspective.
13.1 miles is a long distance and a long time for slow runners like myself. I had to keep myself going and somewhat entertained, especially on that weird stretch from mile 8-10 descending from the bridge. It was a flat open road through a somewhat industrial area. Around mile eight, I was counting how many pancakes I could have during brunch with my family. I figured each pancake is about 100 some calories and on average I burned about 125 calories each mile. Another five miles, I’d be so near the end (and my five pancakes) that it was perfect math! Yeah, really weird self-talk…

9) Dress creatively will be a goal for next race
Going along with point 8, being entertained was huge! I was thankful to my fellow runners, especially those who put extra effort to make themselves look goofy, fun, and different. That made my first 4 miles really engaging. Constantly, I was taking notes. That 80s guy had a really fun pants on. Another dude was dribbling two basketballs (one on each hand) while jogging (score!). And let’s not forget Aunt Sally on tutu’s – priceless!

10) Golden Gate Bridge was 1.7 miles long, each way.
Hey, when I was driving on it, it was over in minutes. Running on it, well, felt forever. And, did you know that Golden Gate Bridge was was not flat? It had a shape of an arch. Translation: it was like a small hill. This was not meant to be a “profound” lesson. Just a fact. I could “wikipedia” this fact during a cocktail conversation from now on.
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12) Yes, I skipped #11.
Who cares? Life isn’t about perfection and so was the race. Being flexible was key to make it enjoyable. I went over almost half hour more than I projected. I did not get hung up on it while running. By the time I got off the bridge, I knew I would not make my goal. I adjusted my expectation: focus on finishing it without injury. At the end, all was well – event was a success and more importantly I reached a milestone.

13) Schedule a chiropractic appointment as soon as the race was over.
This was one of the “smart” ideas that panned out well. I went to my chiropractor today, two days after the race. She used to be an tri athelete herself so she knew where to adjust and how to adjust it. She worked out all the weird kinks and I went for a 1-mile walk afterwards. It felt good! I almost felt like I might be able to do a short run tomorrow.

0.1) Keep going, keep running, and keep smiling.
I’m already signed up for a 6-months training program with San Jose Fit in anticipation for another half marathon in the fall. I don’t know which race I will do yet, but the point is keep going. That’s the biggest lesson I learned. Keep going.

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The Grand Finale towards the Finish Line

Thanks to my brother-in-law who took the video of me on the last 0.1 mile “sprinting” towards the finish line on Sunday’s SF RnR Half Marathon. Crossing that finish line was monumental. It’s not the end of my running adventure, but another beginning. As I nursed the muscle soreness and toe blisters, I was already planning for my next goal.

I signed up for San Jose Fit that is designed to train you for half and full marathons. I finally felt confident enough to join a running group thanks to my finish of the half marathon. The experience on Sunday also taught me the importance of a structured training. I’m super proud of my accomplishment. I want to aim for PR for my next half marathon run. So, what do we runners do? We just keep signing up/registering training/races in between ice packs.

Finish a Half Marathon (check!) and Run On Golden Gate Bridge (check!)

It feels ridiculously productive to cross off TWO items on my bucket list today!

Complete a Half Marathon
Run on Golden Gate Bridge

Yes, I’m fatigued. Yes, I’m sore. And yes, it feels awesome to finish my first half marathon with the San Francisco Rock n Roll series today!
The emotion of crossing the finish line caught me by surprise. There were few tears and of course lots of smiles. Part of it was the challenge going into a half marathon only half prepared (the longest I’ve trained was 10K) But most of it was the sense of accomplishment with a challenging somewhat hilly course (yes, dear San Francisco, what would thou be without few hills?) The hills, especially the climb onto the Golden Gate Bridge, were tough.

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But the view looking back was stunning!

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The thought of getting onto the Golden Gate Bridge was very motivating – it was almost like the beacon of light in the early morning!

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The biggest motivation was the running energy from my fellow runners as well as the Rock and Roll staff!

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Running on Golden Gate Bridge was surreal. Rock n Roll folks closed three lanes on the bridge, leaving about half open for car traffic. There were more than 11000 runners today – it was crowded on that bridge. I learned that GGB was quite extensive, especially on two feet. All my previous visits to GGB were on the car, it was over in minutes. Well, today, I finally realized the total length of GGB was about 1.7 miles each way. Let’s just say, I had plenty of time to appreciate its full majestic beauty. And some.

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By the time, we turned around on GGB, we were also half way through. This was when I really started to feel fatigued. It was beyond any training I’ve had. All I had left was the determination and will power to carry me through the second half of the race.

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Don’t get me wrong – Rock n Roll planned a very scenic route. However, the second half, especially, mile 10, 11, and 12, there were more hills for me. I finally understand why runners would say “the last mile felt like the first ten” In my case, it was the last 5K that felt the most work!

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My major source of discomfort came from blisters forming on my toes, especially on the right foot. To add more drama was for the first time in my short 1-year running journey, I felt pain on my right knee. I had figured out that was because my running form had suffered from fatigue and the unfamiliar hill runs. The choices were to walk some of the hills and “stay calm and carry on”.

Because of my physical discomfort, I was very very very happy to see this.

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And the last 0.1 mile – I “sprinted” emotionally. It felt exciting and exhilarating to cross that finish line! I DID IT!! I ran, walked, jogged, slogged, and logged 13.1 miles!!!!

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I’m proud of myself. More importantly I’m very grateful that I completed this race without any serious injury. I’m also very grateful to have my brother-in-law, Vilen, to run with me. He’s much faster than I am. He’s using today’s race as part of his training for his triathlon. Having a family member running “with you” really helped. Special thanks for my wonderful hubby who provided all the support I needed this race weekend. He also kept me moving and going towards the finish line.

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I plan to savor this for the coming week and take good care of myself with  recovery. Who knows – maybe there is another half marathon soon?

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San Francisco Rock n Roll Half Marathon Course Unveiled!

Woohoo! As I watched the course tour filming over the Golden Gate Bridge, I’m pumped for the half marathon!! I can’t wait to run over GGB and enjoy the course. There are some minor elevation climb in the beginning, but other than that, the course is relatively flat. I plan to add some hills training half way past the training just so that I’m trained. Plus, hills are “more bang for the buck” anyway. YEAH, I can’t wait!!