I wish that I was writing this post and sharing how amazingly strong my legs felt… how I attacked the second half of the race with confidence and ease… and how I finished on pace and with a huge smile of satisfaction and reassurance that I could bounce back from my last two races. Unfortunately, that’s not how this race played out and that’s not what I will be writing about (today).
This past Sunday was the Oakland Running Festival and I was running it for the 5th year in a row and my 4th time doing the full marathon. I knew exactly what to expect going in and am extremely familiar with the course. I knew the first half was going to be tough with a 12-mile climb and the second half would be reasonably flat with some long stretches that can test your mental strength. I knew the community would be out in force cheering us on and I knew that I’ve had success on this course in previous years.
About ORF: if you remember one thing from reading this post, let it be that the Oakland Running Festival is like a secret gem for Bay Area races. Everyone that I know that has run it, has done it multiple times. I’ve done it all 5 years and I’ll keep running it because of how fun of an event it is. Runner’s World featured it this year and it was voted as the Best Marathon in the PAC WEST by readers in 2013 for Competitor Magazine. They have a 5k, half, full and relay and the word is out: Run Oakland!
Before the race, I got a chance to meet up with some friends, including Paul and Joyce (who both had amazing races), Diana (Oakland rock star), Francis and Eileen (below) and Carla and @FoodieMcBody (also below). Apparently if you stand near the porta-pottys, all the runners gather. LOL.
Going into the race, the plan was simple: run the first half (mostly uphill) at an 8-9 minute pace. The second half goal was to maintain the 8-minute pace to work on building confidence for holding onto that pace for the later miles in a marathon. That put me at a projected finish time around 3:40-3:45, which would have been FANTASTIC.
But here is how it went down:
Mile 1: 7:46
Mile 2: 7:53
Mile 3: 8:02
Mile 4: 7:58
Mile 5: 8:11
Right on pace. The first few miles are reasonably flat with some minor incline/decline, but levels off to keep a consistent pace. I was running with the 3:30 pace group, so keeping the 8-minute pace on these first few miles was a great start.
Mile 6: 7:54
Mile 7: 8:39
Mile 8: 9:11
Mile 9: 8:29
Mile 10: 8:34
These miles are pretty good as well. I felt really good coming out of Mile 6 as we start heading up towards some of the steeper climbs. I hit these right on pace as well, letting the 8-minute pace go and taking the climbs conservatively, but strong. I’m happy with the 8:30-9’s.
Mile 11: 9:08
Mile 12: 7:57
Mile 13: 8:18
First Half: 1:48
That’s right where I projected to be. I estimated somewhere between 1:45-1:50 and I hit my pace for the first half on point. I also got to see wifey and the first lady cheering me on after the 13.1 marker.
Mile 14: 8:55
Mile 15: 8:39
Mile 16: 9:23
Mile 14 was close to an 8 minute pace, but stopped to drop off my arm sleeves and give hugs and kisses. Knowing this was a run to work on my training, I was more than happy to spend a minute with the family, especially since I hit my first half split on target. When I got to mile 15 and 16, a long stretch along International Blvd., I sorta just started to feel like I was running “out of gas.” The 3:40 pace group had passed me already and I was sort of in this empty realm where there weren’t that many runners around me. There were plenty of people running the course that day… maybe they were all in front of me or behind me, but these two miles felt really long and I was falling victim to my own mind games.
Mile 17: 10:13
Mile 18: 10:50
Mile 19: 10:20
Mile 20: 11:07
The wheels have come off. I’m completely out of steam on these last four miles and I’ve started to feel some “wonkiness” in my right knee. I’ve taken several walk breaks and have decided to play it conservatively with my knee. It’s not a stabbing pain or anything that would cause me to drop out. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it almost feels like there is a “light, air-like” feeling in my knee. Like it’s not there? I’m not sure how to explain it. I’ve felt it before and it comes around when my body is telling me to take it easy. With this being my second marathon in 15 days, I know what it’s telling me.
Mile 21: 11:29
Mile 22: 13:45
Mile 23: 12:20
Mile 24: 13:17
Mile 25: 11:27
Mile 26: 11:21
Those last 6 miles are tough to look at. It has been a long time since I have seen some of those numbers. Around mile 23-24, I came across Paulette (who I had also seen earlier in the race cheering on her husband) and she decided to walk with me a bit. She asked how I was doing, and I told her what was up. Unfortunately there was no fuel or water that could save me, although she kindly offered. Instead, she asked if she could walk with me and was more than willing to have some company. She was supposed to be running the race with us, but due to an injury she had to defer. Having a bad race can quickly be put into context. I was happy to have Paulette walk with me for a half mile or so and I’m forever grateful for the connections and friendships I’ve made with this crazy running thing that we do.
The last couple miles, I did my best to run it in, but my knee had called it quits way earlier. I crossed the finish line with Oakland Raiderettes and Golden State Warriors cheerleaders cheering on the finishers. Had I raced to glory, maybe I would have asked for a photo opp, but I was ready to see the fam and have seat. Marathon number 22 was complete and my fifth year of running the Oakland Running Festival earned me some extra hardware.
Disappointed. That’s just truth. It has nothing to do with the race, as the Oakland Running Festival puts on an amazing race as they always have. I’ll do it next year and the year after that because of that reason. But I’m disappointed in myself. I ran a great race in December, setting a PR at CIM. Then I bonked in Arizona. Then I cramped up in LA. And this makes the third marathon in a row that my body and mind has just given up on me. I’ve done 4 marathons in 4 months, and my body needs a rest. I’ve been chasing sub 3:30 aggressively, but need to put in more time training. I like to race, and I like to race a lot. The problem becomes working in the taper (or not) and trying to go out and do it again. It’s like trying to force a square in a round hole.
Stubborn. Here comes some more truth. As much as my body needs to rest, I’m going to run a half marathon this weekend and another next weekend. BUT I would not do it, if I didn’t think I was capable of doing them WITHOUT injuring myself. These next two half marathons will involve some walking and some light running and they are just me participating in them, not racing. There is a difference. Right now, I feel like my knee is healthy enough to do a comfortable 13.1 miles. I know this is not going to be a popular choice, but I’m asking you to trust me… a little.
Re-focus. This is the important one. I need to work on my running. Sounds funny, right? But I need to train smarter. I’ve had some really strong weeks over the last 3 months. There were some great tempo runs during my training for the LA Marathon and I’ve put in some good leg work at an 8-minute pace on these races, I just haven’t been able to hold onto it. I also need to work on my running form and incorporate some more cross training. I’m asking more from my entire body, but have only been paying attention to my legs. It’s time to get the entire body on board.
Success. I’m not sure if you noticed in the pictures, but I’m running without my hydration pack. Like I said, part of me doing these races is to work on my training and this was my first attempt at relying solely on course hydration. There were some points where I wished I had water and that is more of me being used to drinking when I want to, but there was plenty of water stops on the course to keep my hydrated. It’s a small victory that will pay off down the road.
BAY AREA RACE DISCOUNT CODES:
Livermore Half Marathon, 3/29
$10 off code: PRFAN
San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, 4/6
$15 off code: HITTHEPAVEMENT (that’s right $15 oFF)
Bay to Breakers, 5/18
$5 off code: PAVEMENTRUNNER5
Thanks for all the shout outs, well wishes and congrats on social.
I’m trying y’all. I’ll be back.