Aloha Run 10K & 5K Race Recap

The primary purpose of running the Aloha Run 10K & 5K was to get a hard effort in before the JetBlue Long Beach Marathon. With the start and finish being warm-up jog distance from me, race morning was simple and straightforward. I woke up, suited up, warmed up, and then raced. The only goal that I had going into this 10K was to split more consistently than during the Love Share 10K.

The first mile contained a lot of turns, which made it hard to settle into any kind of groove. I went out at what felt like a hard, but sustainable effort, and found myself as the second runner (and first female) pretty quickly. I knew that I’d have to navigate a few tight turns during the final mile, going back through Shoreline Village, but the middle miles were straight and flat. I focused on maintaining the hard effort and saving energy for the final mile. While I did wear my Garmin for this race, I didn’t check it until the very end.

Splits: 6:16, 6:13, 6:22 (turnaround), 6:13, 6:13, 6:17, 5:54 (.2).

I felt good, so I decided to run the 5K fast, versus using it as a cool down run. I quickly wiped the sweat off my face and pinned my 5K bib on. My legs definitely felt heavy, but I reminded myself that I only had to run hard for 20ish more minutes. To my surprise (and delight), I found myself alone and in the lead right after 1 mile. I wore my Garmin again, but didn’t check the pace until after the race. My splits were slower than during the 10K, but I still ran hard and took the win! Finishing 15K of hard running felt darn good and I left feeling hopeful and curious about how the next weekend’s race would go…

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Love Share 10K Race Recap

이것은 확실히 흥미로운 경주였습니다.

That says “this certainly was an interesting race” in Korean. I found a 10K for $20 on Active.com and knowing close to nothing about the race other than its location, I registered. Chris decided to come along with me and to Koreatown we went…

Arriving with 60+ minutes to play before packet pickup opened, we decided to explore a few blocks of K-town on foot. Despite being the most densely populated district by population in Los Angeles county (120,000 residents in 2.7 square miles!), it was quiet and peaceful at 6:00am on a Saturday morning. The race area seemed to be busier when we returned at 7:00am, but the packet pick-up tent and volunteers were far from ready. We were one of the first few in line to pick up and it was very disorganized, but we finally walked away with our bibs, shirts and safety pins.

For our warm-up, we followed the course, which was an out-and-back (once for the 5K, twice for the 10K) on Wilshire Boulevard. I wondered about my safety during the race as I watched a large SUV barrel right through a blockade (A-frames and caution tape), seemingly giving 0 fucks. In fact, I questioned whether the road closures would even be ready by the 8:00am race start. I noted that Vermont Avenue was 1 mile from the start/finish area as we made a u-turn.

We arrived back at the start line and learned that the race start would be delayed, of course. There was a separate “corral” for 10K runners, but there weren’t more than 35 of us in it. The 5K “corral” was much move lively.

The 10K wave started a few minutes before the 5Kers and I quickly found myself in 2nd place overall. I kept my effort in check for the first mile and was running a hard, but sustainable (for 6.2 miles anyway) pace. The course wasn’t as flat as I expected, but there weren’t any huge climbs.

Right after the 1-mile mark, there was a Taiko drum group, which reminded me of the LA Marathon. I smiled, waved, and kept rolling toward the turn-around, which ended up being at mile 1.6. The next section was slightly downhill and I felt myself speeding up, despite constant reminders to save my legs for part #2.

“I am definitely running 7 minutes per mile” I thought during miles 4 and 5. I kept moving forward as quickly as I could, however, and waited to see the Vermont Avenue sign. At this point, I remembered why I disliked racing the 10K distance. It’s short enough to run fast, but long enough to hurt… a lot. The second out-and-back was also very crowded, as we were running through the 5Kers. At one point, I almost hurdled a small child after he came to a full stop right in front of me. Negotiating the last turn was also interesting – the volunteers were handing water out inside of the very tight u-turn area. I tried to use the downhills to my advantage during the last 1.6 mile stretch and felt like I closed well. I lapped my watch at mile 6.2, but the course ended up being 6.6. I don’t usually hyper-analyze my splits (hi Bob!), but really wanted to gauge the effort based on my true 10K time, so I did the math. The first 6 miles: 6:29 , 6:22, 6:17, 6:29, 6:39 (not 7, but yikes), 6:01. My .2 split was 1:14, followed by 2:19 for .4 miles. A 41:50 finish time less 2:19 would give me a 39:31 10K time, which would be a 2 second PR. I am very pleased with that!

After completing a cool down jog, Chris and I explored the festival. It was definitely different from standard race expos/festivals, primarily because everything was Korean, including a majority of the announcements. We cautiously tried a Lotte drink called Milkis, which is made with corn syrup, sugar, carbonated water and milk. I expected it to be milky or yogurt-y, but it was delicious! We also chowed down on fresh watermelon and injeolmi.

At some point, we noticed huge stacks of ramyun (ramen) boxes off to the side and asked if they were freebies. In order to get a 6-pack of the soup, we had to assemble on the street into some sort of formation. Chalk lines indicated where we were to stand, and then we all waved at the drone flying overhead for a few minutes before the mad dash for free ramyun began.

With bags full of choco pies, custard cream cakes and Milkis, we went to the car to change before the awards ceremony. It looked like they were giving out large Lotte snack boxes for prizes – I was excited!

While I didn’t win a snack box or rice cooker, I was very surprised to win $150. Running an honest 10K+ effort, getting to know the Korean culture a bit, and pocketing some extra cash definitely made for an excellent race experience.

On the way home, Chris and I stopped for drinks at Gong Cha where I enjoyed a deliciously refreshing taro milk tea with white pearls. Having not had enough culture for the morning, we then stopped at H-Mart where I purchased pickled cucumbers, some sort of cooked noodle dish, and some pork pot stickers. We are already planning our next unique race adventure!

 

Conquer the Bridge Race Recap

The day started off on the wrong foot, on the wrong side of the bed. Due to me not confirming faulty information received from a friend, I thought that the race started at 8:00am. Annalise and I planned to drive to San Pedro at 6:30am, leaving us with plenty of time to park and warm up. At 5:58am on race morning, I received a text from another friend (whose bib I’d picked up and was to deliver to him before the race start) asking where I’d parked. “Why is he there so early?” I asked myself. As the morning haze lifted from my brain, I pulled up the confirmation email to double check the start time.

“THE RACE STARTS AT 7!” I nearly yelled when Annalise picked up my call. After haphazardly throwing items into a bag and hoping that I didn’t forget any of the important ones, I sprinted outside to wait for her. Luckily, we didn’t hit any traffic on the way to San Pedro and parked at about 6:45am. We jogged around for .7 miles before edging into the porta-potty lines. Evidently the brief, but intense rain storm that we’d experienced the day before had resulted in issues with the carpets covering the bridge grates, which delayed the start. At 8:47am we finally started toward the Vincent Thomas bridge!

My legs felt terrible for the first quarter mile, likely due to standing around for so long. I urged them to cooperate as I made my way through the thicket of racers, feeling the heaviness lift as we began to the first ascent. The course follows Harbor Boulevard for .5 miles before taking runners onto the Seaside Freeway (47) via the on-ramp.

CourseCourse Elevation

A not-so-steep, but sustained climb takes us past the first mile marker, after which we run downhill toward mile 2. I focused on staying relaxed during the first climb, pulling up to J.T. right before the apex. We stuck together on the downhill (= 10 runners barreling past me) and through the turnaround, parting ways right before the second ascent.

The mile 3-4 climb is the most difficult section of the course and almost always results in my slowest split (in this case, 7:12). Whether this side is indeed steeper or my legs are just fatigued from the earlier miles, I just focus on grinding it out to the top. Fortunately, the runners on the other side are supportive and enthusiastic, yelling “good job!” and “you go girl!” Plus, it’s a big club race, so I try to focus on spotting the blue AREC singlets and waving to my friends. This is also where I reel in the 10 racers who didn’t save energy for the second time up.

The last downhill stretch is where I let loose and just run hard. I was shocked to see a 5:56 split for my 4th mile! Coming back into the on-ramp curve, I caught up to two male runners and we battled it out down Harbor Boulevard. The last .5 mile always feels painfully long, but I fought on and passed the two runners before crossing the finish line in 35:16.

  • 2012: 35:17 / 3rd OAF
  • 2013: didn’t run
  • 2014: 37:59 / 3rd OAF
  • 2015: 42:12 (walked a LOT)
  • 2016: 37:15 / 3rd OAF
  • 2017: 35:16 / 3rd OAF

I seem to feel comfortable in the 3rd overall female position and while I’m happy to have PR’d the course by 1 second, I’m slightly disappointed to have missed taking 2nd by a mere 6 seconds. I couldn’t quite close the gap between myself and the pink tank top ahead of me!

In my opinion, the key to properly “racing” this course is to

 

  1. Keep effort in check for the first time up the bridge
  2. Relax on the first descent
  3. Run smoothly to the turnaround and back to the base of the second climb
  4. Focus on running solidly up the other side, this stretch is the most difficult for me
  5. Turn on the turbo boosters after cresting the second climb
  6. Hang on for dear life motoring down Harbor Boulevard

I met up with Bob and Annalise for a few cool down miles. Bob crushed his race, finishing in 34:17, and Annalise placed 6th OAF! Both of them had never run the bridge before, but really enjoyed the challenge and the views. After Annalise and I picked up our age division medals, we met up with the AREC crew + Bob at Malarkey’s for some celebratory brunching. My Labor Day was successful: a solid run, time with friends, and a long nap.

Finishers-Medals.png

 

Bulldog 25K Race Recap

The Bulldog 25K has been on my ever-growing race bucket list for a few years. I knew that both the course and race day temperatures would go up, but I was pumped for the challenge. Part of my “training” included a 16 mile run on the Holy Jim trail two weeks prior: 8 miles almost entirely uphill (4100 feet) and 8 miles back down. I felt great during and after that run, so I hoped to feel just as good during the race.

Naturally, I convinced a friend to come along for the “fun.” Packet pickup for the 25K opened at 6:30am, when the 50K started, so John and I departed Long Beach around 4:45am. The risk of hitting traffic or road closures is always present when braving the LA freeway system, but we sailed smoothly to Calabasas and had plenty of time to park and prepare. I was able to give Joe a quick good luck hug before he started the 50K – he runs this race each year to raise money for SoCal Bulldog Rescue.

While completing a 1-mile warm up on a quiet trail, I heard movement in the bushes and was really surprised to look over and see a large deer! I didn’t realize there were deer in the woods of Southern California. I was also surprised to see that the pre-race briefing was mid-way through when I returned from my warm up – oops. I ran into Bruce during the briefing, we chatted for a few moments, and then the race started.

I remembered being told before Xterra Malibu Creek (nearly identical course) that “the first 6 miles are uphill” and then eagerly waiting 2.5 miles to actually run uphill. I relaxed into the run for this beginning portion, taking in my surroundings and mentally preparing for the real climbing to begin. This race’s reputation as being difficult is due both to its vertical profile and warm weather. While it felt cool when we left the start line and for the first few miles, it would quickly heat up. When the grade suddenly jumped from 3.7% to 10.3% right before mile 2.5, I said “this is where the fun begins” to the male runner beside me.

According to Strava, the Bulldog trail from top to bottom is 3.2 miles with an average grade of 10.2%. What the elevation profile doesn’t show are the switchbacks, rocks, and lack of cloud cover. My legs felt great for the entire climb, but my feet did not. I’ve never owned a pair of trail shoes, but may need to invest in some. The trail becomes very rocky and dusty in some sections and I lost traction a few times. As the trail became rockier and the sun stronger, I took two walking breaks of ~20 seconds each. They weren’t very long breaks, but one of my goals was to run the entire section, so I did feel slightly disappointed. As we neared the summit, I said a few words to another runner who was near me for the entire climb. I was impressed with his ability to climb well and simultaneously snap photos. He responded in a thick French accent, alors nous avons échangé des mots en français.

Our treat after conquering the Bulldog climb was a gorgeous view of the Santa Monica mountains… and the Corral Canyon aid station (mile 7.5). I threw back a cup of water (with ice!) and continued on through a scenic section of the trail which lies between two tall rock formations.

Not me.

It’s difficult to maintain any sort of rhythm through this part because of the large rocks, but definitely makes for an interesting run. After the rock formations, the course undulates and then descends steeply for 2 miles (12% average grade). I came upon my buddy Bill Gearheart, with whom I’d shared a few miles during the Ventura Half Marathon. He looked fantastic and we caught up for 2 minutes before he dropped me. Yep, I was dropped by a guy 2x my age! I’d started to feel the effects of dehydration after leaving the first aid station, but wouldn’t hit the next one until mile 13.1. I made the mistake of not carrying any water for the race, despite strong encouragement to do so in the the pre-race emails and on the website. I kept my effort in check as the effects worsened and just focused on making it to the next stop.

After a few more ups, downs, and a water crossing, I arrived at the Tapia East aid station. I’m not sure if this happens to other runners, but my hands clench and go claw-like when I’m dehydrated. I had to wait 30 or so seconds for my claws to relax enough to where I could pick anything up, but finally downed two cups of water and a cup of Gatorade. I left and continued on toward the last challenging section of the course, which I believe is called the Spur Trail, but has been dubbed Chihuahua Trail. Aside from featuring many tight switchbacks, this section is rocky, narrow and completely exposed. It’s probably only a little over 1 mile long, but feels like 5 miles. I could feel the large blister forming on the pad of my big toe, the angry callus on the underside of my other foot, the sunburn I’d earned during the last 13 miles, as well as the dehydration, but this was the last “hurdle” before the finish line and I shuffled my way through it. A runner had passed me at the final aid station, but I passed him back with about .5 to go. A spectator let me know that I was the 3rd female and I tried to finish looking somewhat strong.

Final stretch.

I’m happy with a 2:21:25 finish time, but disappointed with my poor hydration planning. I think that I could’ve finished in sub-2:20 with at least a handheld water bottle. However, like I’ve said before, I don’t like claiming that “I could’ve” run a certain time. Regardless, I finished and bonus! earned a pair of Injinji socks for my age division placement. After our races, John and I found a Mexican restaurant and tucked into a large sharing of chips and guacamole, quesadillas, sangria, and more beer.

I kicked Sunday (the next day) with a relaxed 10 mile run by the beach while listening to a podcast. Expecting tired and sore legs, I was surprised to feel quite… normal. It was another wonderful weekend of running!

OC Fair Fun Run 5K Race Recap

After 2.5 years of missing the burn of a hard 5K race (not), I registered for one per a friend’s suggestion. Promises of a post-race OC Fair visit and lunch with said friend were my motivations to sign up. I wondered whether my legs remembered how to run fast and was curiously excited to find out.

In the weeks leading up to the 5K, I logged two workouts: 12 x 400 and 5 x 1K. The 12 x 400 was basically a wake-up call for the small amount of fast twice muscle fibers that I possess. It certainly wasn’t the fastest speed workout I’ve ever done, but I met my goal of completing all 12. The biggest win there was that I did it solo! I decided on 5 x 1K for the Tuesday before the race and though my pace crept up with each 1K (not ideal), I successfully completed all five. Again, I ran alone and am pretty darn proud of that.

Before heading to packet pickup on Saturday, I knocked a 15-mile long run out. As I re-build my base, weekly mileage and tired leg efforts take priority over speed. I’m very excited to feel my fitness returning and legs responding well! With the two “fast” workouts + a day-before 15 mile run, I thought that I would run 20 – 21 minutes on Sunday.

I arrived at the OC Fairgrounds with plenty of time to relax and warm up before the 8:00 AM start. Bob and I jogged around on the course for 2 miles and I predicted that the middle mile would be my slowest. While the first mile is straightforward, mile 2 would take us inside of the fairgrounds and weave through fried-food stands and fair rides. I did a few strides, said hi to Rudy, and then waited for the (delayed) race start. We finally took off and I settled into an effort which felt hard, but sustainable. I began to worry that I’d started too quickly when I could still see Bob and the leading ladies up ahead, but just continued to run by feel. A younger runner fell into pace next to me right around the mile 1 marker and we entered the fairgrounds together.

I focused on staying in the rhythm during the second mile, but there were a few seconds of slowing as I rounded a sharp curve or got stuck behind runners. I was concerned about navigating all of the turns, but Book That Event did a phenomenal job of posting directional arrows. I never felt lost or confused as to where the course went. There were a few workers and spectators sprinkled through the grounds cheering us on, but it was otherwise quiet and peaceful. I came through the mile 2 marker feeling pleasantly surprised at how well my legs were holding up. “Just one mile to go!” I thought.

I checked my watch for the first time a few minutes later, expecting to be right around 2.5 miles, and was at 2.4. I was starting to feel the burn of a 5K effort and ready to see a finish line.

I remembered the gate that we would pass through before turning into the final stretch of the race and decided that I would attempt to pick it up after that, on the final straightaway. There was a male racer around me during this final mile who would repeatedly surge and then settle. I’m not sure if he was trying to drop me or force some pep back into his step, but it was a bit disconcerting. The last .3 miles run opposite-ways of the second mile of the course, so we were met with cheers and encouragement as we exited the gate and turned left onto the final straightaway. Thank you Ulyses / Paksit Photos for the quality race pictures!

I’m normally not the type to squawk about a long course, but since I rarely race 5Ks, I wanted to record my time for exactly 3.1 miles. I mashed the Stop button on my Garmin down at exactly 3.1 miles and continued about .1 miles to the finish line. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch Mr. Surge-and-Settle and he crossed the line a few seconds ahead of me. I was delighted to see that I’d reached the finish line in sub-20 minutes!

Garmin

Garmin time for 3.1 miles: 19:31 Chip time for the race: 19:58

I found Bob and we started our cool down, which would follow the final two miles of the course. We stopped and played a few of the on-course fair games, and I became the proud owner of two new plush toys, both of which were hard-earned. We made it back to the festival just in time for the awards ceremony.

One of the major perks of this race is that the race bib = a free entry into the fair (plus an additional free ticket in the goodie bag!) After a quick parking-lot towel change, we explored the OC Fair for a few hours and then enjoyed a belated birthday lunch at Wendy’s – happy birthday Bob!

I’ll admit that I enjoyed running hard for 3.1 miles. It was refreshing and I didn’t feel completely wiped out afterwards. My legs were tired the next day, but back to normal by Tuesday. In fact, I ran fast again on Wednesday at run club. Perhaps I do have some fast twitch muscle fibers hiding in my legs!

AREC

Always shenanigans with this crew.

Summer Running

I decided that today was the appropriate day to pen an update on my running, as I was able to complete my longest run since February’s DNF. My heart spilled over with gratitude this morning while I followed the running routes that I’ve missed so much these last few months. To recap, I essentially took the months of February & March off, though I did begin to hit the elliptical and weights more regularly sometime in late March. Many hours were spent on the eliptical during the month of April and I dilligently completed twice-weekly strength sessions. I also logged a few pavement miles, but was relegated to running once every other day. Unfortunately, I was still experiencing a fair amount of pain. I also spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about missing the Boston Marathon for the first time since 2013, and also missing out on the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge. I look forward to those two events all year long, but I killed the pity party and began to focus on moving forward.

May was an off-and-on month and I missed another one of my usual races, the OC Marathon. I did register for the half marathon, but decided that I wasn’t ready and skipped it. I was indifferent at this point. I didn’t even care about ever doing a race again or ever running “fast” again;  I just wanted to be able to head out for a few 4-6 milers during the week. The monotony of the elliptical was becoming unbearable. I deeply craved the freeing feeling of running, ocean air and sound tickling my senses while traversing the beach path, and of course the runner’s high.

Regarding the actual injury: my knee (which was the issue leading up to and during the Surf City Marathon) was healed by mid-April. The new injury was a very “achy” feeling in my right anterior shin. I’m still not entirely of the origin of pain, but noticed that a very specific stretch combined with a leg swing drill helped tremendously. I started to figure it out when I would set out for a run with pain, stop to stretch + drill, and continue the run with significantly less pain. Based on the stretch + drill, I deduced that there was some sort of tightness or muscle knots on or around my iliotibial band (IT band). I never chased a diagnosis from a medical professional, but the injury seems to be improving based on trial-and-error experimentation.

The stretch

The drill

As May turned into June, I was able to run longer and more often, but I still wasn’t out of the woods. Some runs would be mostly pain-free with other runs being extremely difficult. The leg pain + being out of running shape = the difficult ones sucked. Having survived the injury/healing cycle a few times, I know that the first few weeks of re-building running fitness involve a lot of labored breathing and mental games. I am delighted to report that I am currently running every single day and feeling better with each mile. As long as I stretch thoroughly and complete the leg swing drill before each run, the pain is minimal (though still present). I really hope that I am 100% pain-free by July.

I’ve theorized on why my body was falling apart February through May and believe that stress was a large factor. My family recently experienced a big change: my dad retired and moved from Brawley to Long Beach. The transition required a lot of work on both my sister and I’s parts. She traveled from the bay area to Brawley many times to help him clean, pack and prepare while I secured an apartment and set everything up for him here in Long Beach. It’s weighed heavily on my mind for the last few months, but my dad is finally here and settling into his new environment. I think that eliminating that stressor has played a part in my expedited healing.

Though I enjoy a year-round summer in Long Beach, Wednesday marked the first official day of summer. I’m looking forward to some great summer running and flag football playing. Yes, I’m trying a non-running sport! It comes as no surprise that I am supremely terrible at football, but the league, my team, and learning the sport has been very fun. Up next is the 4th of July and then… who knows what summer magic awaits!

An Update

Yesterday marked 5 weeks since I added another DNF to my race history. While I would love to simply erase the last 5 weeks, I can’t and am hoping to close that chapter after a bit of reflection. Since I could hardly walk for a few days after the race, I decided to take the week entirely off from any exercise. For the 4 weeks following, I exercised off-and-on, but was overall horribly inconsistent and took far too many days off. I attempted to run on the treadmill exactly twice (in a row), but gave up after the second run because of the still-present pain. While I had every intention of adding strength training back into my routine, I picked up weights exactly twice. I foam rolled and stretched here and there, but I feel like I’ve been sitting around for 5 weeks. I feel lethargic, out of shape, and blob-like.

I always struggle emotionally with running setbacks, but this go-round has definitely been the worst. An injury + a professional life full of challenges, stress, and disappointments left me feeling very depressed. *Gasp* I used the D-word! It is shocking how dismissive people are about it. Leg pain hasn’t been the sole cause of my emotional low, but running help(ed?)(s?) me remain mentally buoyed. I felt like I’ve been sinking under the weight of different stressors. “Do something else? Find a different hobby?” friends suggest. Despite attempts, the craving for my runner’s high becomes stealthily stronger until I find myself growling under my breath at runners that I see out and about.

The positive: 5 weeks ago, my pain level was 9/10. Discomfort and general aching pain disrupted my sleep and darkened my mood for that first week. I would rate my current level of pain or discomfort at a 6/10 and I am walking with no limp. I ran very slowly on the treadmill this morning and did experience pain, but it wasn’t as bad as during the earlier attempt to run.

The negative: I am registered for the LA Marathon (6 days from today), the Boston Marathon (about a month from today), and the Big Sur Marathon (2 weeks after Boston). The LA Marathon is definitely a no-go, and the probability of my running Boston 2 Big Sur is very low. Even if I were fully healed and running by the end of March, I don’t think that I could be physically prepared to run 26.2 miles in 2 weeks. I missed out on the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon and 2 other smaller races that I was registered for. I’m not one of those “I have to run it fast or I’m not going to run it at all” athletes, but I prefer not to suffer through races that I am not adequately trained for.

I did feel a pleasant tickle of hope after today’s run, but I’m being realistic about this healing process. Some days my mindset is that I’m going to “retire” from racing and just run for pleasure and fitness. Other days, I fantasize about once again pinning a bib on and trying not to trip over timing mats. At this point, I would genuinely just like to run for an hour pain free. However, I know that after 2 weeks of post-injury easy running, the itch to train for a race will set in and I’ll scratch it if I can. For now, I need to work toward healing this injury, regaining my mental and emotional balance, learning to enjoy non-running activities, and overhauling my mindset.

First marathon finish.