Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wharf to Wharf 6 Mile Race: Santa Cruz to Capitola

The Wharf to Wharf 6 Mile (not a 10k) race has been on my bucket list since I started spending my summers in Santa Cruz back in 2011. But because of timing with work, I've never been able to do it, until this year! I was pumped to get in (it sold out in 2 days) and looking forward to some company too.
It was to be a Loop weekend, when me and some of the other running bloggers would get together. We had some good meals together, my friend Brad and I toured Stanford University for fun on Saturday, and just enjoyed the company of people who are as jazzed about running as I am! I was particularly psyched that my friend Brad and I got to hang out - we had such a great time in our San Francisco meet up last year that it was great to do it again.
Brad and I in my office - check out the Boston jackets and race #s

Sunday was a no-excuses morning. It was 55, cloudy/foggy with no wind. We had driven the course the night before and knew how to anticipate the hills and when to make the big moves. I had gotten a decent night's sleep - even good for some pre-race jitters. I even woke up before my alarm went off - a sign that my body was just ready to go. I did my usual 2.5 mile warm up, which allowed me to preview physically (and not just in the car this time) the first set of hills on the course. I even saw elite athletes Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, Brett Gotcher, and Chris Solinsky warming up - this was a big deal race with plenty of star talent.
I was ready for this. All of my Santa Cruz running had paid off - I had been running on the hills of UCSC for 5 weeks. My most recent tempo run of 3 miles at 6:40 pace showed me I could hit my goal pace of 6:40, which would put me at my goal of 40 minutes for the 6 mile (not 10k) race.  I was in the elite corral (me and 1,000 others) and was happy to be able to be near the front of a big race. I knew I would't be too crowded and would be able to get out early.
And BANG! With a huge start gun (which made my heart leap), we were off. I was hoping I wouldn't go out too hard for the first mile, as there were some turns and climbing a bridge and a hill, but boom, 6:40.  The bands were out and playing, and it was hard to just slow down. I felt like I had a lot of energy and wasn't going all out. 2 miles in, and I had cut down into the low 6:30s. I was thinking back to my runs where I was climbing 600-800 feet in my runs - I could tackle these short 50 foot climbs. I figured I would structure my pacing like a 10k, hold steady for the first half, pick it up slightly 3-4, then push a little more 4-5, then all out through the finish. I really am starting to think it is my most successful distance - even though I love the longer stuff, I know how to strategize this one.
But I digress. We were running alongside (but not on) the beach, and it was just a really pretty course.  came through 3 miles in under 20 minutes, so I knew I had some time in the bank, and I had also already conquered the big hills. There was a Japanese drummer band and I was just trying to keep time with them - those and bagpipes (which were also out on the course) give me chills and always make me go faster. At the 4 mile mark I wasn't sure if I would get my goal of sub 40 - it was starting to feel like a lot of work. But at the 5 mile mark, I came in around 32:40, which again meant that I had time in the bank - even if I died a little, I would still get it. I was working hard to pass women - one of my strengths is to pass people toward the end of the race.
Last downhill - almost over!
It is a great confidence booster and it helps me to pick up the pace toward the end. I was trying to fly in the final mile, especially once I hit the last downhill. As I approached the finish line, I could see the clock displaying a time better than I expected. There was a gap between me and the other people around me, so it felt like my personal finish. I lifted my hands to encourage a little clapping, and was positively rewarded with cheers.

6:26 pace
228th overall out of 12,665
46th woman out of 7,896
30 in my age group out of 1,367
Beyond better than expected. Not only did I get my goal of top 50, I slid in well under. I also smashed the sub-40 goal. By being in the top 100 women, they will mail a jacket to me later on in the summer.
Wahoo! First pumping for victory!

Walking around after, we bumped into Chris Solinsky (first on African to run under27 for the 10k) and actually had a chance to chat  him. No picture, since our cameras were back in Santa Cruz, but he was very friendly, even though he wasn't happy with his race (10th). We also chatted with Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce, one of the top American road racers. She came in fourth, and was hoping to win, but it was very cool to meet her. She has Celiac Disease as well, and we had actually been emailing back and forth prior to the race. It is amazing how gracious the top distance runners can be - so open and friendly. I can't think of another sport that even compares.
The race, the whole weekend was better than I could have imagined. It wasn't just great because of the great race, but because of the whole experience. Spending time with friends, participating in such a large event, and just truly enjoying being in California was what made it great.
On my apartment porch after the race

July running is coming to an end, and this was the perfect way to cap it all off...and the mimosas helped too.
Toasting our successes!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Comfortable getting your feet wet: lessons from SUP (Stand Up Paddle-boarding)

I went stand up paddle boarding for the first time last Saturday on my day off in Santa Cruz. This is what it looks like (I'm not in this one, but this was my view). It's really hard to do - you are balancing on a board and pushing around, trying to paddle and not get knocked off by the waves. I was grateful for all of the balancing work and strength work I've done - I could feel it in my legs as I was paddling around near the wharf. Now, I have a pretty good sense of balance, and also ice skated a lot as a child, so I was  hoping that I wouldn't fall down at all. It took a little while for me to get into the groove and feel comfortable standing, but soon enough I was motoring around.
You have to be comfortable getting your feet wet. Sometimes the waves sloshed water on my board, and you truly just have to roll with the punches. You can't fight the waves either. If you get to rigid, I think that's when you risk getting knocked over. But if you relax a bit when the wave comes and just let it move you a little, you don't fall down.
Surely we can all take a lesson from this. When changes or challenges come, you can't go rigid, or they'll overcome you. But if you prepare yourself to get moved around, you can emerge still standing. You have be prepared for those waves, those challenges, in life to rock you around a little.
I did fall once - the waves started to pick up and I fell off. I grabbed the board, paddle around on my knees for a few minutes, rested, and then stood up again (albeit with shaking legs). And I got back into the groove again, and really enjoyed the whole thing. 90 minutes of paddling around the Santa Cruz wharf/boardwalk area all alone. No friends, no phone, no connection to things back on land. Just me and the water.
And then the next day it was back to running, but it was something different. I hope to do it again in August. It gave me a chance to be uncomfortable while trying something new, and getting pleasure from the success that ultimately followed. It's what I'll tell my next group of students when they arrive on campus on Sunday to commence their 3 week intensive summer program. We just finished our first group today, and with 226 students gone (and 212 on their way), I'm going to enjoy this brief respite (aka blogging on Friday night and running tomorrow morning) before getting back into work groove.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The view from above

This blog started in December 2008, when I was about to start training for my first marathon. I was 22, a new master's student, new to DC, new to most things, including regular running. 4.5 years later, the blogging is still happening, albeit on a less frequent basis. Why? I've got a couple of thoughts on it:
  • Now that I've learned what kind of training works for me, there aren't as many new stories to share about kinds of workouts, long runs, etc.
  • I still love to blog about races (particularly since they serve as good notes for me when I come back to repeat races) and so those tend to be the more regular posts.
  • I've just gotten busy. I started this when I was brand new to DC and still trying to make friends. Blogging and the Loop became part of my social life and the writing process was a hobby. Now, I'm well into my doctoral program and certainly have my hands full!
  • But I still love writing about running, and when I go back and look at old posts, I still can easily recall the emotions that went into those runs and races. So, even if the blog posts are infrequent, it is still something I want to continue doing.
But while the running has stayed the same, so much has also changed in that time frame. Mainly, it has all been for the better, and even the difficult changes brought many lessons that have had an influential impact on my life.

But the big thing that is the newest change: 
My now-fiance proposed on May 10 - the same day that my dad proposed to my mom in 1980. We were at the Lincoln Memorial and it was just perfect. I spent the first few days doing this. We are just over the moon happy and looking forward to truly starting our lives together. Slightly more tricky while I'm in California for the summer, but still, this is the beginning of the big journey. 
Best night ever: May 10, 2013 at the Lincoln Memorial

You can see now why my mile times didn't improve - too much bling!
So really, a lot has changed. I had done the dating thing and the single thing, and I still just knew more was out there. And even though I was still happy in the single days and had a great group of friends and family...I was still hoping for more.
Happily ever after may not exist, but I am very happy. I waited and waited to find the right guy and the wait was well worth it.
And the view from above the valleys, up here at a peak of life and love, is quite spectacular.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can you keep raising the bar? Another Santa Cruz summer

I am back in Santa Cruz for year 3 as academic dean of my program for gifted children and couldn’t be happier to be back. This is a beautiful campus, the program is fantastic, and I feel really fortunate to be with a great team of staff and group of energetic, intellectually curious students. The kids have been here for almost week, and things are off to a good start.
One of the things we tell the families of our program is that we raise the bar in terms of expectations in the classroom. These students, who may have maxed out their schools at home, now come to our program, where the bar is raised so much higher. So, they have been the top student at home, but they have to recalibrate expectations as they take on a much more challenging workload.
That raised bar goes for us as staff and administration as well. We have to work more each year to make sure that our students are getting those challenges and are adjusting to the learning curve. For all of us, nearly 300 of us on site, staff and students alike, we watch the bar go up higher and higher, and each year prepare to clear it.
The bar is raised for running as well. Each year, even though I am now well-versed in the trails and routes, that bar is set high again. The learning curve in adjusting to the terrain is always there, proving that even through several years of consistent running, the bar keeps on climbing.
For the sake of this blog, the running that comes with being in Santa Cruz is a big sell. I think it is the best seven weeks of running that I do all year. With that in mind, I am really doing my best to get the runs in and not hit snooze. And that’s tempting  - these are long days at camp – we not only have class in the morning and afternoon, but evening as well. That in of itself is an endurance event, so it sometimes presents a challenge to get training in as well. But I’ve been able to train nearly every single day I’ve been here, so that is a good track record (pun intended ) so far.
Of course, Santa Cruz gives me some of the best running not just because of the cooler temperatures but because of its hills. Rolling hills in the trails, and then 2.5 miles of steady climbs of 600 feet on the perimeter road of campus. No matter what kind of shape I'm in, it is always an adjustment to take those hills on. But the view is just so beautiful and every run I still feel like I have to pinch myself that I get to do it here. The climbs can be hard, but the view from above is just spectacular.