Oak and Done

After going to Little Rock (that blog is coming soon) I decided to sign up for another marathon and realized I had scheduled 7 marathons in 7 weeks! I know this may disturb several of you and it had me bothered as well – how could I really have an odd numbered streak? So at first, I tried to talk Cathlin into a marathon I could drive to. However with no luck there I was about to strike out when new friend from Mobile, Jen Bakula, told me I should come on over and run the Oakland Marathon with her. I looked it up and other than a spendy side plane ticket it was a really good deal. So for the second time this year I was headed to California and honestly the way weather has been in the Midwest? Huge win! So I requested the Monday off to get to know San Francisco better (Jen lives there) and booked the trip.

I flew in at 11 on a Friday night where Jen picked me up and got me back to her place quickly. I was jealous of those out partying, but I was pretty tired as well so when Jen hit the hay early it was fine by me. I woke up the next morning and immediately went for a nice little run – I was hoping for three miles. Jen lives very close to the bay so I was able to get out there and run some pretty free miles without the concern of stoplights or stop signs. It showed as I put in my best non treadmill training run of the year! I even stretched it out to 7 miles and averaged a great pace. On top of that, with 50 degree temps, I put on a long sleeve shirt but I can tell you that it was not needed. Sunday’s marathon would clearly be short sleeve weather. I was pretty pumped. A good run and good weather – Sunday was destined to be my best run of the year!


After a good pancake breakfast we headed out to the expo to pick up our numbers and get ready for the big day ahead. Jen was not sure how it was going to go and even though I had felt so good that morning, I had my doubts as well because the same cold I had been trying to kick for the last month was still causing breathing issues. I was feeling good, but if the breathing issues would affect me that would not happen until about Mile 20 and not in a 7 mile run. Jen is very fast and one of my friends who can beat me on a regular basis so I was not sure who I was hoping would have a better day. I did not need a time goal but wanted to rebound. Jen did not have a time goal and it was a small run – we both knew if she had a good day she may even place. I guess we were both holding back from high hopes in case it went bad.

As soon as we got to the expo, it was great to see Sam Louie standing out there guiding people in! I had not a clue he even lived in the area and it was about the first time I have seen him in a year. Even Jen had to comment on his positive attitude. He was a bright light that morning and I started to think maybe this marathon really is a gem you do not hear about? Honestly, I really had no judgments going in. I saw they had posted that some publication had voted it the best marathon on the West Coast but I had my feelings that was not completely true. I also had heard from everyone – “Don’t get shot when you go to Oakland!” I knew that was not going to happen but obviously it showed the reputation the town had. At least so far the town was nice and people quite cheery.

We went through the expo and there was nothing too unique or extraordinary there. The shirt was a jacket and it is a nice flyweight jacket (the only downside being I will probably get 4 total this year). The Emergen-C stand gave me further hope that their mix would scare away the cold I had by Sunday. We left rather quickly, said goodbye to Sam and made our way back to San Francisco. Jen is not a fan of expos (a lot of my friends are not) and I suppose I am finding myself a non-fan lately as well. They are just a lot the same and I have enough free chapsticks and koozies to go around. It saddens me and I hope I see one soon to turn me back to the light.

We spent the rest of the day walking and eating at local restaurants – pretty much readying ourselves for the big run the day ahead. We walked around San Francisco and had clam chowder breadbowls (lots of carbs!) that night down on the wharf. I was able to see Lombard Street and get the best view of San Francisco one could ever see from one of the piers. Jen does not drink the night before a marathon so I figured I would try something new. Besides I had two more days to try the local brews. I went to bed early with visions of a nice healthy run dancing in my head.

And the next morning it was more than just the difference of not drinking a beer. I also did not bring my 5 hour energy shot and I forgot my calf sleeves as well. I guess this would be a change in a lot of factors that I usually race with. I actually believed the change in race day etiquette would be good luck. And while I was waiting to drop my stuff off at the bag drop I bumped into my new friend for the race Joyce Lee! Joyce had posted in a group that I am a member of, Run 365, that she would be there and sure enough I ran into her. She was looking to get a Sub 4 on this day and has really picked up some speed lately. She also has been running at least a mile a day since January 2013 (and possibly even longer)! Impressive to say the least. Someone else walked up to us and asked when the Maniac picture would be. I saw it later even though all three of us were maniacs we all missed it. I guess Jen and I rubbed off on Joyce as well.

Now Oakland may not be the best marathon ever as proclaimed earlier (though it really is a fine event) but one thing they really got right is starting the marathon an hour and a half before the half marathon. It is not that I mind running with the half runners at the start, but more so it was so nice to go to the bathroom without humongous lines or to be able to drop off my clothes at the last second and stay warm. Also it was nice to have the half runners merge with us later and give us words of encouragement later on. I know I have done this before at marathons (and yes I have complained) but it really turned out well on this day. I suppose streets have to be closed down longer but really it makes for a better more free running experience!

I took full advantage of the port-a-potty situation and went to the bathroom five minutes before start and still got up past the 3:20 pacer. And just as Jen and I were standing there waiting a girl in a green matching running outfit moved up to the front. I nudged Jen and said, “Uh-oh I think your competition is going to beat you.” It reminded me of the time I raced in Hawaii and a girl showed up at the last minute in the shortest outfit ever. She ended up coming in first woman overall. I expected nothing different on this day. I felt bad afterwards for saying it to Jen, but some people just look like they are made to run. I think Jen enjoys the fact that she is the underdog and no one expects her to be fast. But with a PR of 3:12 and several good races under her belt she has gotten used to coming in top 10 and qualifying for Boston near every race.

The race started and we took off at a brisk pace. I was a little concerned about the size of the race. I like smaller races like this one but any time they get too small I get a little concerned I will get out front and get nervous about placing. How would I feel if I started losing spots after Mile 20? Though I have never truly placed I figure it has to happen sooner or later! Well thankfully there were no concerns about that one as plenty of runners got out there in front of me even as I was running Sub 7’s. I felt pretty good and was looking forward to taking on the hill that started at Mile 3.

The hill started as a slight incline after a turn and it did not start off well. As soon as it started four or five runners passed me. I was okay with that as I was trying to save up my strength. And as we hit an out and back around Mile 6 I was pretty happy with where I was in relation to the pacers. I was not far in front of the 3:10 pacer but I figured I was still in front of him while we are on the hill. Unfortunately, another hill came much steeper this time and the 3:10 pacer passed me easily before I could make it another mile. I kidded with myself that I may be able to catch him on the downhill as I watched him get farther and farther away. We had a good climb for a good half mile on what seemed to be an on ramp to an interstate. Up next it was a right turn and suddenly it was all worth it. We had made it to an overgrown park area on a slightly inclining trail and I was thrilled. The brush was overgrown and so pretty. There were feral cat warnings and the trail was kept up so well. Sometimes during the full 26.2 you can see the real cool parts of town and this was it. I was looking forward to slightly climbing this trail up until we went for the eventual downhill at 11. I figured we would be on this for a long, long time.

And after a half mile of that I found out I was so, so wrong. We left the trail, got back out onto the streets and went down just to go back up at a steeper incline each time. And though there was some more downhill along the way it was pretty obvious we were going uphill a heck of a lot more than down. Afterwards Jen would say it may have said 700 feet of elevation change on the map but we climbed at least 1000 feet in those 8 miles. She had to be right. And as runners passed me, I could not wait to get out of the hills and going down. I know heading up is not my strong suit. And after one long hard half mile climb up at Mile 10, there was a turn up the steepest climb yet… and I should have walked. My gait wobbled as the incline totally messed with my legs and that was the point when I was no longer running right.

However I did not know this at first because the drop was immediate after that hill, and though it may have taken us 8 miles to get up there, it did not even take us a mile to get back down. We went straight down! I had a 6:26 Mile at 12 and seriously that was by far my fastest mile. I was also able to put in a good Mile 13 and 14 but then at 15 just as I wondering if I would be able to run the entire distance, I hurt and not in a usual way.

My right hamstring felt injured. And I knew the culprit. While flying down the hill I spotted a pothole. My shoe was headed right for it and I had to kick it out a bit more or possibly trip and fall. It may have stopped a trip and fall but it had hurt my running for the long term. I was grabbing anything I could to get the leg working again – GU, Gatorade and finally Gummy Bears. It was at the Gummy Bears when Jen ran past me grabbing at my shoulder to get me to come with her. I choked down the bears and tried to keep pace with her and actually did for about a mile staying just behind her.

But then the stiffness of the leg kicked in and I had to walk again. I would never again make it a mile after that without having to stop and walk to get the leg going again. It was rough and I did not feel well but it was far from stopping me from finishing. I was happy the sun was out and I could bask in the California sun. The half marathon joined us around 16 and the walks never seemed quite as lonely as half runners constantly gave support and offered help. Eventually I got settled in with a group and the 10 of us made our way to the finish sticking together for the last 6 Miles. They were not as fast as me but my walks helped them to catch up.

The Raiders sponsored a Mile around 22 and that was awesome – loud music, colorful people and megaphones. They love their rowdy reputation and honestly I only wish it had been longer. The end of the course was awesome circling a lake and I only wished I could have enjoyed it more instead of just wanting to finish. I struggled across the line to finish in 3:36. It was a shame – I just wanted a 3:30 but that was over by 20 so I was happy that I did not totally fall apart. Even with all that walking my legs stayed good enough for the last four miles to never even go over 8:30 per mile. I would not have thought that possible.

And Jen was at the end talking to her friend. She had run a 3:28 and came in 6th overall female. Heck green did come in second but only beat Jen by six minutes. Jen was a little perturbed she did not take the race a little more serious. She did admit later that she too thought the girl was really going to blow everyone away. And after I got my stuff and laid down, I was lucky enough to meet Jen’s 4 other friends. We would end up having some local beers with them that afternoon and going to their place to eat tamales.

I invited Alison from San Jose over. I thought there was no way she would make an hour and a half drive but she did so happily. I told her I would return the favor and meet her in Iowa. We had a great night eating and watching the NCAA tournament. Alison was a vegetarian but Jen’s friends were such gems they bent over backwards to make tamales for her and to even offer to go buy more food for her. We were able to sit out on the patio and enjoy perfect weather as well. It was one of those weekends where you can see why everyone wants to live in California.oak2

And after Jen and I headed back to her place for the night, she mentioned to me that I have an odd running style and started to question some things I did. She commented that I always stare down. A by product of all the treadmill running I supposed. She said my arms swing too high. I was not sure how this would matter but knew this was only tensing me up. And she told me that at Mile 15 I did indeed look like crap. I laughed and mentioned that everyone only tells you how good you look. I must have looked hurt so she felt awful.

But I reassured her that was not what I meant. I loved it. I can learn from her observations. Only her and Brian tell me what I am doing wrong. I cannot learn from those that tell me I look great when I am hurting. I can only learn from people like these two. So two days later as I ran the wharf in San Francisco again my eyes started to head up and I worked on my posture. I relaxed my arms a little and though I was just on Week 1 of 8 marathons – I had a  feeling it was going to be my worst. Thank you Jen for everything. You did not just give me a place to stay – you gave me a chance to improve.





One response to this post.

  1. Nicely done, even with being injured.


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