A Tale of Two Halfs, Part 1: Oakland

It’s only been ONE WHOLE MONTH since the Oakland Running Festival but I am finally catching up on my race recaps… in other words, hubby and kids are out of the house and I can actually hear myself think!  It may even be a 2-post kinda day!

Anyhoo, if you know me and/or if you have been following my blog, you know that after my 1st season with Team in Training I signed on to be a mentor for that following spring season, my 5 mentees all running Oakland (4 doing the full, 1 doing the half).  After nearly 5 months of training, The Big Day finally came on March 25th.

While the marathon started at 7:30am, the half marathon started at 9:15am.  Wow.  That’s late.  Nice to sleep in and then easily take a 10 minute BART ride over to the starting line but that late start really messed up my fueling- I ate my typical pre-race Luna bar & coffee meal at 7am and some Sport Beans 5 minutes before the race, but that was it.  Not smart.  When the race started, I was so hungry… that lack of calories would come back to haunt me by mile 9…

Anxiously awaiting the start...

I met up with my team and we shared a group hug with final words of wisdom from Coach Kim, then headed over to the starting line…

Coach Kim and yours truly- she is THE fastest, THE coolest, one of THE best TNT Coaches in my humble opinion!

About 6 months ago, I challenged Hubby to run a half marathon and we chose Hollywood for his first (that recap will be Part 2).  A TNT friend posted on Facebook that he was selling his bib for Oakland and as both hubby and I are born and raised in Oakland, I encouraged/pressured/forced hubby to get the bib and run the half with me.  And he did.

Hubby all raring to go!

The race finally started, and we were off… I can’t tell you how amazing it is to run through closed streets in the city where I was born and raised.  Every mile had a different memory for me and I just loved the course! We started off in downtown Oakland and then hit Broadway, and I settled into an easy 9:30 pace thinking, “Wow, keep it up!  You could PR this thing!”  Having studied my pace chart, I knew that if I kept up the 9:30 pace, I would finish the half in 2:04. Without my iPod to distract me, my brain kept repeating, “2:04, 2:04, 2:04…”

Headed down 11th street, through the tunnel that I have only ever *driven* through in my 37 years of living in Oakland!

Once we exited the tunnel (pictured above), we then merged with the full marathoners- at that point in the race, the fullers were at mile 17 while the halfers, like Hubby & I, were just at mile 4.  It was pretty motivating to pass the mile markers for the full- I was thinking how tired *I* would be by mile 17, so with nothing to complain about (yet), I cheered on the marathoners, smiled at hubby, and pushed on…”2:04, 2:04, 2:04…”

Like I’ve already said- in my complete and utter bias- I just LOVED this course!  It was not crowded, really highlighted Oakland, ample water stops. However, I was surprised that there weren’t as many cheering sections, bands, and free stuff along the course as there was 2 years ago when I ran the 4th leg of the marathon relay.  The days leading up to the Oakland Running Festival were completely drenched with torrential rain while race day was dry with blue skies and perfect 60 degree running weather.  Nevertheless, I have heard that a lot of bands canceled in light of the rain just the day before, that makes sense, and made for a quieter course than I was expecting.

It wouldn't be an Oakland race without the A's! (But where's the rest of them?)

We hit mile 7 at Mandela parkway and I snagged this pic of hubby:

That's hubby waaaaaaay on the left hand side... uh, honey, the race is over HERE!

I noticed that from the start, hubby was running completely outside of the marked course- he ended up clocking 14.3 miles in all.  Being a race newbie, he did not understand that a race course is marked in the MIDDLE of the course as well as along all the tangents in order to make it the “shortest” course possible.  He claims he was just trying to avoid all the people but by doing so, added a whole extra mile!  For a half, that’s just crazy!

I heard that there was a whole “run through fire” element to the race- I couldn’t wait to see what it was!  I guess I was expecting something along the Tough Mudder lines-o-fire but this is what we got:

That artistic looking brown structure spouted fire- pretty neat!

Still feeling pretty good at this point, “2:04, 2:04, 2:04!” I snagged yet another self-portrait-while-running:

You can't really tell, but I am actually at a RACE with thousands of other people here, I swear! (Note the look of determination... <sigh> oh well...)

And then things went bad.  Real bad.  My stomach started cramping.  I couldn’t ignore it.  I started slowing down.  I started feeling faint and nauseous. I started to fail mentally.  I started to make deals with myself, “Okay, just get to the next water stop, in and out of the porta potty, you’ll be fine.”  I grabbed hubby’s arm and yelled over his blaring iPod, “MY TUMMY IS NO GOOD!”  And he responded, “OKAY BUT I’M NOT GOING TO STOP!”  Super supportive, hunh?

I kid, I kid, I only want for him to run the best race he can so leaving me behind is always an option, one which he took, and at the mile 9 water stop, hubby ran on while I met my fate with the Big Green Porta Potty.  I was in the sucker for 11 minutes doing my business, trying not to touch anything, trying to feel better. Goodbye 2:04 and hello super sore quads from squatting for 11 minutes straight!

After that, I was miserable.  So angry at myself, still not feeling well, all my energy was gone, I tried to suck down a gel but my body rejected it and I nearly threw up.  By mile 10, we hit Lake Merritt and thankfully Coach Kim saw me and ran/walked with me. I complained about my tummy and how much I just blew this race while she encouraged me to start moving my legs again.  A couple miles with Coach Kim and a brief high-five from Coach Al finally got me going and I tried to pick up the pace around the lake.  Too little too late, I finished in 2:17.

My boot camp trainer snagged this pic of me sprinting it in at the finish- thanks, Anna!

Hubby finished in 2:13- such a great job for his first half ever!!!  So proud!!!  Although now he can officially say he is “faster” than me and that stinks.  I dunno why I ever encouraged him! LOL!

Proud finishers! Well, proud-ish for me. Hmph.

After the race, I spent time with some TNT friends before heading to Luka’s Taproom for the victory party where I treated myself to a big hamburger and belini.  I was still really wrecked though, and couldn’t really eat, drink or be merry at that point.  I was so self-absorbed and caught up in my own imagined failure and aching stomach that I missed seeing my mentees cross the finish line.  I really regret that.  (For my next mentorship, I will not make the same mistake.)

Given my physical issues at this race, you know what the funny thing is?  I’m seriously considering the full for 2013.  Call me crazy.  HELLA crazy.  Go ahead.  I won’t mind.

And then just 2 weeks after Oakland, hubby and I ran the Hollywood Half marathon and it was a completely different experience with even more running lessons learned…  stay tuned for Part 2…

Anyone else experience stomach & porta potty issues during a race?  How do you handle  it?  How do you handle the disappointment that comes with completely blowing a time goal?  Do you expect to hit your PR every time?

Also, check out this post about the female winner of the Oakland marathon, Anna Bretan, mother of 3 who just gave birth 6 weeks prior!  YOU GO GIRL!!!!


10 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Halfs, Part 1: Oakland

  1. Great job to both you guys! At first I set time goals but running at least 12 half marathons this year and 3 just this month means time goals and PR’s are out the window. I PRed for the half at the beginning of the month and I’m not counting on another PR until a fall half.

    • That’s a really good perspective… I guess I’m biased as I am surrounded by freinds in their 20s that PR every single freaking time! Thanks for the reality check, Suz! 🙂

  2. Great recap, Laura. Well worth the wait! 😉
    I’ve had stomach problems during runs, but fortunately never during a race (knock on wood!). I had to pee at the beginning of the Oakland Half, but luckily it never got to be a huge problem and I was able to hold it in until the end. Seeing all of the lines at the porta potties definitely didn’t encourage me to stop, especially when I was going for a PR! I can only imagine how frustrating it was for you… but you did awesome, all things considered. I don’t know many people who would suffer stomach cramps for 11 minutes at mile 9 and still finish at 2:17.
    Speaking of PRs, I think it definitely depends on the race course and how I’m feeling. If it’s a flat, fast road race, then I’ll push myself. For hilly/trail races, my focus is usually on enjoying the race and not dying on the hills. 🙂

    • Yes, true, 2:17 is pretty decent given my issues- I had just gotten over strep throat right before Oakland so when the race started and I held 9:30 for 9 miles, I got too excited! My tummy is often an issue over 10 miles, I know it is due to lack of hydration plus not eating enough- since I have had my gall bladder out, if I don’t eat enough calories right when I am hungry, I’m in the bathroom all day! (Trying to avoid TMI here! LOL!) I’ve got another half on May 6th, gonna try to make the adjustments by then in order to redeem myself! 🙂

      • Don’t worry about TMI with me; I’ve had my own issues with the “runner’s deuce.” haha. Good luck figuring out a plan. I have a friend that has a carb liquid mix he makes because he can’t stomach gels; maybe that will work for you? Anyway, hope you have a great race on the 6th!

  3. That was a big lesson for me! A whole extra mile just to avoid the crowds. Who knew that they measured the course in the middle and cut the corners. I was erroneously thinking that cutting corners was a type of cheating, but now I know I am cheating myself if I don’t.

    Racing, the one time when cutting corners is a good thing!

    • OMG you actually, finally READY MY BLOG! It’s a marriage miracle!!! I kid, I kid, I believe I threatened you bodily harm if you *didn’t*, so…

      And, yes, NO MORE CHEATING you! :p

      • Haha, you two are hilarious. Mike — I still can’t believe you ran an extra mile! That’s insane. And I thought my extra 0.15 was bad.

  4. Pingback: A Tale of Two Halfs, Part 2: Hollywood | running4thereason

  5. Pingback: Race Recap: Big Sur Half Marathon | running4thereason

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