Windsor Green Half Marathon Race Report

With some major life events going on recently (like moving and Matt’s bike accident), my race report from the Windsor Green Half Marathon was pushed to the side for a bit. I registered for this event as part of the Run Wine Country series – run all 3 half marathons in the same calendar year and bring home a special bottle of wine (the other two are Water to Wine in August and Healdsburg in October). I really couldn’t see how I could turn down that offer, so on May 18 I set out on race #1 of the series.
I woke up that morning concerned about my race goals. My throat had been sore for a few days but that day I was barely able to talk and I was concerned about congestion affecting my breathing during the race. I was also exhausted from packing the day before  and spent the entire drive up to Windsor questioning my sanity while popping Aleve and cough drops. I told Matt I’d give the race whatever I could, and I’d be really pleased if that turned out to be sub-2 hours. I knew I’d still fight for whatever I had to give, but I wanted to make sure I listened to my body.
When we arrived at the race, we were able to park really easily, grab our packets, use the bathroom, line up, and shake out the nerves with just a few minutes to spare before the race started. When the gun went off, I did my best to keep my pace in check for the first mile, hoping I wasn’t going out too fast. The race started in downtown Windsor and then headed south to the Sonoma airport. We had some shade, but it was pretty sunny already and I could tell the temps would warm up quickly. As the miles started to tick by, I focused on keeping close to an 8:45 pace for the first 6 miles. This proved to be harder than it should have been because the mile markers were inconsistent; some were short, some were long. Eventually we hit 5 miles and I pulled out some Swedish fish (these are seriously magical for me during a race right now!). I ate them as we began climbing one of the steeper hills on the course with the sun shining down directly on us. I was close to throwing in the towel and taking a walk break, but I told myself to make it to the 6 mile marker first. I kept repeating “Embrace the pain” over and over, and when I crested the hill and got a nice kick from a downhill section, I felt myself push through the wall I had hit. At that point, the miles were closer to an 8:40 pace (according to the instantaneous pace on Matt’s Garmin since the markers were so off), and I told myself to just hold that pace for another 4 miles.
Coming up the hill at mile 6 also meant that we took a turn to head back north and we were instantly in the shade. The area reminded me of running through Rock Creek Park in DC, which gave me a big boost, with the added benefit of gorgeous wineries peeking through breaks in the trees. (This race is seriously stunning.) I was feeling really good at this point and holding the pace well. When we hit 6.5 miles I took a salt tablet, which was key because I knew there’d be more sun to come once we turned east and started the last portion of the course. I was also really glad I had worn my water belt for the race because there were no where near enough water stations! More than anything, I think having more water stations would have been a HUGE improvement for this race with how warm it was.
I was really surprised to find that the course was full of rolling hills after spending time looking at the elevation chart the night before. I was anticipating a few shorter/steeper climbs, but there were very few flat sections. For the most part, my chest and lungs were handling that ok; when I’d get tired and struggle with oxygen exchange on an uphill, I knew I would have a downhill coming to recover. But that did start to take a toll on me. Around mile 8 I noticed my foot was rubbing pretty badly in my shoe (the start of a serious blood blister), and that pain was able to distract me from the hurt I was beginning to experience by mile 9. At that point I focused on sticking to an 8:40, but I think that might have been when I started to slow down a bit. I kept telling myself to embrace the pain, embrace the suck, and that a big goal was going to require a lot of pain to accomplish it. That helped me fight to mile 10. I’d taken more Swedish fish at mile 9 and got a little boost from that, but after mile 10, we were heading back out into the sun for the final 5K back into town. Taking that turn into the sun was pretty brutal and started draining me.
windsor green half marathon 2014
Struggling in the heat.
It became harder and harder to keep my lungs clear and after fighting my way through mile 10, I was beginning to seriously struggle. I could feel my pace slowing instead of dropping to the 8:35s as planned. I would see patches of shade and tell myself to keep running to that spot. It became a big struggle. Finally I reached the point after mile 11 where I couldn’t keep running; my chest had too much phlegm and I couldn’t breathe. I took a short (less than 2 min) walk break to catch my breath, try to clear my throat, and pop in a cough drop, which really helped loosen things up so I could keep breathing. Shortly after I started running again, we hit the mile 12 marker and I told myself to focus on holding strong to the finish. I knew at that point that I would be able to PR the race as long as I stayed under 10 min pace, and even with the walk break during mile 12 I ran faster than that.
We took a final turn away from the freeway to head into the downtown area and I could hear this woman trying to gain on me from behind. She’d been feeding off of me for the last couple of miles, basically using me to pull her along at various points in the course, and when I heard her coming up behind me I could feel Matt and I both recognize that we weren’t going to let her pass us. And if she was going to pass us, she was going to have to work pretty hard to make it happen (I’m not competitive at all, am I?). So we picked up the pace a little.
windsor green half marathon 2014You can see her behind us here.
windsor green half marathon
I was obviously feeling awesome during this race…not.
As soon as we dropped her, Matt whispered to me that the man running slightly in front of us was just asking to get chicked. And that it would be a real shame if I didn’t do the honor of passing him in the final stretch. So I dug deep to find all of the energy I could muster to speed past him. And just as I passed him, I caught sight of the finish line. Instead of settling into the pace I had just picked up to, I floored it with everything I had to the finish line (it may have been nicer of me to warn Matt that I was going to do that, but he figured it out quickly). I flew past a few more people coming down the finish shoot and finished with everything I had to give: 1:55:27 (beating Matt by 1 second, yet again!).
windsor green half marathon 2014
I was really proud of myself for pushing through the hurt around mile 6 and getting through that wall. I think I succumbed to that too easily at Disney World, so that felt like a HUGE mental victory and I was able to ride that for a couple of miles. I think the Swedish fish really worked out well as a fueling strategy. I just need to figure out a better way to carry them so I’m not playing with a plastic baggie. And I listened to my body. I pushed even when it was tough but I respected my limits given all of the conditions for the day. And for all of this, I am beyond proud of my race. No, I didn’t break 1:54, but I set a PR while battling a chest cold and in the middle of packing…I’m pretty pumped about that!
windsor green half marathon 2014
Final stats: 1:55:27
AG: 13th out of 78
Overall: 167th out of 686

After returning to East Bay, Matt and I picked up our keys for our new apartment in Oakland and started moving that afternoon! With dead legs I carried boxes of books from our 3rd floor apartment to our new 3rd floor apartment. All I can really say following that experience is this: racing a half marathon hard + moving will produce more soreness in your legs than any person should ever have to endure! But I’m still excited about my PR and I’m loving our new apartment, so I think it was worth it :).

I also wanted to mention that Matt and I loved the town of Windsor and wanted to spend more time there, which we unfortunately did not have that day. So instead, we went wine tasting with my family on Memorial Day – Windsor has a tasting room for Mutt Lynch and Deux Amis wineries that is dog friendly! Pepper came along for her first wine tasting experience, and we enjoyed a wonderful day drinking great wines with my family in Windsor. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a dog-friendly wine tasting experience!

wine tasting with Pepper

Your Turn: Have you ever run one of the Run Wine Country races? Do you have a favorite dog-friendly winery in the area I should check out?

ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report: Running On Waffles

With ZOOMA Napa Valley just 1 week away, it’s time for the final installment of the Runner Report! And in an special edition, we’re featuring ourselves – the ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors!

Runner Report Logo

 

The ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors are excited to bring you our “ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report!” Each week we’ll be featuring a ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon or 10K runner on each of our blogs. As women runners, we want to use our role as Ambassadors to highlight and share the stories behind the incredible women preparing to run ZOOMA in June. Each runner has a special and unique story, and we invite you to learn about our runners through this series. Please feel free to click through the links at the end of each post to read about additional ZOOMA racers.

ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors

Runner Report: Running On Waffles

running on waffles

Age: 28

Current City: Oakland, CA

Race: half marathon

Why are you running ZOOMA Napa Valley?

I have loved the mission behind the ZOOMA race series and have wanted to be involved with the organization for years. Having the opportunity to be an Ambassador for the new Napa Valley race was really special, and celebrating with everyone at the finish line will be the icing on the cake!

When & why did you start running?

I started running in the spring of 2009 after putting on a substantial amount of weight in my first semester of graduate school. I had always been an athlete growing up, but hated running. One day at the gym I decided to give the treadmill a try…and I became addicted. While I originally stuck with running to help lose weight (dropping 55 lbs), it has turned me back into an athlete and given me an incredible amount of confidence.

How many races have you done & which was your favorite?

I have raced several shorter distance races, often using 5-10Ks as part of longer training runs to get more start line experience. Bigger races, I’ve completed 4 marathons, 9 half marathons, and I’m racing my 3rd duathlon tomorrow morning! My favorite race would be a tough call, but I think I’d have to pick the Philadelphia Marathon. After trying to break 4:30 at 2 previous races and overcoming some major injuries along the way, I finally accomplished my goal and reached the finish line feeling amazing. It probably helped that I sang “Call Me Maybe” for the last 6.2 miles :).

If you could pick one celebrity to run with, who would it be & why?

This might be a weird choice but I’d have to go with Bill Clinton. I was a big politics junkie before living in DC for 5 years and he’s one of my favorite presidents. Also, I have to admit I have a bit of a crush on him.

What is your favorite running memory?

I’m not sure I can recapture that moment as well as I did in this blog post from almost two years ago. (Must say, one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written.) But basically I was out running one morning before school when I caught a glimpse of a woman running across the street from me who I had seen several times before when I was a new runner. More than a few times she had provided me with inspiration at the gym to keep pushing myself to accomplish more and to run farther. When I saw her that morning, it was not only a moment in which I realized just how far I had come myself as a runner, but how influential one person can be to helping motivate others to become more active. In that moment I felt empowered, strong, and transformed.

What is your one running must-have?

A good sports bra.

What is your favorite post-run indulgence?

Shipyard Pumpkin Beer and apple cider donut holes while taking an ice bath. Seriously, that’s how I’ve survived training for 4 marathon and nothing says fall marathon to me more than that.

Who is your running inspiration?

Of course I look up to the great American runners like Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, Lauren Fleshman, and Deena Kastor. Who doesn’t? But running right now is about becoming the best and strongest woman I can be. Something I’ve talked about more in the past but that I am working really hard to overcome in my professional life is Imposter Syndrome. It’s very common in female scientists as we’re still jockeying for our place in a traditionally (and still) male-dominated field. But I don’t want to be held back from accomplishing my goals because of those issues, and running is one place where I can really help develop my self-confidence. So my running inspiration is the woman I am trying to become, because that woman is pretty amazing.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from running?

This lesson has actually been present throughout my entire life, but it wasn’t until my first marathon that I grasped the beauty of it. “Earned, Never Given.” It’s a Marine Corps motto (my first marathon was Marine Corps in 2011) and it’s one of life’s greatest truths. No matter what I’m working towards, this mantra is never far from my mind. And it pushes me to work even harder.

 

Want to read about more of our amazing ZOOMA Ambassadors? Check them out here:

Miriam @ Long Run Happiness
Kat @ Dream Body Warrior
Lynda @ Fitnessmomwinecountry
Karen @ Reason to Play
Kara @ Welcome to Karadise
Nicole @ The Slow Life

Will you be joining us on race day? Make sure to join us for the Honest Tea Mocktail Party the night before the race at 7 pm – RSVP here!

Golden Bears Du Race Report

Well, it’s a little embarrassing to be posting this now since I raced the Golden Bears Du on April 5! But since my next duathlon is now just 6 days away, I figured I should get this bad boy posted ASAP!

The Friday evening before the race I got home late from work, but I ate some pizza in a meeting around 4 and decided to call that dinner. It wasn’t the pre-race meal I had planned for, but it wasn’t greasy and there were plenty of delicious carbs so I went with it. It also meant that by eating earlier, I didn’t have a heavy stomach when the race started. I think it ended up being a pretty good pre-race fueling strategy.

We got to the start area with just enough time to get our transitions set up and use the bathroom a couple of times before the pre-race instructions meeting started. I ate my typical breakfast (waffle with peanut butter, an apple, and coffee) at home, ate half of a bagel with cream cheese when we got to the race, and then split a Honey Stingers waffle with Matt before starting. It left me with plenty of fuel but no gross heavy feeling.

After the pre-race meeting, we had 2 minutes before the race started so we threw our jackets in the car and got lined up. For the first run (5 miles) I knew I needed to be smart about pacing so I didn’t bonk later in the race or mess up my hamstring, which had been giving me some trouble all week. At first I struggled to keep it near a 9:00 mile. The course starts with a steep downhill, and it’s really easy to pick up speed on it and not ease back up. Eventually we settled into a pace just under 9:00, which I felt we held pretty well. This part of the course was 2 different out and backs. The first one was new to us and there were definitely some rolling hills. I felt pretty good on most of it, and was trying to gauge how my hamstring was responding, but it never hurt much during the race. We watched several of our competitors take off pretty quickly at the start of the race, but near the turnout for the first out and back, we started to pick them off one by one. We made our way to the second out and back, which was the same route from Du 3 Bears, so I knew what to expect from the course. The first half was great, since it was downhill, and then I just focused on running consistently on the way back up. We came back up the massively steep incline (where Matt told me I should pretend I was doing hill repeats) and into transition. My legs were tired, but not dead, and my breathing seemed well-controlled. I was happy with our pacing for the first leg, and the results show our time as 43:08. Pretty good!

Transition went really well. I dropped the long sleeves I had on over my tank since the sun was coming up and transitioned into my bike gear pretty quickly. I ate some Jelly Beans, drank some water, and took off. (I’m not sure about our transition time because they currently still have bike and both transition times lumped together.) Hopping on the bike, I was really excited to see what kind of progress I could make from the last race. Without the crazy wind and rain, I wanted to take the downhills stronger and push myself on the climbs more. My goal was to shave 5 min off of my time from the previous race (1:25:24). I flew down the first downhill and biked strong through the early rolling hills. Once I hit the flatter section, I kept pushing but ended up getting passed by another woman. I was a bit crushed, but just kept on pushing hoping that she’d burnout on the big climbs (especially since I’d already passed her once on the run). I kept passing people that were doing the short course and felt really proud, and that gave me a big boost going into the hills. I took Mama as strong as I could, trying to use both the upstroke and downstroke of the pedal for momentum. I was feeling pretty good at that point, but when we started to reach the base of Papa, Matt dashed my hopes by telling me there was no way we’d make our bike goal. I’d already been passed by another racer that I’d passed on the run, so I just made it my goal to push as hard as I could and try to catch him. Shortly after, on the climb up Papa, we ended up catching him, which gave me a boost to keep pushing. I was going too slow for Matt, so he went around me and I ended up using that gap to try to chase up (and yelling things like, “You fucking own this hill”) to get myself to the top. I was rewarded by a brief downhill before a little incline that leads into the major downhill of the course. My legs were shot for that uphill, but I ended up screaming down the other side close to 35 mph! It was AMAZING! Until a turkey ran into the road and I had to break to let it pass. But it was a blast. From there I kept pushing until we hit Baby Bear. Right before the base, I caught sight of the woman that had passed me earlier, and it became my goal to catch up with her. Unfortunately, as soon as I started climbing the last hill, my legs informed me that they were pissed. Pedaling became ridiculously difficult and it was all I could do to make it up that last incline. I’ve never been so happy to reach flat terrain! The last probably 7 or so miles were fairly flat with some easy rollers, so I started after my goal of catching my rabbit. I told myself that if I could at least keep her in my sights on the bike, I could catch her on the run. I did my best to stay with her, but she was a pretty fierce beast on the bike. About a mile or two out from transition, Matt told me we could still hit 1:20 if we kept up the pace, and after pushing with all I could, I think we managed to come in right around there.

I was happy to see that as I racked my bike, my rabbit was just starting to leave transition. I told myself to swap shoes as quickly as I could and get on the run course ASAP. My total bike and transition time was 1:22:55. Getting out on the last run, I was happy that my feet were not as numb as the last time. I’ve been wearing my bike shoes looser lately, and I think that combined with the lack of cold rain made a big difference. I took the steep downhill and tried to use the momentum it gave me, but my legs felt dead and I didn’t know if I could push the final miles. I knew I had given everything I could on the bike course, and that even if I ran an 11:00 pace I would break 2:30. So I was happy, but trying to make my legs move I thought there was no way I was running sub 9:30, but at one point, Matt told me we were running sub 8:00! I knew I had gravity helping me since we were on the downhill section, but I was pretty ecstatic considering how heavy my legs were feeling. When we got to the bottom of the downhill, there was a slight incline before flattening out for about a 1/2 mile. That small incline was when I began to doubt everything. I knew I’d finish, but it was a struggle. Matt told me there were guys up ahead that needed ‘chicking’ and I shortly realized that one of the runners was my rabbit. She was passing another racer, a guy who was really falling off, and I knew I could pass him. But I told Matt there was no way my legs were strong enough to catch my rabbit. I told him I just wanted to finish as strong as I could. So we made our way to the turn around, came around the loop, and then I realized I was gaining on my rabbit. I gave everything I had to pass her, and I was ecstatic when I finally did it. My sole goal at that point became staying in front. Shortly after passing her, I turned to begin the track back uphill. I could barely get in oxygen at this point, and I was convinced I was going to collapse. My legs were shredded, my breathing was beyond labored, and all I could think about was putting one foot in front of the other. It was miserable and hard, but I managed to get myself off of the trail and onto the flat pavement section. It was there that I was able to catch my breath and tried to mentally prepare myself for climbing the last and final hill. When I came around the corner and saw the course marshal flagging us in, I took one last look over my shoulder to make sure my rabbit wasn’t near and pushed up the hill with everything I had. I have no idea how much I slowed down trying to get up, but at some point Matt asked me if I had an A+ goal for the race. I told him I’d been too scared about the A goal to bother, but mentally when he said that I instantly came up with 2:25. At the top of the hill I practically fell forward to get across the finish line, grabbed water while they took my timing chip off of my ankle, and looked up to see Matt shoving the Garmin under my nose: 2:24:56. I couldn’t believe it! I ran the last 2.2 in 18:52 (slower than last time).

I am so proud of how hard I pushed on the course. It was tough but I left everything out there.

Total time was 2:24:56. Finished 1st in AG, 1st female 39 and under, 4th overall 39 & under. And beat Matt ever so slightly :).

golden bears duathlon

A Wife’s Request

I’m currently sitting in the waiting room of an outpatient surgery center in Oakland. I first noticed this office about a week ago when walking to my carpool pickup on my way to work. My back went out again last week, and unable to bike, I was paying more attention to some of the businesses in our new neighborhood. Little did I know that a week later I’d be sitting in the same office waiting for my husband to come out of surgery.

 

I’ve repeatedly made the same plea on this blog and in real life – for motorists to pay attention to cyclists on the road and for cyclists to ride defensively. I’ve witnessed and been the victim of too many accidents. And while all of the accidents I’ve been involved in have been very minor, I can now no longer say the same thing for Matt.

 

Coming home from his first day of work at a new job on Monday, Matt was door checked in a bike lane. With no time to prevent an impact by swerving out of the lane, he was thrown from his bike onto the road. Fortunately, there were no cars driving by at that moment and the resulting damage was minimized.

 

matt's xray

I started writing this post last week sitting in a waiting room, expecting a surgeon to be screwing a plate into Matt’s hand. But within 30 min, the surgeon was standing next to me telling me about the 5 pins they put in his finger instead, showing me how he was able to reconstruct the joint on an X-ray without having to make an incision, and that Matt was waiting for me in the post-op area. I couldn’t believe it.

matt's finger

After a week that was nothing short of chaotic, it was a welcome piece of good news. Since last Monday afternoon, Matt has been dealing with a sprained knee, broken finger, and deep bruising along the entire right side of his body. His hand looked like it belonged to The Hulk until earlier this week and his bruises are still turning colors I’ve never seen on a human body before. But he’s alive. He didn’t hit his head. All of his injuries are mendable with enough time and physical therapy (he’ll be spending the next year working to regain the entire range of motion in his hand and the swelling won’t go away for 6 months).

matt's injuries

These kinds of injuries never happen at the right time – there is no right time. But after spending hours on the phone with a couple of airlines last week, we were able to salvage part of our “summer vacation” and enjoyed some time in Idaho Falls with my family. And we were still able to partake in the craft beer festival in my home town. (The post-op nurse thought I was nuts when I asked how long Matt had to wait before drinking.)

matt at beerfest

Another week out from the injury and a week closer to the pins coming out of Matt’s hand has helped us start to get into a new schedule. Learning to help Matt do his hair and getting up earlier to walk Pepper before leaving for week has kept things interesting. But every day I think to myself that we’re so lucky it wasn’t worse than it was. Matt could have hit his head. An oncoming car could have hit him. It all could have turned out worse. So I consider us lucky.

matt's hand

But that doesn’t mean I’m not angry about the lack of attention drivers afford cyclists. I’m well aware that some cyclists don’t ride safely and don’t behave well on the road. But Matt and I are not those cyclists. He was door checked in a bike lane. (I honestly think bike lanes are actually more dangerous for cyclists.) I’ve blogged before about every cyclist having a story – being someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, father, mother – and this time, the cyclist affected was my husband.

post-surgery

So again I make a plea: please please please cyclists and drivers be aware of each other. Respect each other. And remember it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep the roadways safe.

ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report: Amy Do

Runner Report Logo

The ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors are excited to bring you our “ZOOMA Napa Valley Runner Report!” Each week we’ll be featuring a ZOOMA Napa Valley half marathon or 10K runner on each of our blogs. As women runners, we want to use our role as Ambassadors to highlight and share the stories behind the incredible women preparing to run ZOOMA in June. Each runner has a special and unique story, and we invite you to learn about our runners through this series. Please feel free to click through the links at the end of each post to read about additional ZOOMA racers.

ZOOMA Napa Valley Ambassadors

Runner Report: Amy Do

amy do

Age: 46

Current City: Cupertino, CA

Race: half

Why are you running ZOOMA Napa Valley?

Beside racing, I often do lot of pacing for many pace teams in the Northern California.  I am the 2:20 pacer for the ZOOMA Napa Valley and can’t wait to see and support all the runners.

When & why did you start running? 

I started running about 3 years ago with my family mainly with my kids.  As the kids get more busy with school and activities, I started to train for the half, full, and triathlon.

How many races have you done & which was your favorite?

I have about 40 races in the book.  My favorite race was the Brazen Hellyer Half Marathon earlier this year.  The weather at the start was stormy, but I decided I am going to run and have fun regardless.  By midway, I saw a friend was struggling, I decided to pace her in.  At the finish, the sun was out shining above us as we both ended the race with great experience.

If you could pick one celebrity to run with, who would it be & why?

Definitely Tom Hanks.  His movie, Forest Gump is one of my favorite movies.  He is a great actor and seems to be very down to earth.

What is your favorite running memory?

Surprisingly my most favorite running was the one I struggled at the first two miles at the San Diego Half Marathon last year.  Without proper warm up, both of my legs stiffened up like pieces of wood.  I stopped at the aid station and massaged my calves and decided to keep on running.  Soon after I found myself feeling quite good and decided to run faster and faster to make up time and I actually finished close to my PR.  Never give up!

What is your one running must-have?

Sunscreen

What is your favorite post-run indulgence?

A warm bowl of pho noodle soup.

Who is your running inspiration?

My husband Linh Nguyen who is pacing Zooma Napa 1:40 group is my running inspiration.  Regardless how busy he is, he makes time for healthy active style.  He manages a run group that is not only helpful runners get together and encourage runners to donate their time, and give back to the community through volunteering.

What is the most important lesson you have learned from running?

Running has an endless goal.  The most important lesson you learn is that it is an individual sport but you also need to have team effort to get you through the training journey as well as a better execution come race day.

Are you running ZOOMA Napa Valley and would like to be featured in our Runner Report series? Email runningonwaffles@gmail.com for more information!