San Francisco Half Marathon (A Race to Love)

Racing opportunities thin out during the summer in southern Arizona, so I kept my eyes open for events in cooler locales. I had several friends who were heading up to the San Francisco Marathon and Half Marathon, and I decided to join them. My husband Ted and I volunteered to drive our fuel-efficient Hyundai Elantra and Keith and Monica were game to travel with us. We decided to break the 880-ish mile trip into two days with a stopover in Bakersfield.

We crammed ourselves, luggage, and a couple week’s worth of snacks into the car, and waved goodbye to hundred-degree temperatures for a few days. Before we even left town, we ended up doubling back for sunglasses and a cell phone (the names of the forgetful parties have been withheld). A harbinger of other things to come… Finally, we were on out way, and our GPS (hereafter referred to as Dot) was plugged in and ready to navigate.


Driving was pretty uneventful for a while, which is a good thing. We broke into our snacks and talked about our goals for the race. Monica wanted to break two hours. Keith, who averages over a marathon a month, had set a PR of 3:01:18 a few weeks ago and was feeling good. Personally, I was just wanting to go under 1:45 (My PR is 1:40:03). I knew it was a hilly course, and my training had been very short-distance focused lately. I had met my goal of breaking 21 minutes in a 5K and simply looking forward to getting out of town and having fun. We stopped in Phoenix for lunch and took few more pit stops along the way. It’s funny, no matter how much food you pack for a trip, you always want to buy more. Monica bought some gummy octopi, which led to her sharing this video with all of us: Warning: Watch only if you like obnoxious things.


Standing outside the General Patton museum at a California rest stop.

Keith brought his Sirius radio, and we listened to some classic rock and old school, “new wave” alternative music while it was sunny out. As night fell, our moods mellowed, and we dialed in Sirius XM Love. Easy 70’s tunes abounded, which was fine for everyone except Ted. Then it happened. The moment that set the tone for the rest of the trip. Minnie Ripperton. Loving you. Tweeting birds. La la la la! La la la la! La la la la la la la la la! Doo doo doo doo doo! And… ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh! Yes, we sang. And it sounded awful. Runner’s lungs are not necessarily singer’s lungs. Our vocal chords strained and sputtered. But there was lots and lots of love in the car, and we dubbed this the road trip of love to the city of love. We were still feeling it when we arrived at our Bakersfield Super 8 super late that night.

Keith, Monica, and I met in the morning for an easy five-miler before we hit the road again. It was slightly cooler than in Tucson, which was nice. After we hit the road, Keith handed us his iPhone so we could hook it up to the auxiliary, and Minnie’s high notes poured through the speakers. The miles rolled by, and I gave Dot the expo address and she dutifully took us to Treasure Island. We saw a marina with a lot of expensive boats, but nothing that looked like a convention center. Then I realized that I had chosen the wrong zip code. Oops. We made our way back over the bridge and right into the heart of downtown San Francisco. Dot did her best to guide us, but the GPS signal frequently got lost amid the tall buildings, so some of her instructions weren’t very timely.

We were about to give up on the expo for that day and just head to the motel, when we passed several people carrying marathon bags and saw the convention center. When we arrived, we decided to split up so we could each look at what we wanted to. I started searching my purse for my phone to make sure I had everyone’s number, and I couldn’t find it. I frantically emptied my whole purse on the floor,and it wasn’t there. This amused some people… Ted had his phone, so he was stuck with me for a while.


Yeah… I keep a lot of stuff in there.


To paraphrase Templeton the rat from the first animated Charlotte’s Web movie, the expo was a veritable smorgasbord, and I tried almost everything. Bars, snacks, bars, drinks, chews, bars… Apparel, massagers, hydration systems, and all the usual stuff was present. I ended up buying a Tiger Tail and some sunglasses. Keith, who is an Ambassador for the race, met up with his fellow Ambassadors at their booth. He was also interviewed by a local news station because he had been at the Boston Marathon. We also messed around at the TRX station. Photo ops abounded.


Because Keith was an ambassador, he was invited to a special dinner at a Thai restaurant and we were able to come as guests. The food was delicious and plentiful. After dinner, we walked around by the waterfront. The Bay Bridge was lit up beautifully. I had brought my sweater, but I still felt chilly.


We decided to drive around so we could see the Golden Gate bridge and get a feel for the course, which went right over it. When we turned around in the little park, the bottom of the car scraped on something, and one of the underguard thingamajigs came loose (are you overwhelmed by my automotive knowledge?). Ted and Keith wrestled with it for a while, and were eventually able to completely detach it. More Minnie was needed… Ah, feel the love.


We spent the next day at the Expo, and then Ted, Monica, and I took a side trip to Sports Basement, where I scooped up some running and tri gear and Ted got a free beer. Then we stopped at Trader Joe’s for some lunch salads and more snacks. I ended up finding my phone in one of my other bags. Who knows why I had put it there instead of my purse.

We decided that it would be fun to go to Little Italy for our pre-race dinner, so we piled into the car (people who live in the area might be laughing at us right about now). All of the parking lots in the area were full. Roads were blocked off due to some kind of street fair. Dot sounded annoyed as she repeatedly told us she was “Recalculating.” Traffic was congested. Dot faded in and out, and gave us our directions after we had already passed the turns. We drove up and down some of those crazy, steep hills that you see in the movies. An hour and a half later, we returned to the motel and ate pizza at a place across the street. I ended up having a veggie pizza sub and a salad.

It was another really cold evening, and I was regretting not bringing warmer bottoms to the race. I decided to ask the front desk for trash bags, figuring I could wear them to keep warm before the start. The desk guy raised his eyebrows, but gave me the bags. Monica kindly gave me a pair of throwaway gloves and let me borrow one of her fleece jackets. I had at least had the foresight to bring some tube sock “arm warmers” to toss.

I set my alarm for 3:20 the next morning. Bruce and Terri, who are also from Tucson but were staying elsewhere, kindly offered to drive me and Keith to the start. Ted was going to drive Monica to her start because she was running the second half of the course and didn’t have to get up as early. Bruce and Terri were also having problems with their GPS, but we made our way to the start in plenty of time. Security looked through our bags, but it didn’t take very long. It was a cool morning, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. With my extra layers and garbage bag, I was completely fine.



*******************Skip if you don’t care about potty stuff********************************

Being an Ambassador, Keith was able to wait inside a restaurant and drink nice beverages and use plumbed toilets. Meanwhile, I made my way to the port-o-potties, and thankfully didn’t have to wait in line. If you have read my other race reports, you might have picked up on the fact that when it comes to the solid stuff, I usually have to go early and go often. This morning, nothing. Not at the hotel. Not in the plastic blue facility. Not even after taking a caffeinated Clif shot. It must have been that pizza sub. I don’t normally eat white bread. I knew that white flour can be used to make paste. Add some gummy cheese, and well, you get the point.


I put Monica’s fleece in my gear check bag and headed toward the second corral. The air was cool, but I was fine in my tank and arm warmers. I also chucked my trash bag. It was crowded at the beginning, but I didn’t have to weave too much. My mental DJ cued up Republica’s “Ready to Go”.

It’s a crack, I’m back yeah standing
On the rooftops shouting out,
Baby I’m ready to go!

Because I wasn’t feeling the need to be aggressive in this race, I was fine with a slow start. I hit the first mile mark in 8:16. We ran along the waterfront, which was beautiful. The next couple miles were just under 8 minutes, then in the 7:40 range. The aroma of sourdough permeated the air. There was a steep climb as we approached the bridge. Now, My Chemical Romance’s “Famous Last Words” coursed through my head. I am not afraid to keep on living… That mile was run in 8:36.

Now for the highlight of the course: running on the Golden Gate Bridge. While it was still crowded and I needed to make sure I didn’t crash into anyone, I made sure to look to the side from time to time and take in the view. I had discarded the “arm warmers” and gloves by this time. The air was cool, but it felt wonderful. I saw Keith making his way back across the bridge around mile seven. There was some gentle ascending and descending, but I didn’t feel like it made that much difference in my pace or effort. At the end of the bridge, we ran into the park for the turn-around and then ran back across. A live band played some classic southern-style rock. I was feeling really, really good and decided I’d try to push the pace a little. Cascada’s “San Francisco” was in my head now. I had recently taught it in RPM, and well, I was in San Francisco. At least “Loving You” did not make an appearance. 

19913_4294477140486_1286549467_nAfter leaving the bridge, we headed inland a bit. After a sharp ascent, there was a nice view of the houses below. Then it was time to fly down a long, steep hill.  The last couple of miles were more up and down, emphasis on the up. I was still feeling good, and cranked up my effort and started passing some people. I saw someone with a sign that said “Lauf, Micha, Lauf!” I speak a little bit of German, and pretended that the sign was specifically encouraging me to run.

264894_4294477260489_1691156455_nAs I approached the finish line, I was passed by one person, and I decided to see if I could reel him in. I dug in and went for it, and I got him. My chip time was 1:43:17, and I was really happy with it. Ted and Monica had been able to see everything from the sidelines and got some great shots.


Behind the guy in gray…


Not anymore

I met up with Ted and Monica and got my dry clothes at bag check. While the weather 1005875_3280320263584_1794908932_nhad been perfect for running, it was a bit cool for just standing around. I picked up some Greek yogurt at the finish, which was delicious. I appreciated that they provided something with some protein. Soon it was time for Monica to line up for the Second Half, and Ted a I took a long walk to the car and drove to the finish line. 

Keith finished his marathon in an impressive 3:03:49, while Monica was happy with her 2:06:12. Bruce gutted out a 4:55:32 for his fifth marathon this year. I never saw one of our other Tucson friends, Brian, on the trip, but I saw that he won his age group with a 1:23:46. I ended up seventh in my age group of 431, which was a pleasant surprise. We headed to Pizza Orgasmica for some post-race fueling. Was it as good as it sounds? A lady doesn’t eat and tell 😉


After lunch, it was back into the car and we headed to Bakersfield. When we asked Dot to take us to a Mexican restaurant that had been recommended by a local, she led us to a cemetery. Tall buildings weren’t the problem this time, so we banished her to the glove box for the rest of trip. On the way home, we refueled at a Love’s (where else?) travel stop.

This race was one where I was able to simply enjoy being a runner. I came into it without any real expectations, pressure, or plans. I just let my body do what it felt like doing and enjoyed the moment. Sometimes the fact that running is a celebration of being healthy and alive can get lost in the splits and mileage logs. Any day that I can move on my own power in a new and beautiful place is a good day indeed.

Race data:

Meet Me Downtown 5K

It was the final Southern Arizona Roadrunners race before the summer break, so why not embrace the hundred-degree heat and have an evening race while the sun is still out? Two thousand and thirty four people besides myself evidently thought this was a fine idea. I arrived around five to help with registration, and it was a good thing because the table was swamped with people signing up at the event. We were only accepting cash and check, and constantly having to answer “I don’t know,” when people asked where the nearest ATM was. A free mile run was also being held, and several people signed up for that as well. I saw a few people from my office building at the race, which was a nice surprise.

We were partially shaded as we worked the tables, but definitely felt the heat. Standing and sweating for an hour and a half before a race probably isn’t the best thing to do, but sometimes you have to take one for the team. We got some relief volunteers with about twenty minutes to start, so I dropped my stuff off in the car and managed to get a warm-up mile in (“warm-up” sounds funny on a day like this). I really had to pee, but with the lines at the port-o-potties, I knew there was no way I’d make it in time.

Waiting in the crowd for the race to start was extra toasty. Something about being around all of those warm bodies? I could also feel the heat from the asphalt seeping through the bottoms of my shoes. This race was the first leg of the Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown. Gabe was a local runner who had been killed in the January 8th shooting targeting Gabby Giffords. Gabe’s father thanked the crowd for for coming out and encouraged everyone to have a great race. It was a poignant reminder to appreciate every day that we’re able to do the things we love and see the people we love.

The course was flat and would probably be very fast if this race was held at a cooler time of year. Still, last year I was only two seconds off my PR at this race (21:27), so I was hopeful that I could do well again. My new PR, which I had just set three weeks ago, was 20:43. I took off at what felt like a good pace, and navigated the congestion. Some of the downtown residents sprayed us down with hoses, which provided welcome (if brief) relief. The song “Running On Empty” rattled around my head, but I pushed it out in favor of “Running Down A Dream.” It was only the first mile, for crying out loud! This eventually gave way to “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Hot? Yes! Sticky? Yes! Sweet? Eh, maybe.


After the first mile, I started passing several wilting people. The split was 6:47, which was not quite my 6:40 PR pace. I resigned myself to the fact that a new best would probably not be forthcoming today. I passed Ragnar teammate Steve O., and I hit the next mile at 6:54. Bah! I did some back-and-forth with a girl wearing aquamarine. While the course was relatively flat, there was a definite incline toward the end and I felt every inch. I heard someone cheer for me, but I wasn’t sure who. At least I didn’t feel the urge to pee anymore.


I mustered up a kick at the end, but it wasn’t much. I had been involved in a hard-fought rundown at the end of the aquathlon a few days before, and had managed to scrape out the lead. It was one of those rare, fun, amazing, yet agonizing times where I wasn’t sure how I was able to run with the force that I had. I think my brain was feeling a little rebellious and not wanting to go there again so soon. So, in the final straightaway, I was passed by aquamarine, Steve O., and a few other guys. Crud! I was a little disappointed in myself, but my heart rate was also a little on the high side for the end of a 5K, so maybe I had given most of what I could for that day. My chip time was 21:15, which was good enough for second in my age group after the overall winners were taken out of the age group ranks.


Race data:

Tempe International Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

After finishing my goal 5K, it was time to start thinking about October’s Half Ironman. I had three Olympic distance tris planned leading up to it, and Tempe International was first on the list. It was only my second ever open water tri (and my first since last August). My running has been fast and consistent, but very short-distance focused. My first Olympic race was at altitude on my old bike with standard wheels in just under 2:45. My goal for this race was somewhere between 2:35 and 2:40.


1) Heat.

2) Not having swum in open water in nine months.

3) Heat!

I set my alarm early enough to have my normal Greek yogurt, berry, and granola breakfast and some hot, black tea. I was able roust my husband without too much effort, and we piled into the car. The route we had chosen had been coned off, so he let me and the bike off at the side of the road. I walked about a quarter of a mile, racked my bike, picked up my timing chip, and then realized that I had left the extra bag with my hydration and pre-race food in the car. I called my husband and asked him to bring it, but he was still looking for a place to park. Thankfully, I was able to get a bottle of water to empty into my aero bottle so I would at least have something to drink on the course. My bike handling skills still aren’t great, so I had planned on drinking my calories, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. I was also worried that not being able to eat my pre-race food would lead to a serious bonk. Still, since my wave was scheduled to go off about an hour after the official start of the race, I was hopeful that I would be reunited with my food, uh husband, beforehand.

An announcement was made that the race would be wetsuit legal (the water temp was 77 degrees), and I was happy about that. I was a little concerned that I might get hot in my full suit, but I wanted the flotation benefits, so I was going to risk it. My husband found 942303_4167198798607_1445839812_nme and handed me my feed bag. Fuel time! The temperature was creeping up, and there was an announcement that the start of the race was going to be pushed back because the streets hadn’t been fully barricaded yet. On the plus side, there was ample time to use the facilities and I took advantage.

I got the bottom half of my wetsuit on, but left the top off until it was almost time to start because I wanted to stay as cool as possible. This was the fourth time I had worn it and I was able to slither in without too much difficulty. I saw my friend Paul from last year’s running camp and wished him well. He’s done some Ironmans, but today he was racing the sprint. It’s always fun when you bump into people at a race.

Swim  (

26:47 | 1500 meters | 1m 34s / 100 yards (This time includes some of the transition time. Actual time in the water 25:39)
Age Group: 1/14
Overall: 78/296

My age group was given pink caps, and I heard the announcer call the pink group. I started to head toward the starting area, but then I realized that it was only for the sprint athletes. That could have been a major mistake… The rest of the sprint waves started one by one, then there was a break as the kayakers got into place for the Olympic swimmers. After we were called, our group had a couple of minutes to bob around in the water before the start. There weren’t a crazy amount of people in my wave, so decided to move toward the front of the group. And we were off!


The course was fairly simple; I just needed to make sure that I didn’t swim past the buoy or drift too far away. The water felt good, and I tried to swim smooth and217339_4167198638603_46040761_n strong, but not too fast. There was some contact, but nothing bordering on assault. As I was still on my way out, I passed some red and green caps from earlier waves, which was fun. At times I found myself going wide and had to adjust. I’m still not very good at sighting (maybe because I don’t practice…). I was able to cut close to the turnaournd buoy because it wasn’t too crowded. The water still felt cool toward the end of the swim, which was a relief. When my hands finally touched the sand, I stood and checked my watch and was happy with my time. Somehow I even ended up with the top swim time for my age group. I’ve done enough tris to know that I am not a premiere swimmer, but sometimes funny things happen with small sample sizes.

T1: 2:02

There was a long run up a hill to get to the transition area. The wetsuit came off much more easily than it had at my last open water tri. I applied some sunscreen and took off with my bike.


Making faces makes the wetsuit come off faster.

Bike  (

1:16:49 | 25 miles | 19.41 MPH
Age Group: 7/14
Overall: 168/296

This was my first triathlon with my new race wheels. My Cateye hadn’t read cadence since I got them, so I spent some of the bike leg thinking of “Love in an Elevator” and its 93 BPMs. I kept in the neighborhood of 20 MPH for the first bit, which made me happy. I was also able to keep in the aero position for the most part. Still, I got passed by several cyclists, including a woman wearing polka-dot tri shorts.This led to the Polka-Dot Door (a TV show from my childhood) theme song running through my head. Thankfully, this gave way to Van Halen’s “Right Now” (another 93 BPM song) and “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America. Peaches sounded mighty tasty, but I had to settle for some Power Bar bites that I had put in my bento box. I was able to eat a couple of them while riding, which I had never done before (yeah, I should have practiced before race day). Small victory for me!


OK, so I didn’t stay in the aero bars during the turns…

The course was a repeat of two loops, although they weren’t really loops. There were all kinds of turns and bridges going this way and that. It was nice seeing my husband as I wound past the underpass to start the next loop. I definitely slowed down my second time through and was passed by some more people. My cycling holds up alright in local sprint tris, but seriously lags in Olympic races. It’s definitely something that I need to work on before I do my Half Ironman this fall. I hoped that I’d be able to pass a lot of them back on the run.

T2: 1:44

I took a little extra time in T2 to re-apply sunscreen. I alse grabbed a small handheld water bottle that I had brought because of the heat.


Run  (

51:24 | 6.2 miles | 8:16 min/mile
Age Group: 2/14
Overall: 97/296

Ah, the run. My strongest leg. Time to reel ’em in, or so I thought. I passed a few people early on and finished my first mile in 7:51. I was feeling really good about breaking 1:40 and thought maybe I’d be right around 1:35. There was a portion of the course where we had to go down a flight of stairs, which I was not used to doing in a race, and run under the overpass. I took some water from the volunteers and it was back into the sun. Around the second mile, the wheels started to fall off. Although I had run some 13-milers the past few months, my 5K-focused training had not prepared me for the distance combined with the heat. I started to feel like I had felt in the latter miles of my last marathon. Why, why, why do you do this? I asked myself. It felt like a death-trudge. I passed some more people, but some people passed me as well. Part of the course was on dirt, which made me even slower. I just wanted it to be over. Not dead, can’t quit, not dead, can’t quit… 


One thing that helped make the run bearable was the abundance of ice-cold water stops. I would have been fine without my handheld bottle at this race. The song “Fire Burning” played at one of the aid stations:

Somebody call 911!
Shawty fire burning on the dance floor

Yeah, I was burning up all right. When I had to go down the stairs again, it was a slow walk. I didn’t trust my wobbly legs. The mile splits kept getting slower and slower. I was just hoping to make it under 1:40 now. And to not walk. Boy, did I want to. Finally, the end was in sight, which meant running up a hill to the finish. I squeezed out a little more effort and finished feeling like I wanted to vomit.

I grabbed some watermelon and headed to T3 (lie down and transition from dead-tired triathlete to functional human being). When I examined my feet, I had a pretty good blister from the run. I also severely burned the back of my neck (or maybe it was wetsuit chafing?). It was a very tough race, and while I know it’s short for all of the Iron Folks out there, two-and-a-half-plus hours feels long to me.


Wake me up, before you go-go.

Overall, I was pleased with my time and know that by focusing more on longer distances, I won’t fade so badly during the run. It was good enough for 2nd in my age group, although I should mention that if I had been in the age group directly above or below, I wouldn’t have placed. You just never know who is going to show up at any given race.


Final time: 2:38:48
Overall: 109 / 296
Age Group: 2 / 14

Tucson 5000

This is it. The big race. The culmination of 5-plus months of training. Twenty or so minutes to lay it on the line and not screw up. Optimistic much, Michelle? I was actually feeling really good about this race. I had a great 10K the week before and felt that my goal of running under 21 minutes was well within my grasp, but anything can happen out on the course.

Thanks to Body Pump, I had been listening to a techno cover of Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” by some group called Red Beans and Rice on the way to the race. Not a bad song to run to, though, so I was resigned to having it stuck in my head. I got my number, had a Chocolate Cherry Clif Shot, and headed out for my warm-up miles. I passed one of the park bathrooms on my run and decided to duck in. It was far enough away from the start that there weren’t any lines. On the way back, I used it again. Nerves, I guess.

The course is a flat rectangle around a local park and attracts local PR seekers and even some out-of-state talent. As we lined up, the announcer gave us 35-39 year old females good news: the blazing fast former Olympic Trials marathon runner Paula just had just aged up. I started near the front and after some weaving through people was off at a good clip. I could see speedy masters runners Michelle H. and Merry ahead, and figured if I stayed near them, I’d be doing well. They had both run well under 21 minutes the year before. I hit the first mile at 6:49 and felt good.

In the second mile, I caught up with Michelle H. who was trying to pace a friend to a sub-21. I ended up passing them and enjoyed it, full well knowing that I’ll probably never pass her again. I ended up passing Stu and Merry as well. Stu is still coming back from injury and Merry as having one of those off days that all runners get from time to time. I did a quick swig-and-splash at the water station. The mile 2 split was 6:39.


I was still feeling good, but I knew that I was getting close to that point where I wouldn’t be. A few friends were cheering on the side of the road, which is always nice. I was running hard, but I felt like I could run harder, but at the same time, I just couldn’t. Does that make any sense? Edge of Glory was still in my head, along some rotating mantras. Choose it, Kick it, No mercy! Sometimes in races I need to remind myself that this is what all the training has been leading up to and I had better not waste the opportunity. I sped up toward the end. Hang on, the finish line is in sight. All of a sudden, I heard loud footsteps behind me, and I picked up my pace some more. I fought hard to stay ahead, but was overtaken at the last second. A little disappointing, but my official time was 20:43, well under 21 and a big improvement from the 21:25 PR I had set at this race last year.


Couldn’t hold him off!

After the race, a guy who had read my Tailwinds article introduced himself which was pretty cool. My coach had also come down from Phoenix to watch his brother race, so I got to chat with him as well. I also have to give a shout-out to my amazing friend Keith who ran a PR of 18:21 the weekend after a double marathon. I won’t say how old is is, but let’s just say his twenties are in the rear view mirror. I ended up getting first in my age group and an insulated coffee tumbler.


Race Data:

Cinco de Mayo 10K

The Cinco de Mayo 10K holds a special place in my heart. Twelve years ago, I made the transition from a  fitness runner who raced occasionally to someone who actively trained in pursuit of faster times. Cinco was my first serious race and 50 minutes (about an 8-minute mile pace) was my goal. I ran it in 55:55 (8:59 pace). It took me five years to break 50 with a time of 49:51. This year, my sights were set on cracking 45. All of my 10K PRs have been set at this race, despite it being a hilly course, because I’m usually in good shape this time of year. I call it my A-minus race of the spring.

It was a warm morning, but May in Tucson could definitely be worse. Ultimate suffering The competitive 10K started at 7, and I arrived in time do a mile and a half warmup and duck behind some bushes before heading to the starting line. I chatted with a few friends, but soon it was time for business. I headed out at what felt like a strong 10K pace and hit the first (net uphill) mile at 7:05. “Let’s Get It Started,” which had been playing before the race, rolled around in my head. If I could just keep that pace, I’d be golden. As I thought about how I might feel, look, and sound toward the end, an image of Inigo Montoya talking about ultimate suffering flashed through my mind. Time to run like your father was slaughtered by a six-fingered man, girlie!

I saw my friend Stu around mile two. Will he stop to have a Gu? Who makes his running shoe? Argh! No more rhyming and I mean it! Anybody want a peanut? Alright, no more Princess Bride references. May I live a thousand years and never hunt again. As a woman caught up to him, he said “Good job Kristen.” When I pulled up alongside, he said “Good job, Michelle,” which caused the other girl to say, “Oh, I’m Kristen?” We hit a downhill section of the course, which was a pleasant break. “Love in an Elevator” was in my head now. ♪Living it up as I’m running down…♪ The course is an out-and-back, and I saw the lead man 2.66 miles in. I also started passing some of the walkers who had started a half hour earlier.


After the turn-around, I got into a back-and-forth thing with Not-Kristen. I felt like I was keeping a consistent effort and wished she’d either pass me for good or stop trying. After I pulled ahead for about the sixth time, I didn’t see her again. The road turned, and it was head-on into the wind. I mentally chanted: “I must! I must! I must defeat this gust!” I had spend a lot of my recent evening workouts fighting the wind, so I was prepared for the battle. Soon, I hit the long downhill section of the course, and it was time to fly.


Once things flattened out again, the song “Running on Empty” popped into my head, which was fitting. This is where racing becomes as much mental as physical. With the events of Boston still fresh in my mind, I felt really grateful to be out there and I was determined to stay strong and run my best. ‘Cuz I can (mental DJ, cue Pink).

In the distance, I could hear the announcer’s voice say “Second female finisher. Third female finisher.” Was I that close to the front? I picked up my pace and finished in 44:01, sixth woman overall and second in my age group. I had more than exceeded my expectations time-wise, but was just a little disappointed that I had been so close to 43 minutes. I don’t like to stare at my watch when I’m running; I’ll quickly check my pace and overall time on occasion, but run by feel for the most part. Still, maybe someone should invent a feature that would shout at you if you were close to a certain time: “Hey you, stop lollygagging! Pick it up and you’ll break 44!” Or not.

I grabbed some fruit and a burrito and stashed them in my car before heading out for an additional 4.5 miles. I made it to the awards ceremony right before they announced my age group. I now have a third Cinco de Mayo 10K margarita glass for my collection. Overall, I was really happy with the race and it gave me a shot of confidence going into my A race the next weekend.

Race Data:

Cross Country Classic 5K

I like a race with bands, fireworks, and other distractions, but sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics. The Spring Cross Country Classic is an inexpensive, no-frills race. Instead of an event shirt, participants are free to grab leftovers from other races. The post-race food is a potluck (beer is provided, however). Due to park construction, the course seems to change every few years, but hills, gravel, grass, and sand are a constant. This is not a course for PRs.

I was looking forward to seeing my friends who had run Boston and giving them big hugs. Some were running today, and others were there just to support those who were and enjoy this wonderful, crazy community that we’re part of.

The men got to run at 7:30 while the women started at 8:15. I needed to get some warm-up miles in, so I headed to the high school next to the park. There were a bunch of boys in football uniforms getting ready to play, but I got the OK to run around the track. My husband once commented that small children in large helmets look like scrubbing bubbles, and these kids were no exception.

Since it was an all-female field, I lined up at the front. I went out hard and fast to avoid getting bottlenecked during the trail portion. I had learned that lesson the hard way in the past. It paid off, and I was able to run my own pace as we wove through the narrow path. I felt good and hit the first mile at 7:02, which was better than I expected. Next, it was around the soccer fields and where I grabbed a cup at the only water station. Then it was up a sandy hill, and all of the goodness I had been feeling abandoned me.


Back to the dirt road, which was lined cheering male runners.That lifted my spirits a little bit. Thanks, guys! As I naviagted the twists and turns, I was passed by my friend Merry (not in my age group, whew). Two other women also surged ahead, and I later learned the only reason that they were behind me in the first place was because they had gotten off course earlier.


Merry (in the yellow) getting ready to pounce.

There was some deep dirt and gravel in the second mile, which only compounded the ookiness I was feeling. Merry and the other women had pulled pretty far ahead at this point, and I started having one of those “Why am I doing this?” moments. With what happened in Boston so fresh in my mind, I started thinking about people who had lost limbs* and would give anything to be out running in the sunshine, legs and lungs aflame. I’m doing this because I can. Savor the moment, enjoy the gift. All in. Guts, guts, guts.

With about a half mile to go, I saw a guy in an Enron shirt. I sure hope he wasn’t in charge of the race results… As I rounded the final corner, Tim, who was announcing the race, commented on how well I had been running lately, which made me feel good. The race ened with a slight climb, so my finishing pace wan’t amazing, but I was happy with the effort.

My time of 23:28 was good enough for an age group win. Merry had finished about 20 seconds faster (wow, woman!). I did some cooldown miles, then headed to the potluck. Pickings were slim compared to previous years, but there was a chilled fruit and yogurt salad that tasted divine. All in all, it was a wonderful morning: gorgeous weather, great friends, a satisfying race, and I even got a few compliments on my new running skirt.


Race data:

*While everyone I knew personally was unharmed in Boston, my friend Amy was not so lucky. Her best friend Roseann lost a leg while cheering the runners on. To read her story or contribute to her recovery, please visit

Sabino Canyon Sunset Run

Sabino Mile 0

I must really love endurance sports. I hate waking up early, but I am constantly setting my alarm for 0 dark 37 (yes, I want every minute of sleep I can get) for races. A few times a year, however, a night owl like me gets a treat like the Sabino Canyon Sunset Run. I had a leisurely morning of sipping tea and reading, took a midday swim, and headed to the race. The Canyon is a beautiful spot, popular with walkers, hikers, and runners. There are several trails in the park, but the race course is a paved out-and-back that could be described as pancake flat – if mountains were made out of pancakes.

Because this was an evening race, I was happy to volunteer at the registration table. There was an early start option for the non-competitive runners and walkers, and I handed out those bibs. To keep the line moving, I would frequently shout and point, “Early start see us, regular start see them, fun run, see her.” I wouldn’t be surprised if I uttered those words in my sleep that night.

It was a warm and breezy day. The course starts pitching upwards almost immediately, but it saves its worst for the last .7 miles before the top. I had run 56:28 the year before and my goal was to go under 55. I had no idea if that was a reasonable goal or not. It was just a nice, round number, and a good but not crazy amount of improvement. My friend and rival Kristen, who smokes me in short distances, was running. She and I did some back and forth early on, but eventually I kept the lead. By mile one, we were shaded by the canyon walls. I had spent the week chatting with some Facebook friends about whether or not a twenty year high school reunion was in the works, and had written a parody of the school fight song “Gold and Blue.” Guess what was stuck in my head… That song didn’t even motivate me in high school, but I couldn’t shake it. I did some back-and-forthing with another woman who had a blond braid, and then pulled ahead. My stomach felt a little cranky. I suppose one of the downsides to a late afternoon race, is figuring out how to plan the eating for the day so that you’re fueled but not filled. There are several bridges along the course, and in rainy years, water flows over. That wasn’t an issue this year, but the rapid tempo adjustments was one more challenge on an already tough course.


When I hit the three mile mark, my strategy was to hammer hard, knowing that my heart and lungs would get a chance to recover once I started downhill. I see this race as a 3.7 miler, followed by 2 or so miles of a semi-cooldown, then a hard finish. I did what I could, but it was so steep I felt like I was limited in how hard I could push because I was running so slowly. Finally, I reached the top, grabbed a water cup, and tossed it neatly in an open garbage bag on the way back down. Now it was time to fly. I ended up passing Jeff, who is a much better runner than I am, so I figured he wasn’t feeling good (he wasn’t). Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life” had replaced “Gold and Blue” in my head, and I was thankful. The bridges weren’t too much of a problem on the way down. There was so much downhill running that it was actually kind of fun to power up those short inclines.


WIth about a mile to go, things started to get challenging again. There’s a steep hill, a descent, and then fairly level ground to the finish. I fished for a mantra. I started with “Suck it up,” but I didn’t like the way it worked with the rhythm of my footfalls. I shortened it to “Suck it,” but that just sounded wrong. The blond braided woman had overtaken me by this time. She had a good lead, but was still in sight, so I decided to use “Blond braid.”

I had done a long run with a fast mile at the end with my friend Keith the week before. He had complemented me on my finishing kick, and I decided that I at least had to try to chase her down. I could also almost hear him giving me form pointers like he had during the run. Blond braid. Fast turnover. Blond braid! Use your butt. BLOND BRAID! I was gaining. I pushed hard and felt strong. According to the Garmin, I was running a 5:24 pace at the finish, but I ran out of room and she finished five seconds ahead of me. My time was 55:07, which was good enough for first in my age group and very close to my goal. I was really happy with the run, but wishing that I had started that kick just a little sooner…

Race data:

Tucson Triathlon

I enjoy getting “Word of the Day” emails, even though some of them are pretty obscure. Try working clepsydra (water clock) into a conversation organically. Still, there are plenty of gems. One of my recent favorites is swivet: a state of nervous excitement, haste, or anxiety; flutter. Six months had passed since my last triathlon, and I was in a raging swivet.

I knew I was trained. I had been running well. Except for a little lapse around my marathon and over the holidays, I had kept up with my swimming, even on some 24 degree mornings. If there’s such thing as triathlon karma, I deserved a good race just for that, right? I had acquired a shiny new bike since my last race and I was eager to see how she’d do on a flat course. Plus, I had just gotten my fit adjusted and felt much more stable in the aero bars (thank you, Ross). I had done enough of tris by now that I no longer woke up two or three times during the night to throw extra things into my backpack. Still, I had some self-imposed pressure. I had improved my time at each of my five Tri Tucson races and wanted to keep the streak going (1:13:55 was the time to beat). I had placed second in my age group twice, and wanted a first. Plus, there’s also always the possibility of a flat or crash on the bike…

I had been assigned to wave 8, transition which was slated to start around 8:48. All bikes needed to be racked by 6:30, though, so I set the alarm for 5:05. It was a brisk morning (48 degrees is chilly to a near-native Tucsonan), and I was glad that I wasn’t in one of the early waves. I walked back and forth through the racks a few times before I found a place to squeeze my bike in. I got body marked and headed back to the car. Is there any other sport where people’s ages are scribbled on their limbs for the whole world to see? I ate my standard Greek yogurt breakfast, leaned the seat back, closed my eyes, and listened to music for about an hour.

As always, it’s fun to see friends at these events. Kristen, the fast and funny dominator of all things aquathlon decided to make peace with her bicycle and compete. It was Ross’s first race in two years. Caroline, whom I’ve had some close races against lately, was in my wave. I saw fellow RPM instructor Amy and her insanely fast biker husband Wally. Tri Girls Leah and Chrissy weren’t competing, but they were there volunteering and spreading good cheer. Susie came to offer support and kindly took pictures during the race. Jeff showed me where the less crowded bathrooms were. Pat, who’s in her seventies and  a regular in my RPM class, was there to cheer for me and other folks from our gym.

Last year the female race had been won by a Canadian professional, but she wasn’t here this year. There was what looked like a Canadian youth team, or so I gathered by their official looking suits, complete with names across the butt. They ended up finishing toward the top.

I had my caffeinated Clif shot and was amped up. I swam 250 yards in the warmup pool and headed over to the main pool. I think I tend to swim under my abilities at these races. I think it probably has to do with nerves and going out too fast. With running, it’s easy to check your pace and rein it in if necessary, but during the swim it’s like time doesn’t exist.

Swim (unofficial)
13:46 | 825 yards | 01m 40s / 100 yards
Age Group: 6/28
Overall: 89/305

The swim is simple: 33 laps, two to a lane. A volunteer sticks a red sign in the water at lap 32. I also keep count in my head so I have an idea of where I am. We got in the water, and ready, set, go. One lap, two, three… I had been doing some 500 yard straight swims in training, but I hadn’t done an 800 since last tri season. It feels like a time warp. Fifteen, sixteen, start counting down, sixteen, fifteen… At least the laps give me some sense of progress, unlike being in an Endless Pool. I wondered if the Endless Pool folks had ever asked Lionel Richie to make a commercial for them. “My… Endless Pool.” Do other triathletes have Lionel Richie songs in their head during competition? Ten, nine… I saw the red sign in the pool when I figured I had at least 200 yards to go. I popped up at the wall and my watch said 10:22. No way was I done. I was hoping to swim around 13:20 – 13:30. My lane-mate, who had stayed even with me from what I could tell, got out, but I kept swimming. When I saw the sign again, I decided to get out even though I still thought I was short. I have been known to miscount.


I’m in the blue cap

Bike (unofficial, includes transitions)
37:50 | 11.5 miles | 19.4 MPH (estimated speed after taking transitions out)
Age Group: 2/28
Overall: 85/305

Transition was simple and quick enough (for a person who doesn’t do flying mounts, anyway). It took me a couple of seconds to get clipped in and I was off. I checked my Cateye, and it wasn’t showing the cadence field. There are about 10 different data screens and I didn’t want to scroll through them while I was riding, so I let “Love in an Elevator” run through my head. Thanks to teaching Spin classes, I knew that its was a 93 beats per minute song and I tried to pedal in time.

A whole lane was coned of for our use, but as I headed west on Broadway, there was a car in the lane and an officer to its right. If I were to pass on the right, I’d be in traffic, so I maneuvered left. Then the car started to move left, so I slowed way down until it turned onto a side street. I probably lost a few seconds, plus I had to expend a little extra energy to get back to speed. In retrospect, I’m happy that I didn’t get hit. I’m assuming the car didn’t see me. I’m not sure what I should have done – yell something?


There weren’t a lot of bikes on the course, but I passed a few people and vise-versa. Most of the course is smooth, but Euclid still rattles the brain. As I accelerated out of the turn onto Speedway, the phrase wind it up passed through my head. This led to Gwen Steffani’s song “Wind it Up” and eventually to “The Lonely Goatherd.” Mental DJ, what are you doing to me? Give me some power songs, please! I decided to think on “Rag Doll,” another 93 BPM Aersosmith song.

Yes I’m movin’
Yes I’m movin’
Old tin lizzy do it till you’re  dizzy
Give it all ya got until you’re put out of your misery

Better. I was holding the aero position and feeling pretty steady on the smooth sections of the course. I saw one guy running with his bike, probably the victim of a Euclid pinch flat. I was pushing, but was able to breathe deeply. In several previous triathlons, my breathing was sharp and shallow after the swim and stayed that way for most of the ride. Three laps down, and it was back to the transition area, and off for the run.

Run (official)
21:47 | 3 miles | 7:15 min/mile
Age Group: 1/28
Overall: 37/305

I had put my race belt on really quickly, and a volunteer yelled, “Your number is upside down!” I did my best to right the situation without breaking stride. The legs felt funky after the ride, but I’ve done enough tris that I’m used to it now. I started to turn where I’ve turned in the past, and I heard a someone yell, “Go straight, Michelle!” There was some campus construction going on, so they had to tweak the course a bit. I hadn’t noticed it while riding, but my toes felt a little numb. I checked my watch to see how I was doing, and it still showed the little swim icon. Crap. I had pressed stop instead of lap during one of the transitions and not pressed anything during the other, so as far as it was concerned, I was still swimming. It made for a very interesting race file, as most of the bike leg interpreted as backstroke. Even though I had no feedback from the watch, I felt like I had found a good pace.

Run with Caroline

Running with Caroline. Matching pace, matching Tyr gear.

I heard breathing behind me, then Caroline pulled up alongside and passed me. I didn’t feel like I should try to catch her at this point, but I stayed close. There were several shouts of “Go Caroline!” as we ran by. The lady has fans! Keeping my steady pace, I eventually overtook her again. The run was pretty uneventful. I passed some people, and no one else passed me. I was feeling decent, and started to question if I had held back too much. During the last quarter mile I started to feel nauseated, so I guess it was a pretty good effort after all. I was still nursing a little strain from my 10K a few weeks ago, so I didn’t kick hard, but I finished strong. Caroline finished ten seconds later.Finish

I ended up placing second in my age group. The Garmin lap data confirmed that I had only swum 725 yards. I was almost five minutes ahead of third place, so I feel I was a legitimate second despite the swim count mishap. I figured that it would have taken me about 1:41 to swim that extra 100, so I added it to the results to get the unoffical time shown below. I showed small improvements in all three disciplines and kept the streak alive, so I’m happy, even though I didn’t get to go home with the blue towel.

Final time: 1:13:23 (unofficial)
Age Group: 2/28
Overall: 60/305

2nd Place Towel

Midtown Sertoma 10K

I was looking forward to a fast, flat 10K and possibly a PR. My fastest 10Ks have all been run on a hilly course in the heat of May simply because I’m in better shape then than I am for the flatter January races. This was a brand-new 10K that didn’t conflict with any of my other races, so I decided to sign up. I’ve been running well lately, and wanted to see what I could do.

For several days before the race, the forecasters were predicting heavy rain. 80% chance! 90% chance! Have you noticed that percentages seem to mean something different to weather folk? When I hear there’s a 20-30% chance, rainfall is almost certain. Whenever I hear those high numbers, it seems a lot more iffy. Anyhow, I was prepared for a storm, but the day dawned cloudy, cool, and dry.

My friends Keith and Shane were running the 10K, but none of my female friends were there. There was also a 5K race, which would begin after we were sent off. A few minutes before the race, Shane pointed to me and Keith and said “Top male and female winners right here.” I thought about that for a second. There is one pervasive, recurring reason why I have yet to win a race: the other people kept running better*. We have some really speedy ladies in town, but I didn’t see any of the usual suspects today, so maybe, just maybe… I lined up a few feet behind the men, but Keith ushered me up to the front.

Off and Running

I felt pressure to show that I belonged up there, so I started off hard. We ran a lap around the track before heading to the river path, and my split was 1:40. That was faster than my current 5K PR pace, so I slowed down a little, trying to find what felt like a good 10K effort. My goal was to break 45, but it was still mid-season and I was going to run by feel and not stress about time too much for the most part.


The early part of the race was uneventful. Some men passed me, but I remained the top female. Some of the volunteers shouted “First place woman!” as I went by, which was fun. The course was really flat, except for an underpass. Coming up that thing didn’t take too long, but it was sure was steep. Because it was an out-and-back, I knew I’d be hitting it again. A volunteer said “Fluid!” at one of the aid stations and I took a cup without realizing that it was a type of sports drink. I only took a sip and tossed the rest. I don’t normally consume calories during a 10K and I didn’t want to mess with something new.

After two and a half miles, I started wondering when I’d see the men on their way back. Keith, who was in second, ran by me at 2.93 miles. After crossing a bridge, there was a hairpin turnaround and I saw Shane and a few women not too far behind. I had passed a couple men by this time. The sun came out around mile four and I started getting toasty, so I pushed my arm arm warmers down. I felt the slightest hint of a side stitch. I never get those anymore. A Gilbert and Sullivan song popped into my head: “No, never!” “What, never?” “Well, hardly ever!” Then I hit that darn underpass again. It was even less fun the second time around.

Around mile five, the sun ducked behind the clouds again. The pace as starting to wear on me, but I thought I could maintain it. My mental DJ switched between Muse’s “Uprising” and Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out”. Suck it up, buttercupRun on guts. That led to the Office episode where Michael runs a 5K: “…today, I had a triumph of the human body. That’s why everybody was applauding for me at the end, my guts and my heart. And while I eventually puked my guts out, I never puked my heart out. I’m very, very proud of that.”

Home Stretch

As I made my way back to the track for the final half lap, I was still in first. I hadn’t checked behind me, but I could taste the win. I started to pick up the pace, and then a woman blew by me. Something like this shot through my mind: “Excuse me, kind miss. I did not lead for 99% of the race with the intent of surrendering at the end. Begging your pardon, I shall attempt to pass you now.” Alright, it was a bit more coarse and visceral than that. As much as I was hurting, I dug deep and probably ran faster than I have since high school. The final results showed that I won by a second and my Garmin said that I hit a 4:16 minute mile pace at the end. Rage can do wonders.


Everyone Runs races have great food afterwards, and I helped myself to some eggs, refried beans, salsa, a smoothie, and a cup of Earl Grey. I won a certificate for a free pair of Asics. Keith was the second overall man and won some free dry cleaning. He still had certificates from last year’s race, so he gave his prize to me. Shane placed second in his age group. Keith pointed out that because it was a new race, I owned the female course record.

Unfortunately, I left the race with one other memento – a mild adductor strain. Doesn’t that sound classier than groin injury? It bothered me enough that I skipped a planned 5K race this weekend, but I think I’ll be ready for my first triathlon of the year next week. On the bright side, I now have something in common with Sam Malone (

I was two seconds slower than my PR, and I’ll have to wait until May for another chance to break 45, but I still found myself grinning throughout the day. Little old me won a race!

Race data:

*My husband had the Golf Channel on and I was half-listening to David Feherty interview some golfer. They talked about this guy possibly winning a tournament, and then Feherty said something like “There’s one reason I never won. The other people kept playing better.” I’d love to find the exact quote, but Google let me down. Anyhow, this is the sort of thing that amuses me, so I thought I’d paraphrase.

Be Tucson Women’s 5K

Last weekend, several of my friends were off running a 50-mile trail race and various marathons, so I feel a little wimpy talking about my 5K. I have learned that while I enjoy racing up to the half marathon distance, I don’t really like racing marathons and sometimes I feel like a lesser runner because of it. Saying “A 5K” when people ask what you’re training for sounds underwhelming, but enough about my distance insecurity.

This was the first of three 5Ks leading up to my goal race in May, and I was looking forward to running the distance again. I had talked with my coach about it, and the “strategy” was to go out hard and see what I was able to do. Last year’s time was 22:28, and I wanted to go sub-22.

I could rattle off the names of several women in town who run faster than I do, but I didn’t see any of them when I picked up my number. I started to think, Could I actually win a race? Then I saw my friend Jamie, who is much speedier than I am, but she’s been injured. Next I saw Pam, who also usually beats me, but she’s been dealing with injury as well. I visited the potties, had my Chocolate Cherry Clif shot, ran an easy mile, and it was race time.

It was a gorgeous, sunny morning. I’m not the most well-traveled person, but I believe that Southern Arizona in the spring is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I tentatively took my place directly behind the starting line. I like racing with men, but sometimes it’s nice just to compete against the ladies. The course was simple: three loops around an outdoor mall, complete with quick descents and steady climbs.

 Be Tucson Start

The first section was a fast downhill, and I went for it. I was in the lead, and it was strange and exciting. I was wearing my Garmin, but I wanted to set my pace by feel for the most part. I was able to entertain thoughts of winning for about three quarters of a mile until I was passed by the eventual winner. Someone who has more experience leading the pack might have tried to catch her, but it was still early and I wanted to keep running my own pace. I think it was a smart move, because she ended up beating me by almost two minutes.


Getting dropped by the winner

My Garmin beeped at 6:21. I question the accuracy because it was another twenty seconds before I crossed the mile marker and it was also a second faster than I have ever run a stand-alone mile. A couple of other women passed me before we headed back to the steepest downhill section of the course. I surged past one of the women on the decline, but she overtook me again once the course flattened out. Jamie passed me around the mile and a half mark. By this part of the race, I was starting to feel the strain of my fast start. I though about running off course to shop when I passed Ann Taylor (a clothing store, not a person). No, not seriously – they weren’t open yet 😉 I started catching up to the walkers and had to weave through some of them.

Be Tucson

Run now, shop later

My second Garmin mile split was 6:52, which was a lot closer to what I was expecting. This time the incline leading back to the street felt much steeper than before. I started to hear shouts of “Go Caroline,” but I didn’t turn to see how close she was. My mental DJ selected Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” as I tried to stay strong for the last half mile. Jamie was no longer in my sights. 


Down to the wire

My Garmin showed 7:13 for the third mile, and I felt like throwing up by this time. The last part of the race was uphill, and I dug in. I was starting to pick it up as I approached the finish line, and then I heard an announcer say ,”This is going to be a race to the finish.” Somehow I was able to squeeze out a little more and finished less than a second ahead of Caroline. I was fifth overall with a time of 21:55. Even though each mile got progressively slower, I was happy with my race. Sometimes you need to go out hard and test your limits.

Be Tucson Fun Photo

Fast women have good times

I ran a couple of cool down miles, refueled, and chatted with some friends. I also met a few new people whose names I recognized from past race results. There was a “Fun Photo Booth” set up, so some of us grabbed some goofy headbands and got our pictures taken. Free race pictures were posted on Facebook later that day, which is always nice. Out of respect to everyone who was out for an enjoyable morning of shopping that morning, I decided to head home and keep my sweaty self out of the stores. Thank goodness for

I like color blocking

Long live color blocking!

Race data: