IMG_1038It’s been a long time since I last posted, and so much has happened I’ve been wanting to blog about. But alas, lack of time. The biggest thing to happen recently was the culminating event for my last season of Team in Training – the Oakland Half Marathon.

I love the Oakland Running Festival. So far I have “race” in three out of the four years since it started. The first year I did the Marathon Team Relay, the next year I did the 5k, I skipped a year last year and this year I did the half marathon. I love this event so much. It brings me so much Oakland pride. The bling this year was so beautiful and yeah, someday I might join MizFitOnline in getting this image tattooed on my self.

I was happy because I was running this one “with” (I put in quotes because I knew they would finish way ahead of me) my beloved training buddy Lily, as well as with Junior. We went to the race expo the day before to pick up our packets and check out the gear. Always an exciting and fun time.

She IS.
She IS.
Kinda annoyed bc the LARGE was too small... :-(
Kinda annoyed bc the LARGE was too small… 😦
Stopped by to say hi to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan!
Stopped by to say hi to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan!

I also went to my TNT Inspiration lunch, where we got pumped up and remembered why were doing this. I raised over $1500 total for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. After the lunch, I went home and decorated my shirt with the names of my personal honorees.

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So this was my fourth half marathon. (!!!!!) And my second one this year! After coming in with a 3.04 finish time at the Tinkerbell Half, I set in my mind that I wanted to try to finish sub-three hours for this one.  I decided that I was going to try and keep up a good pace throughout and not stop at all (or much).

The half marathon had the latest start I’d ever had at a race – 9:15am. But we got there a lot earlier and were able to see both the start AND the finish of the 5k, and that was super fun. I got to cheer in my couch-t0-5k running buddy Mary, as well as Sofia and her brother James.

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We got to hang around and soak up the general excitement near the start/finish line, and that was cool. I just love the happy, excited energy and races.

ready to go!
ready to go!

We got all lined up and took off. I didn’t really see much of Lily & Junior during the race because, as I said, they are both a lot faster than me. But it was okay. I was pretty happy just running through my city.

Miles 1-8 were, as I had expected, pretty steady and not too hard. But by the time we got to 8-9 (my usual Achilles heel) I was starting to flag a bit, and wondering if I might get some much needed support. Here I got caught by the official race photographers, digging out my phone to text my friend Lisa Marie. I knew she lived nearby and I was hoping to get a glimpse of her for some much needed energy.

calling for help
calling for help


The next stretch was along the Mandela Parkway. It’s a long, potentially lonely stretch and luckily there was some good stuff to pick me up along the way. First, I was out of my mind happy to see Lisa Marie! She was standing on a corner and gave me a quick hug and an encouraging cheer. I SOOOO needed that!

Next, some cool stuff. A fire-shooting Trojan horse thing. It was blasting flames about 20 feet into the sky. I was pretty impressed by that, and had to stop a second to take a picture.

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IMG_1017Then, some cool spectators on this super nifty bicycle umbrella thingie. I don’t know what the heck it was, but what a great vantage point, huh?

THEN a wonderful neighbor lady with a bucket full of orange wedges. OH that made my day! I was very grateful.

IMG_1019Around mile 10 I was passed by my awesome racewalking coach Carolyn. “Is that Susan Ito?” she said, as she sped on by. Dude. I was “running.” She was “walking.” I tried to keep up with her. I tried to catch her. I just could not. DAMN. She’s good.

She was so fast I couldn’t even snap a picture of her swiveling little butt.

Finally we came up upon the lake, which I have run so many times. I thought about how I had had such a tough time on this stretch during the 2010 marathon relay. Lo and behold, I started feeling the same darn tingling in my hands, the same almost-nausea, the utter fatigue. The wall was starting to come up in my face. I had been pretty much running with the same group of people in this last part, and we started giving each other verbal encouragement. We were all going at the same pace and pretty much all gritting it out.

It was hard. Damn it was hard. But I had my eye on my watch and I really wanted to get there under my three hours. I just kept going.

I knew the final tenth of a mile was going to be up a little but not insigificant hill. WHYYYYYY? How cruel is that. You run 26 or 13 miles and then at the end, you have to chug up a hill to get to the finish.

Luckily for me, Junior was sitting on that hill (having finished about an hour ago!). She jumped up when she saw me and ran next to me. You got this mama! I started getting all crumbly and emotional. I am pretty sure I was crying. She held my hand. She might have even pulled me up the hill. When we got to the very final flat spot before the finish, I broke off and SPRINTED in. I was feeling so… RAWR. See?

finish lineThen it was over. I had a tiny little episode of almost-asthma. I was all wheezy for a minute. Then I got myself together and got my medal and found my peoples and found a bathroom (um, with NO TP. BOOOOO. So I had to run outside and find a copy of the Wall Street Journal, which I used instead. Haha) and then collapsed on the ground with our beautiful medals.

IMG_1021Then I found my buddy Estelle who had just completed her leg of the relay. How cool to see her there!

IMG_1027Then I saw my coach Al from Team in Training (“I knew you could do it!” he said) and I got some chocolate milk and my 13.1 Finishers’ Pin from the team manager at the TNT table.

IMG_1032 IMG_1033By then I was in a pretty jovial mood. I figured out that I had beat my PR by a whole bunch. My last PR was 3:04, and I finished this one in 2:49. Fifteen minutes! Woo hoooooo! Time to celebrate!

IMG_1036We gathered up our friends and family and headed over to Barney’s Burgers. I haven’t had a milkshake, in like, YEARS, but I was ready and felt very deserving. Lily and I split a Turkish coffee shake and enjoyed every last drop.

IMG_1042Junior, Josh (our housemate from last year who was back for a visit) and Juniorette enjoyed their Oreo coffee shake as well.

IMG_1044It was happy times. I was really happy to be doing this event surrounded by so many people I loved, in the city I love. I felt really happy with my time. I know that my struggle at the end had everything to do with how hard I pushed it.

After lunch, we headed back home. I took a much needed shower and spent the rest of the afternoon in bed with a gel pack on my butt/hip. Naptime.

IMG_1058I felt really proud of this one. Even though it was hard, I struggled a lot less than I did for the relay, half that distance, three years ago. I am definitely getting better.

My next half marathon is in June – the See Jane Run race which I will be doing with my friend Shannon. My goal for that one is to not break any speed records but instead to support her, to have FUN and to feel happy crossing that finish line. It doesn’t always have to be about pace. I am happy that I proved to myself I could break that three-hour mark. But next time, I’m in it for fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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