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Race Recap & Review: Santa Anita Derby Day 5K

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This past weekend I flew back to my hometown to run a 5K at the Santa Anita Race Track to kick off the largest competitive horse racing day in California. I figure with other races planned for this weekend I’d hold off on them and see what Arcadia has to offer for racing.

My mom raced in the 5K as well, and picked up our bibs at the Promenade at Westfield Santa Anita. Quick, easy, and convenient she says!

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Race Morning

Because Santa Anita is designed to handle events with tens of thousands of people, parking was a breeze at 8am. The weather was a sunny mid-50 degree weather, and it was perfect for a race.

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The start line was held at the parking lot, where such events such as the monthly 626 Night Market and the Arcadia High School Graduation are held. As appropriate with the horse racing theme, we lined up at the starting gates with a trumpet sounding us off, like horses!

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The Course

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The course runs towards Baldwin Ave next to JCPenney and into the LA County Arboretum, home of the peacocks. Luckily none of them were harassing any of the runners, and it was a flat course alongside the lake. I have to admit, I haven’t been inside since I went on field trips back in elementary school.

After the Arboretum was the last mile in Santa Anita Park, where you ran around the backstage where horses were preparing for their races, and then ran under a tunnel to the expo area before finishing on the racetrack itself!

The material horses run on is softer than any surface I’ve ran on besides beach sand. At some points it was a little difficult to run at top speed, but even then, it was very cool to run and finish on the track!

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I finished the 5K at 21:57, or 7:03 / mile. A 5K record and I broke 22 minutes at last. My mom finished at 40:36, or 13:03 / mile.

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Afterwards we rested up, looked at the vendors, and then visited the Seabiscuit statue before heading home.

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Overall, this is definitely a great and unique 5K, instilling the enthusiasm and spirit of horse racing, only with running!

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Race Recap & Review: Oakland Half Marathon

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#2 of the 2014 Half Marathons

The Oakland Running Festival is heralded as the “Best Race of the West” according to Runner’s World. I’d have to say that I agree and is a great race!

I recently changed shoes from my Asics to two new shoes: Nike Lunar Forevers and Nike Free Flyknits, but didn’t transition slowly enough to those new shoes, causing some sore calves and an annoyed Achilles. This race, although I knew would be flat and would be an doable PR, I decided to take it easy and try get through it in a reasonable time.

I had the chance to register for the 5K on top of the half marathon and tackle the “Run The Town” challenge, but with a bad leg I decided to just do the half and save the challenge for another year.

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup was held at the Oakland Convention Center, also the same place as the Oakland Marriott City Center. I made the drive up from San Jose early Saturday morning.

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Oakland prides itself on being an “up and coming” city, and it’s definitely the case. With a marathon, tons of unique shops and restaurants, and a rapidly improving downtown, there’s nothing but wave after wave of optimism for Oakland.

Packet pickup was smooth, easy, and very organized.

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Later, I headed to a well-known restaurant to Cal students, Bakesale Betty! Their fried chicken was as good as always.

Brings back memories!

Brings back memories!

Race Morning

Other than evening races that are held at sunset, this race is the latest I’ve ever attended with a start time of 9:15am. At 7:30am, I left San Jose and headed up north to Oakland via the BART, arriving at the 19th St BART station at 9ish. Super convenient!

Organization of this race could be a little better. As I’ve learned later, this race started off with 5,000 runners, but increased in size to around 10,000 runners. However, it seems like the organization and thought process still accounts for a smaller race, and it doesn’t scale very well.

What do I mean? Well, bag check was one example. Since they didn’t sort by bib number or by last name, all the 5Kers were in one section, half marathoners in another, and marathoners in another. Long lines started to form before and after the race.

The other issue was the corral placements and starting line experience. Instead of being assigned a corral, everyone started off in one huge corral with paces written somewhere in the front. This causes major congestion in the first mile or so since signs are ignored and people just bunch up in the front.

But, with these issues, the course was what I believe makes up for these minor issues.

The Course

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Downtown Oakland
Mile 1: 6:58
Mile 2: 7:52
Mile 3: 7:39

With the congested start, I spent the first mile or so getting past as many people as I could.

As the half marathon turned into its 4th mile, the marathon route joins on its 17th mile or so. Here the marathoners were huffing and puffing along while the half marathoners were just getting started!

Chinatown & Jack London Square
Mile 4: 7:42
Mile 5: 8:20

My leg was starting to act up and I had to stop and stretch at certain points. Nike+ was reporting that a PR was still possible, my left calf was basically saying today wasn’t that day. I decided to slow down.

Course support and bands were everywhere! I really enjoyed this course cause of the huge number of supporters out and about. This is what happens when you start your race at a time when people would be awake, and I wish other courses did the same.

West Oakland
Mile 6: 8:11
Mile 6.63 official time: 52:41 (7:56 / mi) 
Mile 7: 8:31
Mile 8: 8:37

There was a guy with a flamethrower here. Serious. He was off to the side at around mile 8, was on a vehicle of some sort, and was shooting flames. That was awesome.

I thought at some point I’d have to stop and walk the rest of the way, but I was able to continue maintaining a good pace.

North Oakland
Mile 9: 8:48
Mile 10: 8:27

North Oakland reminded me a lot of my time in Berkeley, since I passed by a lot of neighborhoods I used to run by and go to when I was a student. On the 980 underpass several hardcore Raiders fans were there and that kinda freaked me out.

Lake Merritt
Mile 11: 8:15
Mile 12: 7:57
Mile 13:
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This was pretty much the route I took with my first 5K, which was a run around the perimeter of Lake Merritt. There was luscious foliage and really nice housing alongside the lake, and course support did not die down even here.

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I finished at 01:47:45, or 8:13 / mile. A year ago at this time, this would’ve been my PR, and now it’s nearly 30 seconds a mile slower than my current PR. With a tight left leg, this is a great time, and had I not have any injuries would’ve definitely PR’d due to the flatness of the course.

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I stretched out my leg as much as I could after the race, and went through the mob that was the bag pickup again.

Lesson learned: Do not change shoes a month before a race.

Overall, this is one of the best races I’ve ran. I really like the course, the large amount of course supporters nearly every quarter mile, and will definitely want to do this again next year. The only nitpicks I have are just with organizations with bag checks and corral placement, but the course and atmosphere definitely make up for it all.

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Race Recap & Review: The 408k

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Quick post for a quick race!

With my next half marathon weeks away, I decided to go on a fun run. Last Sunday Kevin and I ran the 408k, a race local to the 408 as the race name suggests. It’s a quick 8km (4.97 mile) race starting at the SAP Center and ending in Santana Row.

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The race started at 8am, and being such a close race Kevin and I headed out of our place at 7:15 or so. Parking was plentiful at San Jose Diridon and we got there with plenty of time.

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We started in Corral B and made our race to the Row!

There wasn’t much to report here, other than that the course is as flat as it can be save for two uphills: one under the Caltrain/Amtrak at the beginning and the other under the 880. Other than that it was mostly racing through suburbs and around Valley Fair.

Mile 1: 7:02 / mile
Mile 2: 7:23 / mile
Mile 3: 7:29 / mile
Mile 4: 7:26 / mile

The 4th mile began the “Mariachi Mile,” the highlight of the race and something that definitely made the last mile go a lot faster. Every tenth of a mile or so was a new mariachi band playing!

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I finished at 35:49 or 7:12 / mile. Essentially my 5K pace set last Thanksgiving. Perhaps a 10K record is in my grasp! Kevin finished at 43:20 or 8:43 / mile.

After both of us took a breather we made a light jog back to our place. Erica was ready to go and after resting for a bit we made the drive back to the SAP Center to pick up my car.

For brunch, Erica and I headed over to the famed Bill’s Cafe in Santa Clara. We feasted on the chocolate pancakes and the California Eggs Benedict.

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All in all, a great fun race!

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Race Registrations!

We’re already 10% through 2014, and I’ve just decided what I should run in the upcoming months.

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In March, I’ll be making the short trip up north for the 5th anniversary of the Oakland Half Marathon. I wanted to run this last year, but had a trip already planned out to Dallas. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this race, and hope it lives up to its hype!

14raceartnoback300-1Then in April, I’ll be making a trip down to the Home of Seabiscuit for the 20th anniversary of the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K.

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In July, I’ll be revisiting my very first half marathon in San Francisco for the second half of the San Francisco Marathon. This should bring back lots of old memories!

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And finally, in August I’ll be back in Anaheim to run the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland!

I’ll be registering for more races as the year goes on, but this is what I have for the moment.

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Race Recap & Review: Surf City Half Marathon

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#1 of the 2014 Half Marathons

Surf’s up! My first race of 2014 begins in Huntington Beach, CA, also known as Surf City USA. After running the OC and Long Beach, I was qualified to get the Beach Cities Challenge medal at this half marathon.

Subsequently, after I registered, I heard that because I ran the San Francisco Marathon, I would qualify for their new California Dreamin‘ medal. What great coincidence!

The Expo

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In keeping with the surfer theme, the Surf City expo was held right alongside the beach and was decked out with palm trees, surfboards, and everything surfing related. The Beach Boys were playing, and “Surfin’ USA” playing everywhere.

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It was definitely one of the more unique expos I’ve gone to, and certainly a very memorable one! It’s much better than a convention center like Rock n’ Roll’s (which can feel very dull after going to so many of them), and this one felt much more local and personalized.

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One of the cool things about this race was that the bag they gave is a reusable grocery bag, so you can show off to all the other shoppers that you’ve ran a (half) marathon. The bag itself also has the course right on it in vibrant colors! Very cool.

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Before we went to the expo, Erica and I stopped by an old place we went to before the OC Half Marathon last May: the Bear Flag Fish Company. We had ahi tuna poke salad, salmon poke salad, clam chowder, and a swordfish burrito. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

We then headed back to the San Gabriel Valley where I prepared for the race the next day.

Race Morning
I rolled out of bed at around 5:20am, picked up Erica, and headed out for the 40 minute drive to Huntington Beach. Street parking was already mostly filled since the full marathon started at 6:30am. At around 6:15am, we found a spot a half mile away and waited until the half time began.

A beach sunrise

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It was initially freezing cold along the beach, but as we got to the start line the temperature was steadily rising.

I was in Wave 4, but moved up to Wave 3 when I saw the 1:45 and 1:40 pacers nearby. Being that it was Super Bowl Sunday, lots of people were dressed in Broncos or Seahawks gear. It was obvious knowing who was going to win the Super Bowl based on the number of Seahawks fans present.

The race started on time at 7:45am, and we were off!

The Course
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The course pretty much is the PCH (CA-1) except for a 3 mile detour into Huntington Beach’s suburban housing.

Mile 1: 7:33 / mile
Mile 2: 7:34 / mile
For the first couple of miles, I felt great and thought a PR was in my grasp. Would a sub-1:40 be possible?!

At the 2.5 mile mark, the course veers inland to the stereotypical Orange County housing complexes. Despite a severe drought going on in California, several of these homes had lush green lawns and sprinklers going off on a Sunday morning. Only in the OC!

There was a slight uphill here as well, but nothing too major.

Mile 3: 7:42 / mile (22:51 official)
Mile 4: 7:51 / mile
The course looped around a string of houses and headed back the way it came, towards the beach. Here I stumbled upon the 5 hour marathon pacers, who were making their way through the course.

And of course, anything uphill soon became a downhill. I sped up and capitalized on this elevation loss!

Mile 5: 7:36 / mile (37:16 official)
After being inland, we were back on the Pacific Coast Highway where it was nothing but ocean views!

Mile 6: 7:41 / mile (46:06 official)
Mile 7: 7:49 / mile

Nothing but beach!

Nothing but beach!

The great turnaround point was here, near Bolsa Chica State Beach. I was starting to tire out from not running a half marathon in a while, especially at this pace. From here, I knew that it was a straightaway to the finish, so I tried to pick up the pace.

Mile 8: 8:00 / mile
Mile 9: 8:10 / mile (01:08:58 official)
Mile 10: 8:19 / mile
Mile 11: 8:09 / mile (01:26:35 official)
Mile 12: 8:09 / mile (01:33:39 official)
Mile 13: 8:05 / mile
The course was now a simple, southern route on the PCH back to the finish, all familiar and in the opposite direction as the beginning. At around the 12th mile the marathoners split off and went back north onto the beach for an additional 10 miles or so before coming back. That must’ve been a terrible feeling, knowing you’re so close, but still have lots of distance to cover.

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I finished at 01:43:36, or 7:55 / mile. A pretty good time! It’s my third best recorded time so far after LA and Berkeley, and I hadn’t really trained for this after a two month break. I didn’t hit my sub-1:40 goal, but it’s definitely within my grasp at a future race.

I met up with Erica and we headed back to the expo, where Erica stretched me out and I picked up my Beach Cities medal and California Dreamin’ medal. Both were really gnarly!

Being at the beach, it was really windy at the finish line and I tried to bundle up as much as I could before Erica and I headed back to my car.

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We then made the drive to Santa Monica to try out a place I’ve been wanting to try for a very long time: Chipotle’s ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. While it was very delicious and I enjoyed the food, I hadn’t fully recovered from the run yet and didn’t have an appetite at that time.

After making the drive back and taking a well deserved long shower and nap, I gained back my appetite and devoured the whole thing. I hope ShopHouse expands to the Bay Area!

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Overall, I enjoyed this race. Running alongside the beach is very cool, the expo was very well done and the organizers upheld the surfer theme with every detail. The course is very flat and is held in a time of year where there was optimal running weather. I’d highly recommend this course!

A thank you to Erica, the organizers, and all the volunteers who were a part of this race!

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Erica’s Race Recap & Review: Tinker Bell 10K

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Hi everyone! My name is Erica and you guys might have seen me as the girl who shows up in Albert’s running photos! I am usually a spectator, not so much a runner (the whole waking up early just to run double digit miles is not exactly my cup of tea). However, this past January I was able to run the 2014 Tinker Bell 10k. As a huge Disney fan, I really enjoyed the 2013 Disneyland 10k! So I decided why not and registered to run! I also got my sister, Elaine, and my friend, Kellie, to run with me. I am really honored that Albert let me guest write on his blog about my Tinker Bell 10k experience. So let’s get to the good stuff!

The Expo

On January 16, Kellie and I left Pasadena around 3:45 pm to head over to the expo in Anaheim. After a couple of mishaps (in which I miss the ramp to the 5, get incredibly lost in Norwalk, and battle intense traffic) we managed to get to the Disneyland hotel at 6pm. Hooray! We picked up our gear and wandered around looking at all the merchandise!

Ear puns always make me laugh.

Ear puns always make me chuckle.

Who doesn't want wings, a wand, and a tiara?

Who doesn’t want wings, a wand, and a tiara?

The 10K

A day later and race day was here! I admit, I was a bit nervous because I was not really running much due to it being right after the holidays and it being cold/dark outside (I’m a total wimp…) My sister also wanted me to run the entire thing with her and I was unsure if I could make that happen.

Anyway, on the day of, Albert picked me and Kellie up from my house at around 4 am (my sister was driving herself separately) and we were off! The freeways were almost completely empty and we managed to get to Anaheim at roughly 4:50 am. We met up with my sister and started the rather long trek from the Mickey and Friends parking structure to the start line.

The first thing I noticed was there were a TON of girls dressed up. Seriously. There was glitter, tutus, wings, sparkles, tiaras, and lights everywhere. I had thought my black running tutu was on par but these runners definitely brought their A-game. Also, it was also cold at 5:30 am in the morning! Definitely a change of pace compared to the 80 degree weather Albert and I experienced back in August.

You can't tell but I am freezing my butt off. Maybe you can tell.

You can’t tell but I am freezing my butt off. Maybe you can tell.

A quick bathroom break at the hotel and then my sister, Kellie and I said good bye to Albert and my sister’s friend who came to watch and prepared to find our corral. I was surprised at the sheer amount of people that were participating. I remember there being a massive amount of people back in August but I had forgotten how huge these Disney races can become. We were supposed to start in Corral D but we managed to hop in the tail end of Corral C and waited for our start. At 6 am, it did not seem like the crowd was moving at all…

Look at all the people!

Look at all the people!

At around 6:12 am (after what seemed like a lot of shuffling) we were finally off!

Mile 1: 13:00 / mile

It was really cold! And there were so many people! However there was so much enthusiasm everywhere that I quickly forgot my frozen limbs. The majority of the first mile was in the backlot behind Disney and I kept wondering when would we actually get into the park. But all that was forgotten when we made a right turn into Disneyland!

It's a Small World is beautiful no matter what time of day.

It’s a Small World is beautiful no matter what time of day.

Mile 2: 12:59 / mile

Past It’s a Small World and then back into the backlots.

Hi Kevin!

Hi Kevin!

We ran past Splash Mountain (which was under refurbishment), the Haunted Mansion and behind the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which was still under construction. There is something peaceful about running in the park before sunrise. Everything was bathed in soft purple life and it’s times like these when I can understand why people enjoy running in the morning.

Mile 3: 13:04 / mile

Twinkle twinkle little bat!

Twinkle twinkle little bat!

We ran behind Cinderella’s Castle (I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get to run underneath it), past the teacups, behind the Matterhorn and into Tomorrowland! After Tomorrowland, we ran in front of the castle where a lot of people were stopping and taking pictures. My sister and I tried to take a picture on the run but that did not turn out too well. It’s hard to take pictures when you’re running!

Then it was down Main Street and out of Disneyland. That sure was fast!

Goodbye Disneyland!

Goodbye Disneyland!

When my sister and I left Disneyland, we spotted Albert and my sister’s friend. I was really motivated when I saw spectators. I was close to running but I did not want to walk right in front of people who are obviously supporting you and cheering you on. So we pressed on!

Down Buena Vista Street (my sister was shocked that we were already in California Adventure) and past Grizzly River Rapids. Then we emerged onto Paradise Pier! Like in August, they were playing World of Color and the water jets were on. That was a nice song to run to! Then we ran behind the Ferris Wheel and California Screamin’. This was basically the same course Albert and I ran back in August except it was in reverse. That was pretty neat to experience.

Insert inspirational running quote.

Insert inspirational running quote.

Then we ran into Carsland and into Bug’s Land. Nothing too special. (It’s really hard remembering everything that actually happened!)

Mile 4: 13:08 / mile

This was around the time my sister and I got separated (Kellie took off on her own practically from the start). This was also the end of running inside the parks. The rest of the course was done on Harbor Blvd, parallel to the 5, on Disney Way, and on Katella Blvd. I was a bit disappointed that my time in the parks seemed so short. It was definitely a lot quieter on this stretch of the course. There was a scattering of people on the streets. Some of them had signs that were encouraging! I also started walking a bit since my knees were not too thrilled with me. Running parallel to the 5 was extremely annoying as the sun was rising at just the right angle to get into my eyes.

Mile 5: 13:21 / mile

I don’t remember much of this mile.  There was a lot of self reflection during this time, such as “Why did I ever decide to do this to myself?” and “Gee, I hope my toenails are still intact after this.”

Ah-ha! A long stretch of road. That must mean I'm close to the finish, right??

Ah-ha! A long stretch of road. That must mean I’m close to the finish, right??

This stretch on Katella seemed never ending. But I knew I was almost to the end!

Mile 6: 13:02 / mile

I made a right turn and passed the final mile marker. The finish line was in sight! And people! So many people! The cheering was almost deafening. I saw distance markers (500m, 200m, 100m) so I just grit my teeth and sprinted to the finish line.

I finished the 10K at 1:20:49, or around 13:05 per mile. This might seem slow but I beat my time in August by 4 minutes. I was pretty pleased about that.

Getting ready. We had no idea they were taking a picture.

Getting ready. We had no idea they were taking a picture.

Cheesin' it up!

Cheesin’ it up!

I really enjoyed this race and my sister and Kellie also said they had a wonderful time. I am a HUGE Disney fan and I think the 10Ks are a great experience. It’s the perfect combination of running and Disney magic.

These medals are really heavy!

These medals are really heavy!

Thank you to my sister and Kellie for doing this course with me, all of the Disney staff and volunteers that had to be awake at this crazy hour, and to Albert for driving and supporting me from the sidelines (a position I know all too well!) I hope you guys enjoyed reading about my experience and I am definitely looking forward to my next runDisney adventure!

Hard to get a good picture when the sun is rising.

Hard to get a good picture when the sun is rising.

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A Look Back at 2013

Wow! What an amazing year. I’m a bit late to the party, but it’s better late than never!

I give credit on how to write this from Pavement Runner, Miss Zippy, Runs with Pugs, and Twenty Six and Then Some. Thanks!

At the end of 2012, I said that I would run more and run faster. I certainly smashed all those goals and then some.

In 2013, I ran a total of:
-1 marathon
-17 half marathons
-2 10Ks
-3 5Ks

Of the half marathons, six PRs were set in:
-Phoenix (1:51:48)
-Pasadena (1:49:53)
-Dallas (1:48:15)
-San Diego (1:46:21)
-San Jose (1:44:03)
-LA (1:41:47)
My goal of breaking 1:50 was set in Pasadena, and I broke 1:45 in San Jose.

Of the 3 5Ks, two PRs were set in:
-Disneyland (23:05)
-LA (22:21)

I ran 5 inaugural events for 2013, which were:
-New Years Race
-RnR SF
-Disneyland 10K
-Berkeley Half
-Turkey Trot LA

I completed several challenges too:
-All 10 medals from the Rock n’ Roll Heavy Medal Series
-The Desert Double Down in Phoenix
-52 club for the SF Marathon
-Dumbo Double Dare
-SF/Berkeley Challenge

My goal in 2013 was to run 2,013 kilometers, or about 1,205 miles. The tally at the end of the year shows 1257.30 miles, which surpasses the goal by about 50 miles or 85 kilometers.

I ran an average of 102.87 miles per month, or 24.18 miles per week.

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I ventured out of California and ran in five states spanning three time zones to run half marathons. In that time, I met with long unseen relatives, made new friends, and tried out Airbnb for the first time.

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Best Course: The Long Beach Half Marathon. From start to finish, the course runs alongside the beach, and I’m a sucker for long runs by the sand. With the palm trees, cool beachside temperatures in October, and almost no elevation gain, this is probably one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ran.

Best Run: My best run would have to be my half marathon PR, the Los Angeles Rock n’ Roll race. I was only about 100 seconds away from breaking the 1:40 half marathon time, and I even slowed down considerably during the final 3 miles. On this familiar course with much more favorable weather conditions than in 2012, I ran the whole course without a hitch.

Best Advice I’ve Received: Just keep running. The times when I set PRs were when I was running at a more frequent pace and when races were scheduled closer to each other.

Lesson Learned from Running in 2013: Once you accomplish something you’ve kept your eyes on, don’t settle for too long. Look at what’s next.

Overall, 2013 was a phenomenal year in a running point of view, and I’m excited to see what 2014 has in store.

What are my goals for 2014 though? That’s a discussion for another post.

Medals of 2013. 
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Race Recap & Review: Turkey Trot LA 5K/10K

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I decided many moons ago that this Turkey Trot would be the last race I would do in 2013. Finishing off at a fun run would be a good end to the year.

During one of the organizer’s marketing emails, they included a free promo code to the first person who got it. I just happened to be at the right place at right time and snagged it for the 5K/10K combo, and registered for the 5K for my mom. Woo hoo!

For reference, a 5K is 3.11 miles and a 10K is 6.22 miles.

Packet Pickup

Packet pickup was held at the Sports Chalet over on FIGat7th, a newly remodeled shopping center right in Downtown.

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As Sports Chalet was a sponsor for this race, they supplied a “Mystery Gift Card” with a value of $5-100 in them. All three of the ones I got (5K/10K + my mom’s 5K) all had $5. My guess is that only one lucky runner got the $100 gift card :)

Race Morning

As Turkey Day loomed it was a sunny morning with temperatures in the mid-60s.

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My mom and I pre-paid for our parking nearby, and walked over to LA City Hall, where the 5K/10K start/finish lines were at.

The Course

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The 5K started at 7:45am (although it was delayed a bit), and the 10K shortly at 8:30am. The course itself was the same for both, as the 5K was one loop through the course, while the 10K was two loops through. That meant as a 5K and a 10K runner, I’d be running the course three times.

The first 3/4 mile of the course (and the 3rd mile for the 10K) was a very steep uphill, as it made its way from LA City Hall around Grand Park to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Then it was a steeper downhill back to the start line after the first mile (and 4th mile for the 10K) and then an out-and-back down Spring St.

During the out-and-back on Spring St., I passed by my mom approaching her 2nd mile and we high-fived. One of the benefits of running on an out-and-back!

I decided to pace myself during the 5K and not run too fast or else I wouldn’t be able to recover fast enough for the 10K. While I wanted a PR, I needed to save my energy to be able to continue running. However, this didn’t seem to be the case, as my “let’s-not-run-too-fast” pace turned out to be a PR finish at 22:21or 7:12 / mile. I finished in 7th place for my division, 99th overall.

My mom finished at 40:21, or 13:01 / mile. This placed her 22nd in her division, and 1161st place overall. Congrats! There were 1664 recorded runners.

After I finished the 5K, I got my medal, unstrapped my 5K timing chip, and recovered for about 15 minutes before getting in line for the 10K.

First 5K: 24:23
Second 5K: 24:45
As the 10K was the same course just twice, I finished it at a slightly slower pace, at 49:08, or 7:55 / mile due to the fatigue from the 5K and running through all those hills again. This also placed me 7th in my division and 139th place overall out of 1164 runners.

I met my mom resting over at the steps of LA City Hall, and we took some more photos of our new accomplishment before stuffing ourselves with turkey later that evening.

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As always with Thanksgiving races, this was a very fun race. People were dressed up like turkeys, pilgrims, cooks, and all sorts of costumes, and the DJ really kept the upbeat and fun atmosphere all morning. Thank you to the race organizers for organizing a very well-run inaugural race through the streets of Downtown LA!

Some tidbits:
-The course really needs to be changed for the 10K. Running the same thing twice was not very interesting, and there’s lots of LA to see. If you’re going to advertise a 5K/10K combo, make it worthwhile. I heard that they had to change the course last minute though.
-Both the 5K and 10K medals were the same. This was a little disappointing, and the volunteer at the end distributing medals at the 10K thought I already got my medal when in fact I was holding my 5K one.
-Parking is actually free on Thanksgiving day, so there was no need to actually pre-pay.
-Downtown LA is really nice and organized now. The packet pickup was held in a mall that had a lot of really nice shops and restaurants, ones that I would expect to see in Downtown SF or Old Town Pasadena, not LA.
-You can’t really complain much with a free entry, but this is something I would pay for next year.

With that, my 2013 racing journey is complete!

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Race Recap & Review: Berkeley Half Marathon

Berkeley

#17 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons
Last Half Marathon of 2013!

I know, I know. I’m late. This is a rather delayed post due to Thanksgiving and lots of things going on in my non-racing life. The weather here in the Bay Area has been freezing lately (25 degrees when I ran this morning) so I was more focused on keeping warm than writing blog posts.

But a late post is better than no post! I’ll post what I can remember; the race was pretty long ago and I’ll summarize just the race itself.

I’m glad that a race finally happened at Berkeley. I started running long distances at Berkeley, from Crossroads (southeast of Cal) to the Berkeley Pier and back. I will never forget the first couple people I ran with, and to finally have a race where I first began really means a lot to me and brings back memories of my earlier time in college.

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Used to be here twice a week!

I heard about the Berkeley Half Marathon when I was at the expo for the San Francisco Marathon way back in June, since the SF Marathon’s organizers were also organizing this race. At the time, I had no idea what I’d be doing in November, so I was on the fence on registering until they finally sent me a coupon code I couldn’t refuse.

Packet Pickup

Bib pickup was held in two places: Sports Basement in the Mission District, and at a brewery in North Berkeley. Since this race was held the weekend before Thanksgiving, I got off work early to make the long drive up to SF to pick up my bib.

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A small race meant no “swag bag” á la Rock n’ Roll, and strictly a clear bag, pins, bib, and the shirt. I love the design of the bib and shirt!

The Race

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I stayed in Downtown Berkeley for a night before getting up at 7am to run. The start time was at 8am, and I was off in Corral 1 (surprisingly!). It was a cool morning and the sun was just rising over the hills.

The Course

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The course heavily resembled parts of my old 15 mile run in Berkeley, where I would run to the Emeryville Pier, the Berkeley Pier, and then back to the Cal campus.

Mile 1: 7:37
Mile 2: 7:10
Mile 3: 7:25
With the first 3.5 miles or so on University Ave, which is a very gradual downhill grade, I was flying down the road. This was my first ever running route! Lots of shops and buildings in Berkeley have changed since I ran these streets nearly three years ago. I passed streets I was once extremely familiar with (Bonar St. :D).

The downhill gains would quickly stop at the University Ave. Bridge over the 80/580 freeway. It wasn’t too steep, but after nearly a 5K of straight downhill it was a change of pace.

Mile 4: 7:31
Mile 5: 7:48
Mile 5.4 (official): 41:23
Mile 6: 7:50
Mile 7: 7:45
Here, the course pretty much follows the freeway past Ashby into Emeryville, with the Bay on one side and the heavily traversed freeway on the other. I’m sure many drivers were wondering why there were so many runners alongside them.

It was a beautiful view of the Bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge, but with the constant freeway noise it wasn’t as nice as it could’ve been.

Once at Emeryville, the course turns around and goes back to University Ave. the same exact way.

Mile 8: 7:44
Mile 9: 8:00
Mile 9.1 (official): 1:10:04
Mile 10: 7:56
This part of the course was on very uneven road. Since the Marina isn’t a high traffic area, much of the roads were unpaved or in horrible condition, and potholes were everywhere. But, once entering the Dog Park on the northern end of the Marina, there were some (again) very picturesque views of the Bay and you’re essentially running as close as you can get to the waters.

At around mile 9.4 or so, the finish line festival was audible and you could barely make it out back on the Mainland.

Mile 11: 8:03
Mile 11.2 (official): 1:26:33
Mile 12: 8:12
Mile 13: 8:28
This part of the course I’d title,  “We didn’t know how to get to 13.1 miles so we just looped around as much as we could.”

Indeed that was the case. This was pretty much the biggest beef I have with this race. The course simply did an out-and-back, ran around a soccer field of some sort, then did a  bunch of loops within a reasonably small parking lot before making its way to Golden Gate Fields in Northwest Berkeley.

But! Before getting to the finish line, there was the steepest hill in the course. I estimated it to be at a 6% grade, and runners around me groaned after seeing that hill. It was a painful ascent, but the other side had an equally steep descent right into the finish line!

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Surprisingly, I finished at 1:42:19or 7:49 / mile. Roughly 30 seconds slower than my PR in LA back in October, which suggests more room for improvement.
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As I ran the SF Marathon back in June, I qualified and got the SF/Berkeley Challenge as well. Both medals were really neat, and I loved the design for both medals!

Simply put, I am glad Berkeley was the last marathon I ran for 2013. What better way to end a year long racing tour around the country than at the place where it all began?

I will definitely be doing this again next year provided they change the course so it doesn’t result in U-turns all around the marina, and hope they focus more on the city of Berkeley and UC Berkeley!

Some random bits:
1. While it was great to have a packet pickup in SF and at Berkeley, it would’ve been great to follow what the US Half did in 2012 and have one in the South Bay too.
2. U-Turns are simply the worst in races. To have this many was very tiring and got boring.
3. Airbnb is quite nice and I hope to use it again in the future.
4. This was probably the best inaugural race I’ve experienced, second only to Rock n’ Roll SF which doesn’t even count as an inaugural race.

This closes my 2013 half marathons, and my next 13.1 mile run will be in the new year! Woo hoo I finished!

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Race Recaps coming soon!

I’ve finished my final half marathon of 2013 at Berkeley, and ran a 5K and a 10K in Downtown LA on Thanksgiving day for Turkey Trot LA. Both of these events are inaugural events, and I have good things to say about both of them.

Things have been pretty hectic lately in the last two weeks, but I will post a recap for both these events shortly!