Dashing the Dip and Dash

Last Sunday, I participated in my first Dip and Dash put on by Finish Line Productions. The Dip and Dash series includes three aquathons, swim then run of varying distances. Since I’m not a swimmer, it’s not a surprise that I hadn’t participated in one before. But my friend and teammate, Sam, wanted to use the swim as a practice and asked if I wanted to be part of a relay team with her. She’s swim around the wharf and I’d run the five miles on West Cliff. I jumped at the chance to be on a team with her and thought it would be a fun chance to see where my speed is at 6 weeks post marathon.

My plan leading up to the race was to run a pace similar to the 10k portion of the Capitola Half relay back in May. This meant about a 7:05 pace. I also hoped it would be fastest enough for us to win too. The two weeks before the race I added in some speed workouts for the first time in a month. I started with a reverse ladder workout: 2×800, 2×400, 2x200s and was not too far off from the times I was hitting earlier in the summer. The Thursday before the race I ran some 400s and a couple 200s around the harbor – couldn’t seem to find a time to make it to the track. They were not my fastest attempts and I thought about scaling back my goal to a 7:15 pace. This seemed the best idea when I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little sick to my stomach (I’m assuming this was thanks to Chinese food and ice cream the night before!).

I jogged down to the start and met up with Sam, where I learned that we were the only relay team. Sweet, we already won! Ha! She had a great idea that I run the Wharf as my warm up and then I could cheer on the swimmers as the same time (as well as get some good photos). I did a few strides at the end of my warm up and headed toward the transition area. Even though the pressure of winning was off, I still wanted to have a strong run. Sam came out of the water (which had some strong swells Sunday morning) and I grabbed the chip and made my way out to West Cliff.

Swimmers ready to start!

Swimmers ready to start!

Sam rounding the wharf

Sam rounding the wharf

Since I was the only runner, I made sure to encourage all of the race participants who were running on much more tired legs than mine. I felt pretty good by the time I started the race, stomach issues were gone. I started out too fast and did a terrible job of pacing (oh well): 7:03, 6:59, 6:56, 7:09, 7:15. I finished at 36:15 with an average pace of 7:03 – easily making it to my original goal. Despite uneven pacing, I was pretty happy with that. Since it was only my second 5 mile race, it also meant a distant PR 😉

I met up with Sam and another teammate, Dan, after the race. After some coffee and yogurt from nearby Picnic Basket, Sam and I collected our prize – a gift certificate for free Rudy Project sunglasses! Sweet!

Have you ever won a race because there was no competition??

SCE Whale to Whale

Just over a week ago, SCE (my super awesome running club) hosted the 3rd Whale to Whale “race” of the year. The Whale to Whale has been our little local tradition. We start at the Long Marine Lab Whale and then cruise the 6 miles along West Cliff and the Boardwalk to finish at the Natural History Museum Whale in the Seabright neighborhood. We don’t shut down the roads and it varies from 10 to 30 (ish) participants. The entry is just $10 and is used for the club or various community involvement (we’ve collected canned food, donated to the Baker/Butler Scholarship Fund last year, etc.) and we have a small prize for the top 3 men and women finishers.

At the start of Whale to Whale (all photos credit of SCE)

At the start of Whale to Whale (all photos credit of SCE)

While I have been to the other two races this year, I haven’t run it in quite some time. This time around I really wanted to run it again but knowing I really haven’t done any speed, I didn’t want to race it. Luckily, another team member and my friend, Sam, felt the same way. We decided to make it part of our long run. We started just past the “finish line” and weaved over to the start, getting in just under 8 miles before we began the race. It was a beautiful run along the water and we even saw a whale in the bay. So this year it was more of a whale to whale to whale 😉

Running as a pack on West Cliff

Running as a pack on West Cliff

After signing our waivers and paying our entry fees, all the runners headed to the start. This time around, there seemed to be more of us “fun running” rather than speeding through the course. This meant lots of time to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while as well as seeing an otter and some dolphins playing in the bay. All the sea creatures were out for this race!

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When we got to the finish, the three women decided to hold hands and all come in for 3rd place together. (I wish I had a photo of this silliness!). We hung out for a bit but after 14 miles, but I was ready for some food and a shower so headed home soon after.

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If you haven’t joined us for one of these events, check out the SCE FB page or our website to find out about the next one!

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Fun Running by the Sea

One of the benefits of fun running (i.e. not training!) is that I can drop into events that would not be great races for me but are really fun. This was the case last week when I ran Race Thru the Redwoods and it was true for yesterday’s Run by the Sea 12k as well. For some, these events are ideal settings but I am just not super fast on trails (whether they include hills or not) and therefore they aren’t great events for me to test out speed training or look for a PR (although since I’ve never run a 12k before it’s an automatic PR 😉 ). But they are great for going out and having a great time while supporting a good cause and being a part of the running community. And sometimes, you surprise yourself and walk away with a spot in the top three in your age group too!

Just about to start

Just about to start (photo cred: SCRC)

Yesterday was the second annual running of the Run by the Sea. Last year, I couldn’t run it because it was the same day as the Santa Rosa Marathon but this year I had no conflicts. The race wants to raise both awareness and funds for the Santa Cruz Rail Trail project. It follows the trails through Wilder State Park, including a little off-road adventure down to the beach (another reason I wasn’t interesting in “racing” this one). My morning started with a few texts from family members checking to see if we were ok from the earthquake… so then I had to go figure out what earthquake they were talking about since I slept right through it. (We are about 2 hours from the epicenter but some did feel the quake here, including the hubs and one of our pups). Then, of course, I spent a bunch of time reading about the early reports of Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake and trying to determine if my friends running SRM would be ok (they were!). Then I just wanted to go back to sleep… forget the race (especially considering the several glasses of wine I drank the night before…) But somehow I still managed to head out.

In the pack, starting the race

In the pack, starting the race (photo cred: SCRC)

This was definitely not a “race” morning for me. Besides the wine the night before and the atypical wake up, I didn’t run any warm up or cool down miles and I didn’t wear my normal racing singlet. This, I wanted to remember, was just fun miles to support a good cause. I found my teammates Sam, Josh, and John right before the start. I positioned myself a few people deep and started out on the trails. I encouraged a gal to pass me since she clearly was in race mode (she came in 3rd overall) and happily ran toward the water. I took it easy climbing down the rocks and across the sand. I happily took the volunteer’s hand to help over the rocks on the way back up to the trail. At the first water station, a volunteer cheered her friend behind me – telling her to pass me. Fine by me. I let her go and continued toward the turn around. There I saw the first woman (who went on to win) and Sam looking strong. I counted the women and realized I was 6th woman. Cool, I thought, it would be fun to end up in the top 10 women but still no pressure.

Wilder views are the best!

Wilder views are the best! (photo cred: SCRC)

I felt really good after the turn around and unintentionally picked up a little speed but nothing too crazy. I passed the 5th woman and was back at the beach. I saw Jason from Santa Cruz Running Company, SCE’s sponsor and said hello. Then I saw the gal who has passed me back at the water station. She was a few minutes ahead of me and I didn’t expect to catch her, but I felt good and caught up to her. There was less than a mile left, so I just cruised along to the finish line. I finished with an official time 58:27, a 7:51 pace. Good enough for 3rd in my age group, 4th woman, and 16th overall. Not too shabby. All age group winners got chocolate (nice!) and a medal.

I promise I wasn't running a race by myself!

I promise I wasn’t running a race by myself! (photo cred: SCRC)

This was a really nice, low-key event. If you’re in Santa Cruz during August next year, I definitely recommend it. While you will do a little climbing for the beach portion, the Wilder bluffs are on of the best running spots around. And this race, unlike other races, is ran entirely on them. For those into swag, the shirt is nice – I wouldn’t run in it but it will be good for the gym. There are two water stations and helpful volunteers. There is both a 4k and a 12k (instant PRs for uncommon distances) and this year, just over 150 runners.

Shirt for all participants, medal and chocolate for finishing in top 3 in AG

Shirt for all participants, medal and chocolate for finishing in top 3 in AG

Post race: Sarah (1st woman), Sam, and me

Post race: Sarah (1st woman), Sam (2nd woman), and me (photo cred: Sarah)

Mermaid Funning

A little over a week ago, several ladies from Santa Cruz Endurance decided to run in the Mermaid East Bay. While none of us were looking to add a race to our schedule, we were all game to support a good cause and through race into our training. The Mermaid Series focuses on supporting women in “fitness and life.” They are also run a great organization to get girls excited about running, the Mini Mermaids. Finally, they tend to have some sweet swag!

Love the shirt!

Love the shirt! See good swag!

This particular race was held in Fremont, about an hour from my house. And since I had to be in San Jose around noon to pick up Elise(!) from the airport, it worked out perfectly. Mermaid Easy Bay has four distances: 5k, 10k, half marathon, and 18 miler. Leslie and I ran the 10k and Gaylia and Sam each ran the 18 miler.

Adding a race into the schedule can be a fun way to mix things up. I also tend to get crazy race nerves and psych myself out on A races, so as Leslie reminds me, these are a great way to get more comfortable in races and practice for my goals. Good strategy!

We also got this cute necklace!

We also got this cute necklace!

I picked up Leslie at the Park n Ride not far from my house and we headed out of Santa Cruz around 6:45am. There was no traffic and we just made a quick stop a coffee shop for a bathroom break. We parked about a half mile from the start, which served as a perfect warm up. When we got there, both the half marathon and 18 mile races had already started, so we were meeting up with our teammates post race.  Before the race started, I ran into Paulette (who, spoiler, got a new PR at the race! Great job Paulette!).

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I had never run in Fremont, let alone the Quarry Lake path, so this was a fun new area to explore. The course was basically a fairly flat (just a few little bumps along the way) trail with some gravel at times. They had generous staggered start times for each event, so the course never felt crowded. Leslie’s plan called for her to treat the run like a tempo run. My plan for the day was actually 14 miles, so I kept my 10k pace conservative (aiming for around 7:30 pace, ended up with a 7:35 pace). There was a little turn around, when I saw Leslie cruising along at her speedy tempo pace. I also saw Paulette again after the turn around. I love having friends to cheer along during the course! Like the Mermaid SF, the course ended with sharp turn on grass. But for my goals, that was no problem. I came into the finish with a time of 47:38 and placed 3rd in my age group. Not too shabby. Leslie won the race (and did so following her training schedule, just 2 weeks after Boston! Rockstar!). After our cool down, we met up with our 18 miler gals. Gaylia took 1st in her age group and Sam won her race. Love these speedy ladies! We hung out to snack a little and pick up our awards.

SCE Fun Runners Post Race

SCE Fun Runners Post Race

After the awards, Leslie joined Sam on their way back to Santa Cruz and I headed to the San Jose airport. Soon after, Elise’s plane had landed and we were back in Santa Cruz in no time! At this point, with warm up, race, and cool down, I had run 8 miles and had 6 miles left to finish up my very disjointed long run. But I didn’t care because those last miles would be with the speedy Elise. We met up with another friend and headed out to the coast, where it was crazy windy! (My visor blew off!) What a great way to start the week with a good friend visiting!

What do you think about using races as training runs? Do you “fun run” races?

Tweet Up at the Surfer’s Path Marathon and Capitola Half

On May 17, I’ll be doing something I’ve never done before… Hosting a tweet up with Alisyn at the expo for the Surfer’s Path Marathon and Capitola Half Marathon/Relay. I’ve run this race twice (the half and the relay… one day the marathon) and it’s one of my favorites. This is only its third year but it has so much going for it: great course, awesome local vibe, fun medals… you name it! It also doesn’t hurt that its sponsored by one of my fave running stores, Santa Cruz Running Company, and of course, my awesome team, Santa Cruz Endurance, has been helping out this year too!

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Anyway, this year I’ll be out doing my volunteering thing as usual (and I still haven’t decided if I’ll run or not…) but also getting to meet other Twitter lovers/runners at the expo. Want to join in? Just come by at 12:30 to the Expo held at the Capitola Village Beach Bandstand. (Heck, make a day of it! The village is a great little spot with good food and fun shopping.) We’ll tweet, take photos, and catch up. Hope to see you there!