Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2012 Big Sur Half-Marathon

The 10th presentation of the Big Sur Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 18 November 2012. This is the tenth time I’ve run this race.

I talked to a friend who also ran this race and we both agreed – it was an off day for both of us. I had difficulty catching my breath and struggled to find a rhythm. Not sure why but I’m glad that I figured out early on in the race that it was going to be an off day for me so I reset my expectations and had a great time.

Expo and Race Swag

I usually pick up my race packet and go to the expo on Saturday but since my brother was here and running for his first time, we went on Friday afternoon. I realize that the people handing out the race bibs are volunteers but if they don’t want to be there, they shouldn’t be there. We waited about 5 minutes for the volunteer taking care of our two  ranges of numbers to come to his station, even though other volunteers had told him that he had a line. And when he finally did get around to taking care of us, he wasn’t the most pleasant person even though my brother and I were being as nice as could be. It was as if someone hit him with the grumpy stick when he woke up from his post-lunch nap.

I don’t usually buy anything at the Big Sur Half-Marathon expo just because it’s the last one of the year for me. By the time this event rolls around, I’ve already gotten everything I need at the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon expo or online at Road Runner Sports. This time, though, I picked up a new running skirt and saved on the shipping and handling fee by buying it at the expo.

I’m not a fan of the Big Sur Half-Marathon’s virtual goody bag. It cheapens the whole experience for me. And it makes me a lot less likely to actually visit any of the vendors that had coupons in the virtual goody bag because I won’t bother to print out the coupons or flyers. I understand the whole point of the virtual goody bag but I don’t like it.

Race Start

As we were walking up to the corrals, the announcer asked if anyone could sing the National Anthem. Apparently, the singer that was supposed to be there didn’t make it. Someone in the crowd volunteered – I think she was a spectator and her son was running the half-marathon – and she was fantastic. I hope the race organizers got her contact information and ask her back next year because I have not heard such a pure and simple rendition of the National Anthem in a very long time. There were no trills, no runs, no vibrato, she didn’t sing in an octave that was beyond her control – she sang it simply and she sang it well.

The wave start was much, much better than last year.

The Big Sur Half-Marathon race bibs are personalized with the race registrant’s name – there is no option to have a phrase like, “In Honor of…” imprinted on the bib. Because race bibs – the selling of and the transferring of – have been on my mind a lot lately, I was looking at the race bibs in my corral. I noticed a guy wearing a race bib with the name Jennifer. He very definitely did not look like a Jennifer. Nor did he look like he was running in honor of a Jennifer. Obviously someone named Jennifer had sold or given her bib to this guy.

Race Course

Since this was my tenth time running this course, there weren’t any surprises. The course has not changed in the last couple of years. The scenery is always breath-taking, though, no matter how many times I see it.

A few of the aid stations ran out of cups. One aid station was reduced to using soup bowls. The second and third to the last aid stations were completely out of cups by the time I passed through so that meant no water or Gatorade unless you were carrying your own bottle. Not everyone carries their own bottle because they rely on the aid stations so to have two or three aid stations run out of cups is not good. The sad thing is that even though I’m a slow runner, I wasn’t the slowest one on the course so I felt bad for the other runners and walkers behind me.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The race organizers tweaked the “finish village” a bit this year so it was confusing for me. I’m not sure if it was better or worse but the end result was the same.

I got my official finisher’s photo taken by the MarathonFoto photographer. The photographer I chose was having fun with the finishers and having us strike poses. Instead of the usual finisher’s backdrop, they had arranged it so that the background was the wharf and Monterey Bay. I thought that was a great touch. After all, if you have great scenery around you, why shouldn’t you incorporate it?

The food tent was as efficient as last year. Goodies were already pre-bagged except for the cookies and bagels, which made sense because then you could choose what flavor of cookie and/or bagel you wanted. The low-fat chocolate milk was plentiful and delicious. I understand the whole point of being environmentally friendly and sustainable but the cups of water are just not sufficient or efficient for the end of a race.

Since my brother had done the event with me, I didn’t bother to check out the soup or beer booths. Maybe next year.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

  • Thumbs Up: This was my big brother’s first race ever and his first half-marathon ever and he did great!
  • Thumbs Down: The weather report that predicted rain and more rain.
  • Thumbs Up: We had sunshine instead of rain.
  • Thumbs Down: Disinterested volunteers handing out medals at the end. When you have to ask for your finisher’s medal, that’s just not cool.
  • Thumbs Up: The enthusiastic volunteers and spectators along the course.
  • Thumbs Down: Having the announcer go on and on about the pace group leader that finished just before I did…which meant not having my name announced as I crossed the finish line. Small touches like this are important.
  • Thumbs Up: Seeing my name listed in the program as one of the “Grizzled Veterans” – the people who have run every presentation of this event.
  • Thumbs Down: Having my name misspelled in that list and having the disclaimer that the people on the list self-reported. It shouldn’t take too much effort for the race staff to research and verify – that disclaimer was quite a detractor.
  • Thumbs Up: All of the MarathonFoto photographers on the course meant a lot of photo choices – great job!

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. Registration opens on 1 April 2013.

Happy Running!

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Posted in Running

Simple Goal for the Big Sur Half-Marathon

My pyramid of Big Sur Half-Marathon finisher’s medals is missing its top!

9 years, 9 finisher’s medals ~ Big Sur Half-Marathon

With any luck and barring any injury between now and Sunday, 18 November 2012, I will be able to add the 10th Big Sur Half-Marathon finisher’s medal to the pyramid.

I have no time goal for this race – I just want to finish and complete my pyramid.

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2012 Nike Women’s Marathon

The 9th annual Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) took place on Sunday, 14 October 2012. This is the second time that I’ve run this race.

Someone made the comment on the NWM Facebook page that this event is really more of a half-marathon event and I happen to agree. It may have started out as a marathon event but once they added the half-marathon event, I think the focus has turned to making the half-marathoners happy. That’s probably because 2/3 or more of the 25,000 entrants are half-marathoners, not marathoners.

NWM 2012 Marathon Motivational Poster 2

It seems to be a pattern in my life that training during the fall and winter is good but then I fall off the wagon in the spring and summer. As with last year, my longest run leading up to this marathon was the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-marathon the week before. I must be a masochist, right?

I stayed in a hotel in the Civic Center part of town instead of going back to Nob Hill. If I run this race again next year, I definitely will go back to Nob Hill. Getting hit on and begged from by the homeless people on Market Street was disturbing.

Expo and Race Swag

This was my second time going through the Expotique and I didn’t like it any better this year than I did last year. In fact, I confirmed that I hate the Expotique. There were several entrances into the tent this year and the volunteers at the entrances were pretty lackadaisical and more interested in joking around with one another than in guiding people to the correct place. Once I reached a check-in spot, though, the check-in was quick and easy. Thank goodness I checked in on Friday because from the tweets and Facebook posts, the Expotique was a zoo on Saturday.

Even though it wasn’t as packed on Friday, there were still long lines for everything. Moving through the crowd was next to impossible – I cannot imagine what it was like on Saturday. I grabbed my gear bag and headed over to Niketown because after trying to deal with my Garmin 405 for a couple of years, I decided that maybe I needed to switch over to the Nike+ SportWatch. The sales guy was helpful and I walked out of Niketown with a new toy.

Listing of 25,000 participants in the 2012 NWM and Half

After taking care of business in Niketown, I found my name on the wall outside the store. Three times.

My Name on the NikeTown Wall

The race swag consisted of a lot of little flyers and snacks. The snacks were great – I ate most of them while I was lazing around in my hotel room on Saturday. I didn’t pay attention to the flyers until after the race on Sunday. Too late, as it turns out, to take advantage of some of the things.

Gear Check

Gear check was much more smooth this year. Nike must have listened to feedback from last year’s event and they rearranged the start corrals and had gear check buses for each corral. The volunteers at the gear check area were great – enthusiastic and helpful.

Race Start

The race start was something altogether different. Since I was honest about my expected pace and finish time, I was all the way in the back. And I mean all the way in the back. Really. After the gun went off, it took me more than 33 minutes to get to the start line. Under normal conditions, I wouldn’t have been concerned. However, the NWM has a limit of 6 hours and 30 minutes in order to get an official time and a finisher’s necklace. I didn’t know if the 6h30m limit was based on gun time or chip time and since I was planning on finishing right around 6 hours, the added 33 minutes to the gun time worried me throughout the race.

NWM 2012 My Favorite NWM Poster

My recommendation for next year would be to have a start corral upfront for the marathoners. Even better than that would be a start time 30 minutes before the half-marathoners. We’re going to be out on the course a lot longer than the half-marathoners so why shouldn’t we get an earlier start and our own special start corral and gear bus?

Race Course

The course felt a little easier this year because it hadn’t changed from last year. However, the organizers weren’t prepared for the number of people on the course. Either that, or this event is really geared towards half-marathoners.

The weather was perfect fall running weather. It was overcast and foggy and it stayed that way throughout the race. The sun was out in the city by the time we took the shuttles back to the start line and that was just perfect.

NWM 2012 Reasons to Run

The first aid station that was supposed to have Shot Bloks was out by the time I got there. I wasn’t annoyed because I had my own gels. But it did bother me when I saw how many full sleeves of Shot Bloks other runners had thrown on the ground just past the aid station and then I had to wonder how many half-marathoners had been served.

By the time I passed the bra exchange station, they only had a few XS and XL bras left. Slightly better than last year because last year, when I reached the bra exchange station, they were completely out. Again, I had to wonder how many half-marathoners had been served.

My quads seized up around mile 12 and after that, every step was agony. It was probably due to having run the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half-Marathon the weekend before. Even though my legs felt like they had recovered from that event, they really hadn’t. Thank goodness in 2013 there will be a weekend between these two events, as there was in 2011!

Once the marathon course splits from the half-marathon course, things get pretty desolate. The aid stations were much smaller and seemed to be spaced further apart. I tried really hard not to hate the part of the course around Lake Merced but even though it wasn’t hot like last year, Lake Merced sucked. I wonder if the organizers can find a way to get the 26.2 miles without having to go around Lake Merced?

NWM 2012 Marathon Motivational Poster 1

I really wish that Team in Training would teach their runners and walkers proper race etiquette. NWM posted some guidelines on Facebook about walkers walking on the right and other common sense tips about sharing the road on race day. A lot of people got pissy about that, saying that they had paid their entry fee and so could run or walk any way and anywhere they wanted to on race day. It’s so inconsiderate! It was exhausting to run around gangs of Team in Training participants who were walking 4 or 5 people across. And then when I would try to squeeze in between gangs of Team in Training participants, they would give me dirty looks even though I would politely murmur, “On your right,” or “Excuse me.” Again, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against walkers because I took plenty of walk breaks and walked from about mile 24.5 to 25.5 – I just wish they would be considerate of others on the course. If you want to stroll with 3 or 4 of your friends spread out across the street, don’t do it in a race.

NWM 2012 Marathon Motivational Poster 3

The comment about this event being more geared to half-marathoners really resonates with me. I am not a distance snob by any means – I love the half-marathon distance. I do mind, however, missing out on stuff both on the race course and in the finish area because it’s all been taken by people who’ve run the shorter distance. I feel the same way when I’m running a 10k event that also has a 5k. We all pay the same entry fee so we should all get the same opportunities.

Post-Race: Goodies and Medals

NWM2012 Finisher’s T-Shirt and the Little Blue Box

The NWM Finisher t-shirt this year is a bright neon green. Mine is short-sleeved although I saw some posts that make me wonder if a long-sleeve t-shirt was an option. Maybe for the half-marathoners and the faster marathoners? The cool thing about the finisher t-shirt is that it’s made from recycled water bottles.

I was not offered a finisher’s necklace in the pretty blue box – I had to ask for it. The Safeway grocery bags were out of stock. All of the Neutragena products were out of stock.  Vendors were beginning to break down their tents. The gear check buses were being emptied haphazardly into brown boxes. I realize that it took me 6 hours to finish the race plus the additional 33+ minutes it took to reach the start line but I wasn’t the last one across the finish line and it was demoralizing that there wasn’t as much care and excitement for the slow people who gutted out the entire 26.2 miles.

The chocolate milk was in the Team-in-Training tent. Foam rollers and yoga mats were only for Team-in-Training participants. They really set this event up as “Haves” vs. “Have Nots.” I was always taught that if you don’t bring enough for everyone, you shouldn’t bring anything at all.

Why I run the NWM

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP: Gear check was much improved over last year.

Thumbs DOWN: The official race photographer for this race didn’t do that great a job. For being out on the course for over 6 hours, there were only 10 pictures of me, 4 of which were me crossing the finish line, 1 of which was of me posing at the end. I had to search for myself in the other 5 pictures because there were so many people. It would have been nice to have some official race photographers taking pictures of marathoners around Lake Merced.

Thumbs UP: The weather was perfect for running although apparently not for GPS devices.

Thumbs DOWN: The length of time it took to get to the finish line had a negative mental impact on me because I was worried that I wouldn’t get my finisher’s necklace.

Thumbs UP: Some spectators had great signs.

Thumbs DOWN: Not having enough items at the aid stations for slow runners. Not having enough bras at the bra exchange for slow runners. Not having enough post-race goodies for the slow marathon runners.

Thumbs UP: A Tiffany-designed finisher’s necklace. Enough said.

If Nike wants to turn this into a half-marathon event, that’s what it should do. Don’t call it a marathon when you end up catering to the half-marathoners and treat the full marathoners as an after-thought. As Nike’s marathon motivational posters say – a full marathon is tough, full marathoners are twice as committed. Well, if Nike really believes that, then they ought to prove it with their actions.

Happy Running!

Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

The 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-marathon took place on Sunday, 7 October 2012. This is the fourth time that I’ve run this race and, as has become my tradition, I signed up for the 2013 race while at the expo on Friday.

The lack of communication from the race organizers troubled me this year. For this event, I didn’t get a single email, not even a reminder to print my confirmation before going to the expo. This may be typical for a Rock ‘n’ Roll Race Series (RnR) event but since I’ve been getting emails from Nike about the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM), I can’t help but compare the two events and NWM has definitely gone the extra mile to create buzz and excitement about its event. Perhaps the RnR is getting so big that they are starting to lose their grip on the details. That’s just speculation, of course. But anyone looking at the menu of events will agree – the RnR is expanding rapidly both here and around the world.

2012 RnRSJ Event Guide and Finisher’s Medal

As I was running the race, I decided that my race reports needed some structure and came up with some headings that I usually include in a race report. Let me know what you think about the more structured format.

Expo and Race Swag

The expo seems to get bigger every year but this year could have just been an illusion because of the construction going on in the Convention Center. I felt like a rat in a maze going from one part of check in to the next and then finally to the RnR store and then into the expo.

The volunteers at the packet pick-up area were friendly, which always helps to set the right tone before entering the expo. When I moved on to the t-shirt area, I got a volunteer who didn’t speak or smile. He didn’t return my greeting, simply held up a t-shirt as if to say, “Is this the right size?” and then just handed it to me. A little disconcerting but not the end of the world.

In retrospect, I should have gone for a unisex shirt instead of the gender-specific shirt because the unisex shirts are roomier.

There were a lot of vendors at the expo. It was exciting to see the booths for other upcoming races as well as the snack and product booths. P.F. Changs, Jamba Juice, and the Sports Authority had teams of volunteers at work trying to get people to sign up for the loyalty programs. I guess I’m a sucker because I signed up for both the P.F. Changs Warrior program and the Sports Authority program.

I managed to get out of the expo with only the things I intended to get – my race bag, my RnR t-shirt, my race registration for the 2013 event, and a hat for race day.

Gear Check

As in prior years, the gear check area was uncrowded and well-organized. This may be because a lot of people stayed in hotels very close to the start/finish area and chose not to check their gear. Or it could just be that the RnR has gear check down to a science. I’m hoping that the NWM will have learned some lessons from last year’s horrific gear check scenario and will have made some improvements.

Race Start

The start corrals were clearly marked as usual and easy to get into. As with prior years – and most races – people are pretty clueless when the national anthem is being sung. The people in my corral kept talking, no one removed their hats or put their hands over their hearts. And of course, there were the obligatory cheers and whoo-hoos at the crescendo of the national anthem, which also annoys me.

But I still always get chills when I hear the national anthem despite the rudeness of others.

Race Course: Bands and Cheer Teams

The Cheer Teams were enthusiastic and loud but not too loud. They seemed more focused on cheering for the runners this year, which was nice.

I had a problem with the bands on the course, though. I didn’t pack my headphones, which meant that I couldn’t listen to music on the run. That made the bands that much more important to me. Some of the bands didn’t seem to realize that it’s called the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” race series and were playing slow ballads. Needless to say, I am going to make sure to put a spare pair of headphones in my vehicle so that I am never again caught without music and dependent on the on-course bands.

Most of the volunteers on the race course were fantastic – cheering and clapping or smiling and clapping. At some of the later water stops, however, the kids manning the water stops seemed more interested in splashing each other with water instead of handing it out to the runners.

Post-Race: Goodies and Medals

I missed the blonde lady at the finish line who usually announces, encourages, and congratulates runners as they approach the finish line. The finish line energy seemed flat without her.

I’ve commented on this before but the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose organizers really need to provide a little bag or something for runners to put the post-race food into. As we walk through the finish area, we’re given water, Gatorade, bananas, Snickers Marathon bars, bagels, bags of pretzels, coupons if we beat the P.F. Chang’s dragon, chocolate milk, and other goodies. It’s awkward trying to hold all of that stuff and eat and drink at the same time. I think that the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose organizers ought to take a page from the Big Sur Half-Marathon organizers and bag everything up in a little brown paper bag and hand that to runners as they go through the finish area.

The finisher’s medal was great – it was designed to look like a cassette tape, something that a lot of the younger runners probably have never seen before!

2012 RnRSJ Finisher’s Medal

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP: Even without the pre-race communication, the organization of this event was impeccable.

Thumbs DOWN: Calling a 5-miler a “mini-marathon” is denigrating to those of us who run the half-marathon distance and to those of us who have run a full marathon. What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Thumbs UP: Not running out of gels or Gatorade on the course and having plenty of goodies in the finish area for race participants.

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. Happy running!

Posted in Opinions and Thoughts, Running

Warning: Sharp Elbows!

Ah, the running community.

Runner at the start
Runner at the start (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To an outsider looking in, the running community seems like a tight-knit yet welcoming, supportive, encouraging, motivational group.

And for the most part, that is true.

However, if you hang out in the community long enough – and by “hang out” I mean read running magazines, read running blogs, join a running group on Facebook, follow runners on Twitter, and so on – you’ll find that the there are members of the community who aren’t quite as supportive, who aren’t quite as encouraging, who aren’t quite as motivational as you’d think at first glance. There are members of the running community who are smug, self-righteous, and sanctimonious. They are the ones who have sharp elbows.

Right now you’re thinking, “The same is true for any group, for any community!” That’s true, I agree. Every group or community has members that don’t always show the group or community in its best light.

It could just be that I’ve been overly sensitive these past couple of months as my running hasn’t been quite where I want it to be or where it needs to be.

I was browsing around on Facebook one day and ran across Runner’s World magazine Facebook page.  The page had a link to a Runner’s World blog of motivational poster #31. The poster had a picture of an obviously overweight man sitting on a couch with a remote in his hand and he was lit by what we are to assume was the television. The poster was captioned, “Can’t find 30 minutes a day to exercise? Look harder.”

The poster in itself, I had no problems with. What did strike a nerve, however, were the comments on the Facebook post and the blog comments. A majority of them just struck me as sanctimonious and self-righteous. There were posts from people who said they never watched television and couldn’t understand people who did. I understand not watching television – after my trip to Costa Rica a few years ago, I didn’t watch television for nearly six months.

But to say that you cannot understand people who do watch television? To smugly announce all the things that keep you so busy during the day that you don’t have time to watch television? To self-righteously say that the people who do watch television deserve all the health problems they end up with? To snicker at people who aren’t quite as fit and trim and healthy as you are? I have a problem with that. I have a problem with the judgmental tone that some of the comments took.

I watch television. I watch up to two hours each weeknight. Sometimes three. More on the weekends when there’s baseball, football, or tennis being broadcast. Am I staring at the television the entire time? No, I’m usually going through my mail, flipping through a magazine, working on a crossword puzzle, writing in my journal, chatting with my parents during commercial break. Would I use those two or three hours to run? Not likely because I generally run in the morning. Would those other runners sneer at me because of that? Probably.

We shouldn’t be sneering at overweight people who would rather watch television than exercise for 30 minutes. We should be trying to help them, trying to support them, trying to motivate them. We shouldn’t be thinking that we are better than they are – for all we know, they may bring more worth to the world in their daily lives than we do with all our running miles, running shorts, and running shoes. We shouldn’t be deriding people whose time management skills aren’t as good as ours. We should be finding ways to encourage them and work with them to change or improve their habits.

Runners should support people, not tear them down. Runners should encourage people to share their healthy lifestyle, not mock them. Runners should share their love for running, not make snide comments about the sedentary.

Since the time I happened across that Facebook posting and that blog post – and some other blog posts and comments in a Facebook running group that I’m part of – it’s been hard to think of runners in a positive way. It’s okay because I think those self-righteous, sanctimonious, and smug people probably wouldn’t call me a runner. They’d probably snidely call me a jogger.

That doesn’t bother me – I’ll label myself, thank you very much. In the meantime, I’m doing all I can to avoid runners with sharp elbows – in real life and in the digital world. I hope you do, too.

Happy Running!

Posted in Running

Is It Time to Panic Yet?

 

Is it time to panic yet?

Seven weeks until the 2012 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon.

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon 2012

Eight weeks until the 2012 NWM (Nike Women’s Marathon).

Eight Weeks Left NWM 2012

Is it time to panic yet? Let’s see.

  1. Did you already sign up for the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-marathon? or Have you been informed that you made it in the lottery for the NWM?
  2. Have you already made your travel arrangements?
  3. Have you already made your hotel reservations?
  4. Have you already requested time off from work (if you’re traveling and/or staying extra days in or around the race location)?
  5. Have you been following your training plan?
  6. If you answered no to #5, have you at least been running regularly?
  7. If you answered no to #6, have you at least been running a couple of times each week?
  8. If you answered no to #7, have you run at least once in the last couple of weeks?

If you answered no to the last four questions, it’s time to panic just a little bit. Sure, sheer guts and determination can take you to the finish line of a 5k or a 10k. But you don’t want to mess around with a half-marathon and especially not with a marathon. Those are distances you need to respect – unless you’ve run them several times before.

The good news is that you still have seven or eight weeks before the race. If you haven’t stuck to your training schedule, let go of expectations of a PR or winning your age group or running with your speedy friends. If you haven’t been running regularly, let go of wanting or needing to run the entire distance and allow yourself the sanity of walk breaks.

You can still show up on race day and have a great time. The key is to adjust your expectations and adjust your training schedule. The last thing you want to do now is to over-train and injure yourself.

As for me, I’m not in panic mode yet. My long run on Saturday was a bit over 10 miles. The training plan said 12 miles but I had technical difficulties with the treadmill so 10 miles was perfectly fine.

Happy Running!

 

Posted in Running, Travel

It’s All About Choices

Where are u going to..????
Where are u going to..???? (Photo credit: Goianobe)

During a recent run, I flashed back to an exchange I had with one of my tour guides in Scotland in April 2012. She had remarked on the size of my suitcase. It was a standard 28″ case that I usually bring on non-hiking vacations. I didn’t think my suitcase was inappropriate given that I was on a 15-day holiday so I said, a tad defensively, “I’m here for two weeks.”

To which she replied, “I rode my motorcycle all over the US for three months with just my saddlebags. When you get home, go to a BMW motorcycle dealership and they’ll teach you how to pack.” I politely smiled and nodded as I’m wont to do in situations where someone who doesn’t know me treats me with an air of smug superiority.

I smiled and nodded but inside, I was a bit irked. I know how to pack. I can go on a week-long business trip and just take a 19″ roll-aboard, which covers a different outfit each day, dinner outfits for each evening, and my running gear. And this woman, a complete stranger, was telling me that didn’t know how to pack?

I flashed back to this interaction because I had just finished packing for a 7-day business trip and had too much room in my 22″ case so ended up squeezing everything into my 19″ case.

It’s all about choices.

Could I have used a smaller suitcase for my Scotland trip? Sure. But I didn’t want to spend my vacation washing my knickers and t-shirts in the sink each night. I didn’t want to have vacation pictures with me wearing the same pullover day after day. So I chose to bring a bigger bag so that I would have more time to make memories and so that those memories would be happy ones.

It’s all about choices.

The same goes for race preparation, race training plans, and race expectations. I had to switch gears last week to a different marathon training plan because the original plan I chose was simply too intense. The workouts and the paces were such that I dreaded my runs instead of looking forward to them. Dreaded them so much that I didn’t run at all during the first official week of training.

I knew that I needed to shift gears and find a plan that wouldn’t intimidate me. I needed to find a plan that would allow me to enjoy running again and not dread it. Or, in the simplest terms, I needed a plan that fit my inner slacker – one that had just enough structure but not too much structure. So I did some looking and dug up a very basic beginner just-finish-the-marathon plan. Luckily, it was one week shorter than the other plan so I wasn’t having to play catch up right out of the gate.

Since it’s a beginner plan, the build up is gradual and seems infinitely more manageable. And I know that if I follow it, I will be able to meet my goal of improving on last year’s marathon. Of course, I’m already tweaking the plan to fit my schedule and my life. But after just one week, I already notice the difference in my attitude about running. It’s no longer, “I have to run a 5-mile tempo run tomorrow.” Instead, it’s more like, “I can’t wait to see if I can push the pace a little bit during my 4 miles tomorrow.”

It’s all about choices.

Could I have gutted it out and stuck with the more intense training plan? Adjusted the paces down a little bit to be less intimidating? Sure. But that wouldn’t have addressed my attitude about running. So I chose to find a more realistic plan so that I can nurture my love of running with less potential to get injured and a higher likelihood of meeting my goal.

It’s all about choices. In packing, in planning, in running, and in life. Make your choices good choices.

And the thought processor churns on…