Posted in Race Reports, Running

Race Report – 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon

The 2013 San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll (SJRnR) Half-Marathon took place on Sunday, 6 October 2013. This was my fifth time running this race. Once again, I signed up for the 2014 event when I was at the expo on Friday.

Last year I was concerned about the lack of communication from the race organizers because the Nike Women’s Marathon (NWM) race organizers were sending out a lot of emails. This year, it’s exactly the reverse. The communication from the race organizers has been excellent, and the SJRnR Facebook site has been a good resource, too. Meanwhile, the dearth of communication from the NWM organizers is quite worrisome to me and to other runners.

2013 RnRSJ Finisher's Medal and T-shirt
2013 RnRSJ Finisher’s Medal and T-shirt

Expo and Race Swag

Packet pick-up was smooth and the volunteers were friendly and helpful. I know that they require an ID when you pick up your packet. However, it was still nice to have the volunteer tell me that she needed to see my ID because she didn’t believe the age that was printed on my bib.

They didn’t have unisex t-shirts this year so I ended up with a women’s t-shirt. I like the men’s t-shirts because they’re baggy. When I signed up for the 2014 event, I selected a men’s t-shirt. The women’s t-shirts were grey so it will be easy to match next year. I always try to wear the last year’s t-shirt to the current year’s race and, although I love navy blue (the color of last year’s shirt), it was hard to find something to go with it.

Other than the t-shirt, there was no race swag besides the little drawstring backpack. I like the drawstring backpacks because I use them when I travel.

The expo was about the same size as last year. The RnR staff working the RnR “booth” seemed distracted and disinterested. I signed up for the 2014 event and then had to find a volunteer to request my t-shirt. I ended up buying more headbands and some aloe cream, which was expensive so I hope it will be worth it.

Gear Check

The gear check area was organized and neat. As in previous years, I didn’t use the gear check because my hotel was very close to both the start and the finish line. I really like loop courses!

Race Start

The race organizers implemented a wave start this year. I saw some comments on the Facebook page about people hating the wave start. I’m generally ambivalent about wave starts because I’m slow. Although I got very antsy when my corral didn’t move for a long time, I appreciated it in the end because I was able to make a last-minute port-o-let stop, which meant that I didn’t need to make any stops on the course.

Whoever they got to sing the national anthem this year was atrocious. She was so focused on trying to sound nice that she screwed up the words, sang off-key, and was just generally horrible. Again, people have no manners when it comes to the national anthem – people didn’t remove their hats and people continued talking during the entire national anthem. No matter how horribly it is sung, people still ought to have respect for it.

Race Course, Entertainment, and Volunteers

The course hasn’t changed in the past few years. It’s mostly flat with three or four small hills to keep things interesting. I know that the race organizers added the “mini-marathon” last year to increase participation and registration but they really add to the congestion in the early miles.

I had my headphones this year so the bands weren’t as important as they were last year. This year, the music was upbeat, which was good. The cheer teams were enthusiastic and loud. It was great watching them high-five runners and wave their signs, trying to cool the runners off as they passed by.

The volunteers at the water stations and along the way were great. I wish someone could tell them how helpful it is to have someone clapping and cheering for you along the course, especially in the middle miles. Because they really are. When you hear a random stranger tell you that you’re doing great, just when you’re wondering what you’re doing out there, it’s very helpful.

In addition to the volunteers, the residents who came out to watch the race, who pulled out their boomboxes or their instruments, who turned on their water hoses and sprinklers also helped to keep the runners going. I saw a lot of funny signs – not that I can remember any of them now – along the way, too. I hope all the volunteers, cheer teams, bands, and spectators realize how much we appreciate them.

Post Race: Goodies and Medals

The 2013 medal is blah. It matches the shirt. It’s almost as if the race organizers ran out of inspiration when it came to San Jose. After all, what is San Jose known for that you could turn into a finisher’s medal? I hope they get a surge of creativity next year.

The energetic blonde lady wasn’t at the finish line again. The finish line seems anti-climatic without her.

After taking my finisher’s photo, I wandered around the loop collecting water, Gatorade, two containers of chocolate milk, a Power Bar, a Jamba Juice smoothie, a banana, and snap pea crisps. Not a lot of munchies this year but I suppose it was okay because I don’t know how I could have carried anymore. Maybe next year I’ll remember to tuck a little bag in my pocket.

Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

Thumbs UP:  The organization of this event is truly flawless.

Thumbs DOWN: I absolutely hate having an event called the “mini marathon” as part of this race day, especially when the distance of that event is 5 miles. What’s wrong with calling it a 5-miler?

Thumbs UP: Getting the high school and middle school children to volunteer is great.

Thumbs DOWN: The water on the course tasted bad. Not at all of the aid stations, just at the first and second aid stations.

Thumbs UP: This event continues to grow and still maintain its high energy and great coordination.

I’m looking forward to running this race again next year. In the meantime…

Happy running!

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Posted in Opinions and Thoughts, Running

From Disenchantment to Closure

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. There are a lot of reasons for this – the holidays came up, my travel schedule this year has been more intense than in prior years, I’ve chosen to spend time goofing off, etc. But the main reason I’ve not written is that after the 2012 NWM, I became disenchanted with the running community. To be specific, the online running community. To be even more specific, the online running groups on Facebook.

The social aspect – online or in real life – has never been part of why I run. So it’s been frustrating that I let my disenchantment with these online running groups affect my running.

In these past few months, I’ve tried to overcome my disenchantment with my fellow runners. For me, part of overcoming any feeling is figuring out why. Why was I disenchanted with my fellow runners as a result of running groups on Facebook?

I could tell you specific reasons and even share screenshots with you. But that wasn’t the why that I needed to understand. The why that I needed to understand went deeper. Why was I letting these Facebook running groups bother me so? Even after I left the groups and deleted the chats?

For a long time, I couldn’t answer that question. But on a recent trip, I read a brief bit in Hemispheres, the inflight publication of United Airlines, that said we remember things that we see in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) better and longer than things we see in any other medium. They aren’t quite sure why. They speculate it’s because of the chatty, gossipy nature of social media.

Somehow, after reading that handful of paragraphs, I felt validated for letting those Facebook running groups bother me. And although I’m not ready to engage with those groups again, I am ready to put those bad episodes behind me. I’ve achieved closure as a result of that magazine blurb and plan to get back in the habit of posting regularly.

Have you ever simmered, seethed, and steamed over a Facebook post or a Tweet? Share in the comments below!

Happy Running!

Posted in Etiquette, Opinions and Thoughts, Running

Do You Run with Baggage?

English: Bespoke red custom baggage - Tanner K...

Do you run with baggage? What thoughts wander around in your head while you’re running? Are they good thoughts? Brilliant ideas? To do list items?

When I run on the treadmill, even if I’m watching a movie or a television show, there are a lot of thoughts wandering around in my head. For me, running time is processing time. Time to think about whatever I saw, read, observed, encountered, worked on, etc. since my last run. Or time to zone out if things were stressful.

When I run outside, my mind usually isn’t on my surroundings because it’s processing, just like it does on my treadmill runs. Do I notice my surroundings? Sure, especially if I’m running in a new place. Do I notice the cars whizzing by? Of course, safety when running outdoors is important to me. Do I notice other runners, walkers, and bikers? Absolutely, we are sharing the same space, after all.

Do I acknowledge those runners, walkers, and bikers? If you read my post, To Cheer or Not to Cheer – There is No Question, you know what I like to acknowledge others. So when I’m running outside, I’ll usually greet other runners, walkers, and bikers with a hearty, “Good morning!” or a cheery, “Hello!” Sometimes I smile and nod. I don’t wave. I’m not a fan of waving. How do I decide whether to speak or just smile and nod? If they have their headphones on, I’ll smile and nod. If they are with a companion and they’re in the middle of a conversation, I won’t acknowledge unless one of them makes eye contact. If they are on the phone, I may smile and nod or I may speak. If I’m feeling grumpy, I may just nod.

I have a lot of guidelines to acknowledging others on the road, right? I don’t have hard and fast rules about acknowledging other. I like to do it. Do I always do it? No. Do others always return my gesture? Of course not. Do I care if they don’t? Absolutely not.

A Facebook running group recently discussed the topic of runners not returning acknowledgments. The majority of people who commented said that they were offended or annoyed or irked or bothered when people didn’t return their greetings. It’s rude, some said.

I disagree with them. I’m sure I’ve been on the other side of not reciprocating an acknowledgment because I’ve been lost in my thoughts. If I ignored an acknowledgment, it wasn’t intentional. It certainly wasn’t personal. It doesn’t mean that I hate the person. It doesn’t mean anything at all.

If my acknowledgment is not returned, I know that it’s not about me. I may think to myself, “Well, I tried.” Or, “They must be having a bad day.” If my mom is on my mind, I might tell myself, “Their mom must have told them not to talk to strangers.” If I’m huffing and puffing pretty hard, I sometimes think, “They must not have understood what I was saying.” I let the thought come and then just as quickly, I let it go.

I have too much other stuff going on in my head to stuff any more baggage in there that doesn’t need to be there. I have enough emotional baggage of my own that I don’t need to be worried about whether a complete stranger snubbed me. I’m a slow enough runner that I don’t need to be weighed down by additional baggage like that.

If you see me running outside and you speak to me or smile/wave/nod and I don’t respond, don’t take it personally. I don’t hate you. I’m not ignoring you. I’m not secretly plotting your demise. It’s possible that I didn’t hear you, especially if I’m listening to music. It’s possible that I didn’t see you because of the glare from the sun or because I blinked. It’s possible that I’m struggling to find a rhythm and just missed your friendly gesture. It’s most likely that I’m lost in thought and just wasn’t paying attention. I can guarantee you 100% that it’s not about you.

So don’t hold it against me. Because it’s highly probable that the next time you see me, you’ll get a cheery greeting and a big, goofy smile. And I hope you’ll return my friendly gesture. But if you don’t, I won’t hold it against you. And I won’t give it a second thought.

Roobarb smiles

Happy Running!

Posted in Running

Chasing Demons Leads to…

Runners run for different reasons. Some runners run for weight loss, some for fitness. Some runners run to hold back the hands of time, some because they’ve always run. Some runners run to meditate, some to relieve stress. Some runners run to remember, some to forget.

I started running as a way to spend time with my father and I’ve run ever since. I don’t mind my own company so running suits me because it’s mostly a solitary pursuit.

My brother ran because he had to for football. But other than that, he didn’t run at all. Until recently.

About a year or so ago, my brother started running to keep someone company while she trained for a 5k. He didn’t want to enter the race, he just joined her for random training runs. He’s a much more social being so he prefers team activities like volleyball and bocce. I watched his running progress via his Runkeeper and Facebook updates, not offering much besides a thumbs up or to comment, “Good job!” He made it pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in entering a race and that he was just running for a girl.

Life is all about change and it’s a time of change for my brother. He’s going through some interesting times right now and his updates refer to his runs as “chasing demons.” Running has become his escape.

I noticed via Runkeeper that his runs were becoming more frequent so I thought I needed to step in with some words of experience. I didn’t want him to injure himself by adding mileage too quickly or by pushing too hard a pace too often. I wanted him to stick with running and grow to love it, as I do.

So as we’ve been talking, texting, and emailing over the weeks, I’ve always managed to sneak in a word or two about running. I encouraged him to increase his distance slowly instead of running the same distance every time. I advised him to run fast only once or twice a week and to run all of his other runs at a conversational pace. I knew he was hooked the day that he called me and asked me to talk to him while he ran so he could determine what his “conversational pace” was.

That’s when I moved into phase 2 of my running campaign – trying to convince him to enter a race. But not just any race, a half-marathon. That would accomplish a few things. It would give him a goal to progress towards, it would give him a reason to continue running, and it would get him to come home for a visit. I managed to mention the Big Sur Half-Marathon  each time we spoke, telling him that there was plenty of time to train because the race wasn’t until November.

Big Sur half marathon monterey 2011
Big Sur half marathon monterey 2011 (Photo credit: fogcat5)

When registration opened on the 1st of April, I registered for the Big Sur Half-Marathon and tweeted that I had. My brother called me that afternoon and without any greeting, he said,”Ninety-five dollars?!? That’s expensive!” That made my day – I knew he was hooked. I told him that if he skipped one dinner out a week or had one beer less when he was out with the guys, he could save up the entry fee in no time.

And then the miracle happened.

On Friday, he registered for the half-marathon. And did he even call me to tell me he had? Of course not. I had to find out by seeing it posted on his Facebook page. It didn’t matter because I was so excited for him, for me, and for running.

My brother started running to chase the demons and he’s chased them right into a half-marathon.

Why do you run? Where will your running take you? How do you share your love of running?

Happy Running!