Saturday, December 1, 2018

Howdy, Y'all (I'm Running the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Half Tomorrow)

Shoutout to Grace for reminding me that I have a blog!

First things first: My parents, siblings, and Bailey are fine following the massive earthquake that hit Anchorage yesterday. My parents had to turn off their water due to a burst pipe and will likely be without running water for a few days but otherwise the only damage was a bunch of broken pictures and knickknacks (my mom looooves holiday knickknacks so I imagine there were plenty to clean up). The area continues to be hit by very large (5+) aftershocks, which has everyone understandably on edge, but the worst seems to have passed. I'll be curious to see what damage remains when I visit in a few weeks. My brother sent me a video taken at my parents' house if you're interested.

Just time for a quick recap of the last two and a half years: I finished a five-year stint in Eugene, Oregon, accepted my shiny new economics PhD, and moved to SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS for a job at a school. My job is decidedly awesome but the whole "Alaskan living in Texas" thing has been about as fun as one might expect. My boyfriend (can I call him W? I'll call him W. The ways in which bloggers refer to their SOs is always interesting to me) has another year in grad school so we are living apart, which is also about as fun as one might expect. But more on that another day!

What I'm doing tomorrow: I'm running the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll half marathon, a phrase which makes little sense if you know me even a little bit. A dean at work (there are, like, two hundred deans and vice presidents at my school) does a "half marathon challenge" every year, which works the way you think it does (they track the number of students/faculty/staff who run the race and do some training runs together). I had serious reservations about doing a Rock 'n' Roll race but figured it would be nice to do a race nearby that would also benefit my school in some small way. After the mayhem that was the expo yesterday (more on that below), I'm pretty confident I made the wrong decision but hey, shit happens!

How my training has been going: My training has gone really well, all things considered. I've been running four days a week and doing yoga three days a week, with a full rest day on Fridays. The four runs consisted of a short speed workout, a tempo run, a long run, and an easy run the day before or after the long run. I ran a 1:48:49 (!!!) in Eugene last December on five days a week (the fifth run was an easy run) and would have preferred to do the same in San Antonio, but for whatever reason I get nervous about running on teaching days so haven't done it yet. The heat and humidity forced me to walk during many of my long runs (and, early on, during short and "easy" runs), but I had a few 10-12 mile runs that went really well. My tempo runs have also been encouraging.

My first (and hopefully last) time at a Rock 'n' Roll expo: I despise race expos. They are crowded, full of runners (I don't actually know many runners so this is probably a wildly unfair characterization but in my experience the "typical" runner just wants to humble brag about their running accomplishments and while I absolutely understand that desire, it's incredibly annoying to listen to), and filled with a bunch of stuff that few people actually need. My favorite packet pick-ups are those that enable you to get in and out in under five minutes. Just give me my bib!

Anyway, the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll expo took everything I hate about expos and ramped it up to the extreme. It was held at a convention center in the middle of downtown that was a real bitch to drive to (omg traffic, AND it would have cost $20 to park at a Denny's a few blocks away if I had gotten there before 6:00 p.m.), and although I was able to pick up my bib as soon as I entered the complex, the security people told me I wasn't allowed to leave through the entrance I had used. Instead, I had to walk through the rest of the expo, which was a long, crowded walk in the opposite direction from my car. Whine, whine, whine. So that was great.

Tomorrow: The heat advisory poster at yesterday's expo was not exactly motivating, and every time I refresh my weather app I get a little sadder about the race. The low-high is predicted to be 52-78 degrees, which is bad but not awful. However, it was nearly 70 degrees this morning despite a predicted low of 50 degrees, so I'm not convinced it will be any better tomorrow. It's also supposed to be very sunny. The only saving grace is that the humidity, which was above 80% yesterday, is supposed to fall to around 40%. And, I guess, the other saving grace is that I'm not running the full marathon. Good luck to those people.

I recognize that many runners have faced much worse weather on race day (Boston 2017 and 2018, anyone?), but it is frustrating to be stymied by the heat again and again and again. My tempo runs indicate that I am in better shape than I was last December and yet my race time is unlikely to reflect that. 

"But Jean, you CHOSE to move to Texas!", you say? I KNOW. I do. And yet, try telling me that when I'm out there heat-stroking at mile 10.

My race strategy is all over the place at the moment. On the one hand, I always start too conservatively and finish with some gas in the tank (last December my average pace was an 8:19 but my last few miles were under 8:00 and I didn't feel as tired as I think I should have afterwards). That's not a bad strategy, by any means, but I'd like to see what I can do when I really push myself.

On the other hand, I need to be realistic about the heat and its inevitable impact on my pace. Tomorrow is probably not the day for me to go out harder than I have in the past. I should also probably think of some "fun," non-time goals like "Don't poop!" and "Take in this new, cool city you live in!" although I'm not really wired in that way. I guess my primary goal is to run strong, try to keep my cool (unintentional pun!), and see what happens.

Today: I did my usual pre-race 1-miler this morning and the plan for the rest of the day is to lounge. I LOVE to lounge (lounge=not moving from my couch) but rarely allow myself to do it during the day because it makes me feel lazy. Today, however, I lounge guilt-free. Tomorrow after the race I will also lounge guilt-free.

I'm going to have frozen pesto for dinner, which I am very excited about. Did you guys know that frozen pesto (stored in an ICE TRAY, of all things) is nearly as good as freshly-made pesto?! I had no idea. Thank you, Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan, whose cookbooks I really, really love (along with the rest of the world).


Well that's all for now! Here are some pictures, in the order my computer uploaded them, to make up for all of the words.

W and I took a few weeks to drive down to Texas. This was at Big Bend National Park, a very pleasant surprise. Would recommend.

White Sands National Monument. It was crazy windy when we got there, which created a bit of a sandstorm, but it calmed down enough for me to get this picture. Would also recommend.

Great Basin National Park. I read a New York Times article about "forgotten" national parks a few days before we left Oregon and this was one of them. We immediately changed our route and man, am I glad we did! Great Basin is awesome. We were the ONLY people in this bowl.

Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. Arches suuuuuucks (so crowded), Canyonlands is pretty cool, but Dead Horse beats 'em both.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I always forget the name of this place but it's very nice (and also very small).

The Alamooooooo. I live here now.

This Japanese tea garden is RIGHT next to my work and yet I only just discovered it. It was very crowded on this day (if you look closely you can see a photographer on the right who appears to be taking a picture of W but is really taking a picture of a wedding party. Yay, photography, for enabling you to misrepresent a place!) but during the week it could be a nice place to eat lunch. 

We stayed in a cottage at a winery (vineyard? Which is the one where they make the wine but don't grow the grapes?). Texas hill country claims to be the second most-visited destination in the country for wine tourists. I am very skeptical of that claim but there are a ton of wineries in the area!

The only running picture I've taken in San Antonio. I've actually found a number of decent places to run here, although I have to drive to most them. This is part of the Salado Creek trail, and there are often a lot of cranes (or maybe herons?) and other marsh creatures hanging out here.


  1. whoa! glad your family is ok. And that is a lot of changes. yay for finishing the PhD! yay for tenure-track (?) jobs! hooray for a shiny new half PR! I prefer not to run in 80-degree heat/ 80% humidity either, but it is survivable :) how did the race go?