Going in to Saturday's race, I was pretty nervous. I mean, I always get the typical pre-race jitters, and I felt that queasy excitement the night before and morning of the race. But there were other things on my mind too —
It had been so incredibly hot here in the Bay Area in the week before, and while the forecast was supposed to be much cooler, it was still warm and muggy. The race started at 9:45, several hours later than when I normally run (mostly to avoid the heat and humidity). I'd run the day before the race — a "no-no" for some people who say you're supposed to rest to run on fresh legs. I was worried about my Achilles, as the last time I raced, I tweaked my calf muscle, and I knew that injuries were much more likely the faster and harder I pushed myself. I'd planned to use this race to help guide my pacing for my upcoming half-marathon, and there was part of me that said "girl, the slower you run, the slower you have to take those 13.1 miles" and that part of me made a lot of sense. Because the idea of running let alone racing a half-marathon still overwhelms me. But then there was the part of me that said "the last time you ran a 5K, you ran 9'19" and I bet you could go 9'10" or so. You can do it. You got this."
So I ran a very slow 10-minute warm-up, got in the pen back a bit from the fastest runners, and when the gun went off (ok, there wasn't a gun — it was a big loud crowd-led countdown), I ran. I raced. I couldn't get my watch to start tracking and fiddled around with it stupidly as I ran down the hill towards the lake. I wasn't expecting the incline — this was a different course than I've run before, and I went far too fast out the gate, distracted by the stupid technology on my wrist. A 5K is a fast race, sure, but you do have to pace yourself carefully and keep your breathing and your speed under control (until the last 800 meters or so and then you just run like hell). I tried to rein it in a bit, trying not to focus on my watch but keeping an eye on my pace so that I didn't blow up. As the race wound its way through downtown Oakland, I could tell I was doing pretty good, as the course was an "out and back" and I could see that while the fastest runners were headed back, I was quite near the front of the pack. I picked a young guy to try to keep pace with and ran in his blind spot for the first two miles. He obviously had saved something for the last 800 meters and took off quickly to finish; I hadn't saved enough to sprint. But I ran through the finish line in what I thought felt a pretty respectable time. The whole race was certainly a hard push.
When I looked at my watch, I thought there must be a mistake. It had me clocked at less than 3.11 miles — a 5K — but at an 8'18"/mi pace. And then I got a text from the race organizers that my official time had been posted: 8'/mi flat. I ran a 5K in 24:51.
I came in second in my age group and fourteenth overall among the women.
I spent the next couple of hours on a post-running high, which came crashing down when I looked at a pace calculator and saw that it suggested I run my half-marathon in less than two hours (at an 8'30"/mi or so pace). Yikes.
I ate a giant Mission burrito for dinner and took full advantage of the massage gun I got for my birthday. (There isn't really much "science" to support these percussive massagers but I don't care. My calves are so tight, and it hurts so good to pommel them with the machine.) I'm headed to see my physical therapist this afternoon — she's off to race the Berlin Marathon (along with world record holder Eliud Kipchoge, who's on the cusp of breaking that two-hour mark for a marathon, making me whine about two hours for a half marathon pretty funny). I owe Dr. Bui a big "thank you" for all the work she's had me do to address my Achilles injury and to strengthen my calves and glutes.
Today's also a big day as Kaia has left to return to college — fingers crossed that she'll actually have a year of on-campus, face-to-face college education before she graduates this spring. (She's thinking about taking a fifth year just so she can in fact have more of a "college experience.") We celebrated her birthday this past week with a meal at San Ho Wan (the hardest spot to get a reservation in the City, so I win with that gift, for sure). The meal was incredible — everything was phenomenal, and while it might sound funny, I'd say my favorite thing was the gyeranjjim, the egg soufflé with anchovy broth. I'd never had samgye jook before, and it was a belly full of comfort, making me think about the memoirs I've read recently by Korean-American daughters about their Korean mothers and love and food and death and trauma.
Speaking of mothers and love and food and death and trauma, I've been reading a lot of memoirs lately, including my friend Casey's book, Diary of a Misfit. Casey was in the book writing class at Columbia where I began work on Teaching Machines, and it was wonderful to see another project come out of it. (There are going to be so many amazing books come out of that class.) There's a chapter in Diary of a Misfit about the class and the series of events surrounding guest speaker Jennifer Finney Boylan and Casey's mom. These events — the day of Boylan's visit and the subsequent class period — were some of the most emotional memories of my time at Columbia, and I read much of Casey's book tensed up, with a lump in my throat, waiting for them to unfold. The book is subtitled "a memoir and a mystery," and Casey is so dogged about trying to unravel the latter, all the while writing so vividly about her own life — she is a "misfit," alongside Roy, the trans man whose life she tries to chronicle.
This week, I've watched folks display the strangest sorts of emotional responses to the death of Queen Elizabeth II — good matriarch, bad matriarch, what have you. With or without Empire, the death of mothers is always painful; it's always messy; the ceremony, awkward and overwrought and overdetermined.
I didn't wait around to see if I was going to be called up onto the podium after my race — I don't even know how those ceremonies work, having never been a sports person. Instead, I went home and ate a Boichik Bagel, finding comfort in food instead — a lesson I definitely learned from my mom.