April 2014


If you’re a Disney runner, you want to be “Perfect.” If you’re a Nike runner, you want to be a “Legacy.” Many races have some version of this title, where a runner has run the race every year since its inception. First, it’s pretty cool to be able to say you have been there for every race. More important, races tend to provide special swag for these runners—sashes, special bibs, distinctive ribbons on the medals, gifts—as well as recognition in the program or on a banner. So running an inaugural race has its potential drawbacks, but also the potential for great reward. (True confession: I was thrilled to get an email from the Berkeley Half Marathon offering the Legacy runners an early registration opportunity!)

RnR SF shirt front

Last year I ran the Inaugural Rock n Roll San Francisco half marathon. While I had my complaints about both the race (a hill right before the finish line and seriously could it have been any colder?) and the series (discontinuation of the elite athlete program and additional fees for Tour Pass holders—both reversed after enormous public outcry), I couldn’t pass up the chance to eventually become a Perfect-Legacy-Whatever of the rock n roll world. (Okay, full disclosure: because the race sold out last year, I signed up to run 2014 at the 2013 expo—before the race.)

The 2014 publicity announced all sorts of changes. The biggest deal was the course change from a loop to a point-to-point. I’d expected a course change, since I heard Rock n Roll series was “stuck” with the 2013 course after purchasing the date and permits from another race organization. The new starting line was out by the beach, a public transportation dead zone (not that there is public transit that early in the morning anyway), and both the parking situation and the need to ride a shuttle to the start made me a little queasy due to less than ideal past experiences with both at other races. Fortunately the pre-paid parking I purchased at the Expo worked exactly as it should—I show up, there is a place for me to park—and the shuttle worked rather well. (My only shuttle complaint is that I didn’t ask for the number of the cute guy who sat down next to me.) As I got off the bus, I was MUCH less worried about the race. Grade: A.

RnR SF shirt design

But wait.

The starting line was a madhouse like any large race, but with plenty of porta-potties. (This is a factor NOT to be underestimated!) The race directors decided to allow the last corral to start first, giving them some lead time before the elite runners and the rest of the pack and to prevent them from getting swept on the Golden Gate Bridge, which had a hard re-open time (and at least a chance of hitting the finish line before the chocolate milk ran out). This seemed like a good idea to me, since the Rock n Roll races usually put about five minutes between corrals in order to keep the runners somewhat spaced out along the course. Sadly, it was the organizing team that spaced out, and not only did the last corral not leave early, it left after the published start time for the race. This was a critical error, but making it worse was the decision to not leave as much time as usual between the corrals. As a result, the last corral (which started first) was still thick and clumped together as the elite runners came speeding through, dodging and weaving to avoid taking out the slower runners. As a result, the first few miles were a big, hot mess. Grade: A for effort, D for results.

I wasn’t feeling particularly speedy and found myself trudging up San Francisco’s famous hills. Fortunately I plodded forward far enough to find my friend Lillie Goker. Lillie is one of the people I added to my personal circle of athlete-ninjas last year during my race to Earth in the Half Fanatics club. She noticed that we were both part of typically non-overlapping Facebook groups, and last year at the Rock n Roll Portland half marathon she introduced herself (“Bain? Hi, I’m Lillie!”) as she ran past. (On each of our best days, Lillie is much faster than I am.) We ran into each other at multiple races, from the Rock n Roll races in Seattle and Vegas to Disney World where we ran part of the Dopey Challenge races together. Since I went to many races only knowing 1 or 2 people from my immediate running group, it was great to get to know Lillie as we criss-crossed the country (simultaneously, but independently) and shared runs, usually bumping into each other randomly somewhere along the way.

To the average person, Lillie does not look like an experienced runner (marathoner!). Right now she doesn’t have a body like the Karas or Laurens of the world. During some races she takes extended walking breaks or does not run at all. What the average person can’t tell from looking at Lillie is that even though she’s still in her 30s, she has Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) and Atrial Fibrilation (AFib)—two potentially life-threatening heart conditions that she must vigilantly self-monitor—and the meds that help keep her safe aren’t exactly figure-friendly.

As it turned out, Lillie was not having a great race either. The San Francisco weather was cooperatively not freezing, and the skies were clear enough to reveal gorgeous views from the Golden Gate Bridge, but Lillie’s heart was acting like a feisty two-year-old complete with choruses of “I DON’T WANNA!” Since I pretty much only see Lillie at races, and I know it sucks to be all by yourself and having a hard race (been there, got the tech shirt) it was a total no-brainer to me: forget running hard, and enjoy the morning with Lillie (who reminded me multiple times that really, she’d be fine without me…it took me a few to determine she was concerned she was “ruining” my race, and not annoyed by my yapping!).

It would be exaggerating to say that EVERY other runner passed us, because we did not DLF (dead last finish); but when we reached the finish line, the chocolate milk was gone and the beer tent was populated by fewer than a dozen other runners (who had not, fortunately, consumed all the beer). That said, we both had as much fun as one can have at a race. We waved at Dr. Dribble as he ran by with his basketballs, I introduced her to my “Got The Runs?” crew as they came through, and I had a brief conversation with Pavement Runner (another athlete-ninja, but a fast one!). Lillie actively managed her heart condition and we enjoyed the day.

A good race for me is one where I enjoy myself and get to spend some time with friends. I can run faster on any day I want, but I can’t always see Lillie. Besides, I was having a pretty crappy race until I ran into her. Misery loves company? Maybe, but I’d say misery vanishes in the San Francisco sunlight in the company of friends. I’d say it was Perfect.

RnR SF Finishers Medal

The team at Women’s Health magazine sent this invitation to the Action Hero team and asked us to spread the word.  I’m not going to be at Coachella (I’m wine tasting with friends on Saturday, and teaching yoga on Sunday) so unfortunately I can’t attend. That’s too bad because the tickets are my favorite price (FREE!), you just have to RSVP.

Perhaps YOU can attend and tell me how it went?


There were not enough porta-potties at the starting line.

You read that right: not enough porta-potties at the starting line. (I only know this because I was talking to one of the nearby merchants after the race, and he said runners were asking if they could pretty-please use the bathroom in his store.  Like the welcoming town Livermore is, said merchant allowed them to do so.) For an inaugural race, that’s pretty high praise–the lack of porta-potties was the absolute worst visible gaffe throughout the entire race experience.  Bravo, Inagural Livermore Half Marathon!

While I would have preferred some race day packet pickup, I understand the logistical mess that could have been.  There were two pickup options, one on Thursday at the Livermore 24 Hour Fitness, and one on Friday at the pre-race Expo in downtown Livermore. Fortunately work had me driving home through Livermore on Friday, so I stopped by the Expo.


A printout of all of the race numbers was taped down to the tables in front, and after looking up my number I walked right to the pick-up tables–no lines–for my bib and shirt. True to the promise in the pre-race advertising, this is a cute shirt I will actually wear.

 Livermore Shirt  Livermore shirt back

The Expo itself was somewhat small, with tables for maybe 8 vendor-exhibitors.  These included Vega and Culligan, the on-course hydration support team, a few services (chiropractic, massage), a Stella & Dot vendor, and the San Francisco creation “Go Cuff.”

Livermore Half Marathon GoCuff sign

Then I discovered the Artistic Table–turns out they were one of the post-run RunLiv festival sponsors–where I had a delightfully crispy light red while finshing up some work for the week and awaiting my friend Sandy.

Sandy and I had a pre-race pasta fest (yes, I know the science behind carb loading says us weekenders don’t need it, but I like pasta!) at Strizzi’s ( I would have eaten (and sipped!) more, but I still had to drive home (making Sandy the smarter of the two of us, as she booked a hotel).

Race day morning, I experienced the usual difficult prying myself out of bed.  Arriving in Livermore just about ten minutes before the start of the race, I was thrilled to find ample, FREE, convenient parking.  Score another one for Livermore. During my warm-up jog to the starting line I fastened my SpiBelt and stuck the timing tag to my shoe. As I hit the back of the pack, the race started and I turned around for the run.

The run was beautiful! I’d previously run the Grape Stomp, also in Livermore, but this course was entirely different.  We started right in the middle of downtown, at First Street and Livermore Avenue. From there we ran through some neighborhoods, then through several parks (Independence Park, Sycamore Park, Holdener Park, Robertson Park), and past multiple wineries and vineyards (notably Wente, which I love for its support of numerous charitable endeavors). The weather was perfect, and the surrounding beautiful: verdant green hills surrounded us on all sides! The on-course support was well-staffed and well-executed.  I honestly felt like the entire city of Livermore was quite happy to welcome us.

At the finish line I received my inaugural finisher medal, pretty and with a nifty wine glass spinner in the center.

Livermore Half Marathon medal selfie

More important, I received my RunLiv festival wine glass! It’s a good thing I have a photo of my ID on my phone, since I’d left the car in a hurry to get to the starting line.

Livermore glass

The remainder of the chute area sent us runners through all the typical post-race refreshments, such as Muscle Milk, bananas, and donuts.  (Yes, donuts! I’m not ashamed to say I snarfed my coconut covered old-fashioned…but perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten the second one.) From there it was a party! Live music, a dance area, and about a dozen wineries (plus a brewery) pouring tastes for runners.  Non-runners who purchased a ticket were also welcome to join in the fun.




Shops lining the streets also got in on the action. Caratti Jewelers handed out adorable little gift bags with jewelry cleaner and the new Pandora catalogue inside.  (Learn more at  Pretty awesome, since I have a lot of tarnished silver earrings–thanks, Caratti!

Since the field was reasonable but not huge, I easily found my run club friends at the festival. After we sampled as much wine as seemed reasonable at the time–and stopped by to sample the official event wine for RunLiv–we grabbed some hot slices and watched as the rain started to come down.

Livermore RunLiv Party

(Hey Dianne, how much stuff did you have in that bag, anyway??? Kidding!) On the way back to my car I grabbed a cup of coffee to keep me warm on the way home.

Not only did I have a fantastic time at a race that seemed nearly seamless and flawless, I was stoked to find discount codes for the upcoming RunOak and RunSF events on the back of my bib.  With an inaugural race this good, of course I’m siging up for both!  Now, let’s see if the organizers decide to throw in some bonus bling for those of us who run all three.

Livermore Half Marathon
The Town’s Half Marathon
The US Half Marathon

And seriously, about that bonus bling…


Hey there! I’m revisiting this post  back from the earliest days of my blog–can you believe I published it on April 10, 2014??–because now it comes with a giveaway! This giveaway is not sponsored by CamelBak or Nuun.

First, The Review!

Integrity Statement: CamelBak provided me with a Relay pitcher to review back in 2014. I did not receive any other compensation for this review. All opinions are my own. All words are my own, except where otherwise indicated.

So just how much water should be consumed on a daily basis for optimal health? The consensus among health experts, in other words those who look to optimize health and not merely look at the absence of disease as a sign of health, is that there is a chronic dehydration epidemic.  Paul Chek and Steve Meyerowitz recommend one-half of an individual’s body weight in ounces (90 oz. of water for someone weighing 180 lb.), while Mark Lindsay recommends 0.6 ounces times body weight in pounds (106 oz. for someone weighing 180 lb.) for achieving optimal health and mobility. Even greater fluid intake has been recommended for those individuals who are exercising and sweating profusely. While there seems to be no agreement between the researchers and the health experts, there is enough anecdotal clinical evidence to suggest that increased water consumption is warranted for achieving and maintaining tissue mobility and overall health for most individuals.

Evan Osar, Corrective Exercise Solutions to Common Hip and Shoulder Dysfunction, Lotus Publishing (2012) at 44. For National Hydration Day, I encourage you to stay hydrated!

out of the box Relay

Why am I dehydrated? My main problem is that I don’t like drinking room-temperature water.  I’ll drink hot water (in the form of coffee, tea, cocoa, or similar beverages).  Otherwise, I only like it ice cold.  Call me an American (but at least I know not to ask for ice while abroad, okay?). I’ve kept a filter pitcher in the fridge since the very first ones came out, to keep my water cold and fresh-tasting. I’m also somewhat obsessed with water bottles, and have amassed a collection of about a dozen in my quest to contribute fewer disposable plastic bottles to landfills and the plastic mass floating in the Pacific Ocean.  (Despite our best garbage-sorting efforts, most plastic is not recycled. In 2019, even less plastic is recycled because China stopped accepting American plastics for recycling. Why? We suck at recycling–there were far too many dirty items, non-recyclable “wish-cyling” items, and contaminants. Since I found half a sandwich in my apartment recycling bin, along with dental floss and used kleenex, I’m not surprised.)

Until the fall 2013 Fitness Magazine Meet and Tweet event, I thought CamelBak was not a brand for me. The CamelBak I knew was a hydration pack for longer distance runners (not me) and had a bite valve (not for me). In my defense, the association makes sense, since CamelBak basically invented the hydration pack. As it turns out, CamelBak makes a pretty excellent water bottle with a filter in the bottle—the CamelBak Groove Insulation—so the water is filtered as you drink it.  The drinking spout folds, make it spill-proof, and therefore perfect for me.  My CamelBack from the Fitness event became my go-to travel bottle, since the straw-like drinking valve prevents me from spilling it on myself as I drove all over the state of California for work; I eventually lost it during my work travels. Hopefully it found a good home. The double-walled bottle design is optimal for avoiding slippery hands and water puddles caused by condensation as cool beverages warm up, but the same design prevents it from being optimal for refrigerator storage. Also, it is too small to chill enough water to keep me steadily drinking.

My new RelayEnter CamelBak Relay. The Relay is a filtration pitcher with a 10-cup capacity, perfect for the fridge. (It fits inside the door.) CamelBak graciously offered me a Relay to test drive, and after just a week I decided to give away all of my other filtration pitchers. I’ll never need them again, since CamelBak has a lifetime “Got Your Bak” warranty. By the way, now that I’m in 2019, I still only use my Camelbak.

Filter close-upWhen I opened the box, my first thought was disappointment.  The filter is so huge compared to my old pitchers that I thought, “there is no way I can recommend a product that is going to generate more waste than what is already on the market.”  Then I read the directions.  Oops. Turns out the filters last four months (not 30 days) with regular usage, which means it generates LESS waste than my old filters. Win! This is “double-filter technology,” filtering the water first as you fill it up, and again as you pour the water out. The lid even has a built in reminder dial so you don’t have to remember when to change the filter. Win!Close up of the reminder

The most obvious thing to love about the Relay is that it fills up quickly. My old pitchers were very slow to filter the water, so I would end up standing at the sink as I filled the pre-filtration chamber, waited for it to filter, and then re-filled the chamber to achieve a full pitcher to put in the fridge.  Those days are over. The Relay filters the water about as quickly as I run the tap, meaning I turn on the tap and fill the pitcher—no waiting. Sure, you might be thinking this is a net savings of just five minutes per refill, but over the course of a year those five-minute periods add up to hours I could be running or sleeping!

My second favorite feature is the snap-shut lid. Despite my years in dance and yoga, you can just call me Grace in my tiny kitchen. The biggest peril with my old pitchers is that I’d pour a glass of water over ice just after filling the pitcher and knock the lid off, spilling the water in the pre-filtration chamber all over myself, the floor, the stove, and anything else nearby. With the Relay, that’s impossible.  The lid has two side-locking latches that snap shut, securing the lid tightly. So even if I managed to start pouring before all the water left the pre-filtration chamber—a move that would require Speedy Gonzalez-like agility, since the chamber empties so quickly—there is no way I can accidentally turn my desire for a drink into a shower.  Bravo!

The speedy filing and secure lid were designed in response to consumer requests.  According to the press release: “CamelBak Relay is the latest example of our commitment to promote hydration while eliminating disposable bottled water,” said Sally McCoy, CamelBak CEO. “We listened to our consumers’ frustration with existing water filtration pitchers and solved each complaint by creating an all-around better product that filters water fast, prevents spills and fits well into refrigerators.”

As a design aficionado, I also appreciate the pretty colors (and CamelBak sent me a blue one, my favorite!). I know, pretty colors shouldn’t make the water taste better…but if they make me like the pitcher more, I’ll want to use it more, which means I’ll drink more water.  Hydration, level up.

Camelbak_Relay_Sam_0727_CharRelay_BoxRightPour_PurpleFINALFinally, the taste. I currently live in an area with decent-tasting water but WWII-era plumbing.  According to CamelBak, “When tested to NSF/ANSI Standard 42, independent test results have shown Relay removes 97% of chlorine, taste, and odor.” I have not seen the test results, but I love the taste when I pour.

You can learn more about CamelBak and buy your own Relay at . The Relay is also available at Target (MSRP $36.99), and at this point in 2019 I’m pretty sure you can buy it pretty much everywhere–I buy my replacement filters using Amazon Prime.


In celebration of #NationalHydrationDay (no, I am not sure when that is, but I saw it in a tweet for runners, so it has to be a real holiday, right?) I am giving away a box of hydration goodies. One lucky winner will receive:

  • A brand new Camelbak Relay Pitcher! (In the box–but I accidentally left it in the sun, so one side is faded.)
  • A brand new Camelbak Fresh filter water bottle! (Not in the box–I accidentally squished it–but the plastic wrapper is still over the “straw” portion and the filter is still in the package, so you can tell it’s new.)
  • A  suite of Nuun products (see my review here: Happy Nuun Year!): 1 tube of Nuun electrolytes (watermelon), 1 tube of Nuun vitamins (blueberry pomegranate), AND a limited edition Nuun water bottle celebrating the Pacific Northwest!
  • Samples of other hydration products (as your taste may differ from mine)

This is only open to residents of the US and Canada. Sorry everyone, this is a big ol’ box, and postage is killer!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Technically I live in Alameda, but I work in downtown Oakland and consider the Oakland Half Marathon my hometown race—not to sound too much like Sarah Palin, but you see can Snow Park, site of the start/finish and after-party from my office window.  Earlier this year, Runners World magazine featured a two page story about the Oakland Running Festival.  The Festival is more than a half marathon.  Runners can also choose a full marathon, marathon relay, 5k, or kids’ run (which is, as the name implies, for kids). New for 2014 there was also a “We Run The Town” challenge—run both the 5k and the half marathon, receive an extra piece of bling—for those ready to bump it up a notch, but perhaps not up to the full marathon.  When I shared the Runners World photos of the Raider Nation guys dolled-up in their Oakland best to my running roommate Kirstin, she knew them! Already registered for the half and excited to run it again, I then committed to memorizing their names so I could surprise them as I ran by.

RunnersWorld article on ORF

This should not have been a great race for me, since I had not run a single step since the Glass Slipper Challenge at DisneyWorld some four weeks earlier.  (True story! Hey, work kept me busy and out of town and on airplanes most of that time, and I spent more time trying to figure out which time zone I was in than where I could plan to run.) There’s  no way I was going to miss the race, but I did decline the inaugural “We Run TheTown” challenge…while anyone who knows me knows just how much I love my bonus bling, I thought it best not to press my luck, you know? Since I am currently on a much tighter racing budget than I was last year, I decided to go to the expo almost as late as possible. My thought was that there would be fewer temptations that way, both in terms of fewer things to eat and fewer things to buy.  (Yes, it took all my willpower  to NOT sign up for Santa Rosa at the expo—a race I’m pretty sure I’m going to register for later anyway—but I was afraid it would be a slippery slope!) Thankfully the half has a relatively late start, so I was able to semi-sleep in, drive into Oakland, and still find parking.  This year there were multiple free lots, a nice perk for those used to running in San Francisco (where “Free Parking” only exists on Monopoly boards). I set myself up in the back of the pack, expressed admiration for a very pregnant runner, snapped a selfie with another Half Fanatic, and wondered if I was going to keep over mid-course from lack of training.

The first few miles felt great! I love that the mayor comes out to wave the runners through the starting line, and I love running through the mix of architecture that is downtown Oakland.  After a few miles one of my GTR friends snuck up on me from behind, and with the assistance of her interval timer we played  leap-frog until about mile 6 (first she’d run ahead, then I’d catch up and pass her, and when I stopped she’d run ahead).  According to Nike+, my first few miles were great, and I broke my own PR for the 10k (which, incidentally, I set last year on the same course). Eventually my hammies yelled UNCLE! And around mile 7, I couldn’t see her ahead of me anymore. The course was very similar to the course last year, and was great for all of the reasons I wrote about on the Women’s Health Action Hero Blog (which, if you missed it, you can read here: The after party was just as much fun as 2013, with live bands, an assortment of food trucks, beer from 21st Amendment Brewery (, and wines from Barefoot Wine ( I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to sip on some sparkling California wine!  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Along the 2014 course I was happy to grab an orange from the crew at The Brown Sugar Kitchen ( which also had a DJ and other treats; and this year I had the forethought to throw both hands in the air while running under the arch of flames—literally, an arch with fire on it—set up by local industrial arts non-profit The Crucible ( which also put out a dragon belching flames and a few other combusting delights.  Raider Nation rocked the underpass with a DJ and high fives all around, but there was no sign of Azell Afrodesiac, Gorilla Rilla, or the Senior Raider (happy belated birthday, Sean!), all of whom were clearly playing hooky just to mess with me.

About midway through the half, the marathoners join the same course as the half-ers and we all finish the race together.  My legs started to talk some serious smack at me around mile 7, and I was definitely dogging it for most of the rest of the race, humbled as a steady stream of marathon runners—people who already ran the length of my entire race and then some—passed on by. I started to see more and more pairs of runners, one older and one younger, in nearly matching shirts, eventually learning that they are part of Running For A Better Oakland (, an organization that pairs volunteer adult runners with kids for the race.  Their Mission Statement:

Running for a Better Oakland (RBO) is a non-profit organization that encourages Kindergarten – 12th grade Oakland students to develop healthy lifestyles through running. By building confidence, setting goals, providing training and encouragement, RBO will give students the values for achievement and hard work that they can draw on for all areas of their lives.

Seriously, how cool is that?  Very cool, until the middle school kids and their coaches start to pass me, two by two, on the loop around the lake!

I felt a little bit like the unicorn, solo and left behind as all the others made it back to the ark. For the last mile and a half, I played a slower, less methodical leap-frog with one determined running girl and her coach. The runner seemed to be maybe middle school or early high school age-ish, and by mile 11 was clearly SO OVER this race.  Her feet hurt, and she was tired.  Her coach was a peppy slip of a woman who still had more energy than Tigger, cheerleading and pacing a faux-fartlek from light post to light post. I learned that Runner was doing her very first ever half marathon (and at that point was sure it would be her last). I told her I was proud of her for training and starting, because so many people never even try to do a race.  As the gap between us and the finish line slowly shrank, Runner told me she was going to wear her medal to school the next day. I told her once she crossed that finish line she would know that she can do anything, as long as she prepares and sets her mind to it.

The last little snip of the race course is uphill. Good times. (Not.) I broke it into three pieces: run, walk, run. Runner and her coach—and several other two-by-twos—ran right past me to conquer that finish line. Some photographers were posing them, with their medals, as I walked through the chute.  I’ll never forget the transformation I saw in Runner between first meeting her at mile 11—pink in the red-faced and worn-out kind of way, dragging behind her coach—and the gigantic and genuine grin gracing her from head to toe as she posed with her medal: a new athlete with the entire world in front of her.

A new athlete?  (obligatory post-race sweaty selfie)
A new athlete?
(obligatory post-race sweaty selfie)