Posts Tagged ‘oakland’

A friend of mine astutely noted a golden ticket to being crowned Mayor of Oakland. “Promise to get rid of the Canadian Geese at Lake Merritt.”


Oakland may be divided on several issues: gentrification, what to do with the Sears building, and which Farmer’s Market is the best – but the geese are common ground. Except for my friend Simone, no one has ever said, “I really do think they’re nice.”  Oaklanders (and our visitors) tend to agree: the geese cause somewhat of an issue.

True, most people are concerned about the goose-poop that a gaggle of 2000 geese create. Or about the noise. But mostly the poop.

But me? My only complaint is the geese scare the bejesus out of me. They’re about 1/3 my size, so approaching a flock of 30 of them loitering in the grass and strewn about the running path means I’m out-powered by quite a bit. My only consolation is the geese haven’t figured this out…yet.

Last week while jogging around the lake, I found myself literally surrounded by geese on all sides. Like a football player running through tires, I hiked up my legs and did a prance of sorts, praying that day wouldn’t be The Day The Geese Discovered They Had The Power. A few necks snapped at me as I cavorted through, but I reached a goose-free space safe.

This morning however, I tried a new approach. Upon spying a mass amount of feathered unfriends (but certainly not enemies) ahead of me, I made a bold, un-thought-out decision: I bent arms and lifted them to my shoulders, as though I were a T-rex attempting to impersonate Frankenstein, reprised by leg-hiking prance, and started hooting like an owl might if it ate too much pizza for dinner without a lactaid.

And it worked.

The geese parted, and the two middle aged women watching me from the other side of the goose-gauntlet cheered.





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Quote of the race, courtesy of Kevin: At mile 11, I was hurting. But I thought, “Damn it, I survived the Deuce Panic – I am making my goal time.” 

Spending $90 on an organized race isn’t usually my style, but I like to treat myself to a good road race every now and then – when else are streets blocked off and runners get the right of way?* Exactly. The Oakland Half Marathon was part of a full festival of running love: a marathon, 5K and Kid’s Fun Run were also on the day’s agenda – and yours truly had signed on for the half a few months ago. Why?

First, it’s not a secret that I have an affinity for the East Bay in general – nothing against the city at all, but I’m rooting for the Town  if we ever have to Rock Paper Scissors. Getting a chance to run through Oakland was like penning a love letter to the Town with my toes. With purported agility and a definite pure heart, I dedicate myself to Oakland for 13.1 miles.

Snow Park was the starting point for the race, and I met up with friends beforehand so we could hit the starting line together. Nothing says “Let’s Race!” like top-40 hits and boogieing down (I call that a warm-up). Dancing is definitely a great way to limber up and get your muscles warm, plus it clears space in the corral. Kevin and I jammed, managed not to be impolite when the mayor made a few comments (there was a shocking amount of cool decorum about her presence), and then the buzzer ignited our feet into motion.

We wound through downtown, then looped into Chinatown, where drummers and a wiggling Chinese dragon greeted us. Local bands played outside popular establishments (I recognized a friend on a drum kit in Jack London Square), and plenty of locals not on the volunteer crew offered up water, which was really sweet. We hit West Oakland and I saw some really neat loft-style spaces (should go check those out to rent), plus a mass of A’s fans who were tailgating on the route. Awesomely, a giant truck that had been hollowed out had a horse head, flares of fire, and a group of supporters. My favorite cheering squad came next – the Raiders fans, aptly hanging out under the freeway. Best high-fives of the run. The race looped back into Uptown and then finished with a lap around Lake Merritt.

All the while, I zen-ed out to the Shuffle feature on my iPod and simply enjoyed the course. The architecture. The feeling of fellow runners around me. The cheering!! The people cheering that I was smiling! There was nothing actually unique about this course, or this race, except for the fact that it was in the place I love. And some days, that’s all I need: to see people enjoying something I enjoy every day.

 I can’t help but note I did claim a personal best for my time: 1:37 – I was hoping for 1:30 though, so I’m not wicked excited. I’m more proud of Kevin for running his first sub-2:00 half marathon. That’s a feat, for sure.

*Mad props to the Oakland Police Department for blocking intersections and being keepers of running peace between turn-crazy cars and joggers of all distances.

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Best way to get a secondary workout while on a urban hike this spring? Dancing to MWE, a Turkish-style band based in Oakland whose preferred costume of choice is a bit Skeletor meets Funny Bones, and whose music comes from one zurna, one davul, three clarinets & a riqq. They’re a self proclaimed Middle Eastern Marching Band, and their music cannot be described in words other than “intriguing, a must-hear to believe, dance-party inspiration.” If I could get them to march around with me on my birthday and provide a backdrop to my life, I’d be so in.

These guys'll make you want to dance.

My preferred method of dancing when in the presence of MWE? Certainly some form of ska-inspired, floppy bones skeletal-style movement comes to mind. Mostly, I just hope others dare to join me.


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My friend Sean and I often discuss starting a public forum style Lake Merritt blog. We see a lot of pretty sweet/saucy/sour happenings from our various comings and goings around this Oakland mainstay. Today’s image was beyond sweet: a man riding a bike with a sidecar, dressed much like Snoopy might while flying his doghouse—goggles, flying cap, leather jacket. And in the sidecar? A well trained, half-grown puppy wearing his own pair of aviator goggles, tongue hanging out of his mouth, having the time of his doggy life. The sidecar duo stopped at a red light and as I crossed in front of them, the driver removed his gloves and gave his companion some heart-melting belly rubbing.

Just another reason I never regret running the lake, but I do regret not bringing my camera.

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Holy quick-dry socks, Batman, could Oakland get any more awesome? The answer is decidedly yes, thanks to The Oakland Running Festival! Yes, many cities host road races or blaze trails, with people from all over the bay area tramping out to grace the pavement with their sneakers, but while Oakland is still a bit green to the running game — this is the second year for the Running Festival — she’s coming in strong.

What Makes the Oakland Running Festival so Spectacular?

You’ll be chased by the ghost of Napoleon’s horse! Just kidding. But you do have the option to run a Marathon, Half Marathon, a twilight 5K, or a team race. And for the little you in your life, there’s a Kids Fun Run to boot. A twilight 5K is kind of a big deal — definitely a rarity and something not to be missed.

Running For a Better Oakland

First, there’s the actual organization, Running for a Better Oakland, who encourage students age 10-18 to create well rounded lifestyles via running. RBO is happily encouraging their students to train for the event.

Second though, a marathon through Oakland gives local distance runners a chance to see that hey, Oakland isn’t the rough and tumble place they imagine it to be. It’s no secret Oakland has a bad rap in the Bay Area and state community, and taking time to showcase her more hipster, gentrified, and green sides, as well as proving that the urban squares aren’t anything different than those in SF, help pique people’s curiosity about the city, and thus put Oakland on their radar.

If You’re Going To Run:

March 26, 2011:

  • 9 a.m.-6 p.m.: Packet pickup, sports expo and late registration at the Oakland Marriott in City Center
  • 6-8 p.m.: Kick off party with live music at Jack London Square
  • 6:30 p.m.: Twilight 5K race from Jack London Square and back
  • 8 p.m.: Twilight 5K awards ceremony
  • March 27, 2011:

  • 7:15 a.m.: Opening remarks and national anthem
  • 7:30 a.m.: Marathon and team relay races start at Frank Ogawa Plaza and 14th Street
  • 8:30 a.m.: Kids Fun Run starts
  • 9 a.m.: Half-marathon start at Frank Ogawa Plaza and 14th Street
  • 9 a.m.-2 p.m.: Sports Expo and celebration village activities
  • 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: Live music
  • Noon: Awards ceremony
  • Oh, and if you need somewhere to eat afterward? Try Shan Dong in Chinatown. You won’t be disappointed by their homemade dumplings. Or there’s always Pacific Coast Brewery if an ale sounds like the right way to go. Of course, my favorite Oakland eatery after a race? Mama’s Royal Cafe up on Broadway. Yes, the line will be long. But yes, the grits will be worthwhile.

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    Oh, Lake Merritt, how I love running around thee. You’re an endless source of inspiration, conversation, and visuals I never could have dreamed up on my own. Late last week, I witnessed two octogenarians who had brought a flock of unleashed cats to the lake. These felines were roaming a small patch of grass, not harnessed or corralled by any means, just plodding around as if they were often brought outside and did not spook away.

    The pigeons are becoming more and more bold, or perhaps less and less intelligent. They rarely flutter out of the way of travelers who are using feet or wheels to traverse the terrain. I’ve literally nicked two little guys during the week as I attempted to weave around their feathered community. At the last minute, they might skedaddle, but it’s always too late. I throw my arms up to protect my face (yes, I fear bird claws near my nose) and usually wind up doing a modified “running through tires” gait in my attempts to not be the newest victim of The Birds.

    Stranger still? No, not the boys who sit on the lake’s edge strumming guitars, nor the saxophonist playing into the wall. Not even the two men taking turns carrying each other up the steps of the Cleveland Cascades. It wasn’t even the man who stopped me to ask for my phone number as I crossed the street (which seemed like a terrible place to get a gal’s digits). Perhaps the most strange thing I’ve witness lately around Lake Merritt was this:

    Yes, a yellow snake in the grass, who was being supervised by his ultra punk/hipster mom and dad. As I ran toward the Lake Chalet, the couple opened what looked like a gym bag and pulled this hefty lady out, plopping her merrily on the lawn and then sitting back to sunbathe themselves. They were very kind about letting me share space with the slithering gal, and even offered me hand sanitizer if I wanted to pet her. She poked her head up toward me, stuck out her tongue, and then moved on as if I were not a tasty looking snack. Thank. God.


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    Okay kittens, I put all my new rowing knowledge to the test last week, and here’s the insider scoop:

    First, those rowing machines are complicated! When I sat down, I got my feet easily strapped into place and turned on the rowing monitor, which was pretty user friendly. I selected a workout, and then looked for a way to increase resistance…and found nothing.*

    Eventually, I just started the workout because I didn’t want to squander away time hunting for a button that maybe didn’t exist. It wasn’t until a very new-age Oakland resident (aka, hippie complete with dread-locks) took up the rowing machine next to me that I got the idea to look outside the machine for resistance manipulation. As he sat down, he nudged something on the right of the giant wheel-thing (a technical term, I know). So I got curious.

    After thirty minutes of rowing, I stopped and hunted around the rowing machine. Like a squirrel trying to figure out where I hid my nuts, I prowled on all sides of the machine, struggling to find a knob to turn. Nada.

    Back at the monitor (which looks about as advanced as the original version of The Oregon Trail – just saying) after scrolling through every option available, I found a button that directed me towards what appeared to be the resistance. Except…it was really just a button that told me where the resistance was. On the right side of something-or-other.

    One more squirrel moment finally produced some nuts, and I found the resistance lever. The best way to describe it is to look at the wheel-fan “thang” on your rowing machine and imagine it’s a clock. There very well was what may as well have been a hand of a clock pointing at some numbers that were lifted like Braille out of the plastic. Pushing that hand around allowed me to increase resistance on a scale of 1-10.

    Second, getting off the rowing machine is surprising. The term “sea legs” came to mind as I leapt off the machine and immediately felt like I had forgotten how to walk. After moving my legs in a jumping motion for an extended period of time, the idea of walking was more foreign than men wearing Capri pants.

    Third, social norms on the machine seem to indicate that greeting other rowers is not necessary. Of the three times I’ve used the rowing machine, twice other people have sat at the machine perpendicular to mine and not acknowledged me – usually there is a head nod between people on say, the elliptical. I’ll keep you posted as I gather more data.

    Fourth, when you get off the machine, you might not feel like anything super powerful has happened to your body. I guess I was expect to feel like I’d been lifting She-Ra’s sword over my head and yelling “By the power of Grayskull!” for the better part of an hour, but really, I just felt light. And that feeling lasted about twelve hours…and then I felt ridiculous heavy. Almost as if I had been lifting She-Ra and He-Man’s swords above my head and holding them there all freaking day.

    Good luck, and go forth onto rowing! **

    *Note the rowing machine I’m using is not the most modern of contraptions; it’s likely a machine built after circa 1990 has a different way of operating resistance.

    ** Completely unrelated, but this morning as I got in the pool, the guy I was about to share a lane with pulled to the wall and stopped. I told him we could share, and he said “I think I’m going to get out. I reached my goal.” At that, I said “Really? That’s great! Do one more lap!” because I think little is as awesome for your brain and body as reaching your goal and then going a little farther (which might be why I set easy goals for myself) and he just looked at me. I really need to figure out how to cheerlead better.

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