Tag Archives: Marathon

My San Francisco Marathon Story

I knew that running the San Francisco Marathon was going to be hard. And it proved to be probably the most difficult courses I have faced thus far. During the entire race I kept thinking back to this quote that the race’s organizers posted to their Facebook page…

Source: SFM Social Media Feed

Source: SFM Social Media Feed

This is my San Francisco Marathon story…

Race Eve:

+ I finished everything on my To Do List and started getting ready for bed at 8 pm. The sun was still up but the race started early (first wave at 5:30 am) and I wanted to get some decent hours of sleep before the first of my four alarms went off. I felt surprisingly calm and peaceful, no jitters or anxiety for a change.

+ I drank one last glass of water with Nuun before turning in. Except my body wasn’t used to going to sleep that early and I tossed and turned despite taking Melatonin. After about an hour I realized I had drank Kola Nuun, which has caffeine! I was so annoyed and decided I will never drink Kola Nuun again! I must have eventually fallen asleep but I never really felt rested the entire night.

+ I think I got maybe five hours (if I’m being generous), which is much less than the eight hours I usually get.

Pre-Race Morning:

+ I woke up to the first alarm that I had set for 3:15 am and was ready within 15-minutes. I ate a bagel with honey (my usual pre-long run breakfast) at 3:45 am and was out the door by 4 am.

+ This year race organizers partnered with parking companies in the City, one of which offered parking reservations. It was such a relief to know that I had a reserved parking spot – one less thing to have to worry. I found the garage with no problem; it was about a half mile from the race area.

+ Despite peeing five times before leaving home I had to pee again after I parked. I knew there was a restroom in the Hyatt Embarcadero that I could use. There were lots of other runners in the lobby but no line for the bathroom (if you’re a runner you know what a win it is to have a real bathroom with no lines before a race!).

The hotel was warm and I figured I’d probably have to pee again so I planned on staying there for as long as I could. After about 10 minutes of watching other runners I realized I had forgotten to put my timing chip on my shoe. I hadn’t decided on which shoes to wear until that morning and had left the timing chip on my desk. I went into full panic mode. I raced to the starting area to find someone who could help me.

Because of the Boston Marathon bombing there was a security check that everyone had to go through. I was there early enough where it took less than five minutes. I made a beeline straight to the Information Tent. For $5 they issued me a new timing chip, but that meant I also got a new bib number.

+ Being at the Information Tent positioned me to get this shot of the start of the race.

Wave 1 starts

Wave 1 starts

+ My friend Alice met me there. She was running the 1st Half Marathon and had made plans to run together. We’d never run a single step together before so this was a risky move on both of our parts but one that worked out well (at least for me it did!).

Ran the 1st Half with Alice!

Ran the 1st Half with Alice!

+ We also met up with my friend Mark who was running his first full marathon!

First time marathoners are guaranteed an automatic PR!

First time marathoners are guaranteed an automatic PR!

Start – Mile 5:

+ Alice and I were in Wave 7, which started behind the Finish Line. As we passed under it I thought about all the miles to be run until I saw it again.

Wave 7 starts behind the Finish Line

Wave 7 starts behind the Finish Line

+ Just before we started running I realized I was hungry. It was two and a half hours since I had eaten my bagel and my stomach was already growling – loudly.

+ There was considerable traffic during the first few miles but we didn’t weave and waste extra energy – we just went with it.

+ We cruised through these miles and before we knew it, we were climbing up to the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB).

Miles 6-10:

+ We ran the GGB during the 7 am hour and it was hot. Karl the Fog was nowhere to be found. This is not normal.

+ There was a lot more traffic on the GGB with runners heading on both directions and lots of them stopping to take pictures.

+ We fell in step with the 4:55 pace group. It’s the pace I finished my last marathon. Their pace felt easy and comfortable so I ran with them until we stopped at an aid station and lost them forever.

Miles 11-14:

+ The worst hill of the race, the climb up Lincoln Blvd, came as we descended from the GGB. Having run the 1st Half Marathon in 2010, I knew this was a tough hill but having not run it during training (a decision I immensely regret) I forgot how tough it was.

I think this is on Lincoln Blvd

I think this is on Lincoln Blvd

We walked up most of it and then when we got to the top we cruised the long, steep downhill. I thought we ran the downhill conservatively but I started to feel my quads soon after the descent as we made our way to The Richmond neighborhood.

+ I said goodbye to Alice on Mile 12 as she went on to the 1st Half Marathon Finish Line. I was so sad to see her go.

+ I cruised the downhill on JFK Blvd but my quads started to feel more and more achy.

Miles 15-19:

+ These miles ran through Golden Gate Park (GGP) and were filled with small rolling hills. But at that point even the smallest of hills felt hard.

+ By the time I saw Angela, RoadBunner, and E who were spectating at Mile 16 my quads were on fire. I gave them my arm warmers and they gave me Tylenol.

+ As hot as it was on the bridge, it was foggy and cold in GGP.

Running in Golden Gate Park

Running in Golden Gate Park

+ I still don’t love running around Stow Lake.

+ I stopped for a bathroom break on Mile 19

Miles 20-23:

+ We left GGP and ran through The Haight. I knew there was a big downhill coming. I ran it as conservatively as I could but by the time I got to the bottom of it my quads were officially dead. I started cramping.

+ This was the point that I stopped caring about time and just wanted to make it to the Finish Line.

Miles 24-26.82:

+ Not much to say here other than I walked more than I ran.

Just wanting it to be over...

Just wanting it to be over…

+ It was hot and unshaded.

Fake smiles

Fake smiles

+ I was still hungry. In total I ate about three packs of Honey Stinger Chews during the race and it did nothing to satisfy my hunger. I was famished.

+ As I neared the Finish Line I forced myself to run the whole way in even though my legs felt like they wanted to buckle under me. I didn’t focus on anything else but the Finish Line sign and apparently missed my cousin and a few friends who saw me in those last few moments of the race.

Finishing chute

Finishing chute

+ I collected my medal, water, a banana and then an otter pop. It was the best otter pop I’ve ever had.

So happy to have finished!

So happy to have finished!

Post-Mortem:

+ My goal for every race that I run is simple, “Better than the last one.” Of the four marathons I’ve finished this is the first one where I didn’t PR. In fact, I finished in 5:27:48, which was almost 33 minutes slower than my last one. If I only judged a race by time then yes, this was a huge disappointment.

But the last marathon I finished was in May 2011. I trained for three other marathons in between that one and this one. I didn’t expect that it would be 25 months to cross a marathon Finish Line again. So yes, while I am disappointed with my time, I am immensely grateful to have been able to see the Start AND Finish Lines of this race.

+ My other goal for this race was to love San Francisco with every step, and I did. Despite the tough course I felt I was so, so, so happy to be running in this beautiful unique City that I love so much.

Source: SFM Socia Media feed

Source: Race organizers Socia Media feed

+ It was a weird feeling to be at the Start Line and not feel any aches or pains. In fact, over the past week I felt REALLY good. It was odd not to have some nagging niggles. During the race everything that had bothered me in training; i.e., shin splints, right foot, lower leg pains were all non-issues. The only thing that hurt during the race was my quads (and my glutes in later miles). Post race, my quads were still the only things that hurt.

+ This was also the first marathon that I didn’t have any gastro intestinal issues or chafing.

+ I achieved a different kind of PR – I ran the entire race without music. This was my first race and longest distance to do that. It wasn’t planned, in fact I had an awesome brand new “All Golden State” playlist sync’d up on my iPod shuffle. But since I ran the first half with Alice I didn’t listen to it, and when we parted ways I didn’t feel like putting it on.

Both feet off the ground?

No head phones and both feet off the ground?

+ The camelback worked out great. I felt comfortable in it and it helped to have those pockets. I don’t think I will wear them for every race but it certainly is nice to have the option.

+ My Garmin time and Chip Times were exactly the same although the distances were vastly different. This course is known for being long and my Garmin consistently read .5-8 miles longer than the mile markers. It was somewhat deflating to run past an aid station and have them say, “Mile 23 is just around the corner!” yet according to my Garmin I was already at 23.48 miles. My total distance was 26.82 miles.

+ As difficult as the race was, I didn’t let myself get to my “dark place” – where I cry, curse, hate everything and everyone. I just accepted the situation and went with it. This was HUGE for me and probably what I am most proud of.

+ This was the first marathon where I knew the course, having run the 1st Half Marathon in 2010 and the 2nd Half Marathon in 2011 and 2012. I did most of my long runs on portions of the course. But dear lord I was not prepared for how hard it was to run the whole thing in one race.

Now I really understand why it’s motto is “Worth the Hurt.”

This was the hardest course I have ever run. Even harder than my first marathon. During the race I kept thinking of Cate and how she qualified for Boston on this course a few years ago (and killed again this year!). I cannot even wrap my head about that!

I have the utmost respect for anyone who finishes a marathon but those who finish SFM are my superheroes.

+ Last night as I was going to bed I felt so sad to think that I have to wait 13-months for another SFM weekend. Despite how hard it was I love this race so, so much. The organization is almost perfect and they do such a great job of making it a special weekend. I don’t feel the need to run the Full again (someone please remind me of this if I ever entertain those thoughts again) but I do plan to run one of it’s races every year that I’m capable of running!

SFM Finish!

SFM Finish!

My Third Marathoniversary

April 25th will always hold a special place on my calendar. That’s because it was on this date, three years ago today that I ran my first marathon – the Marin Marathon. It was the first and only year that this race offered a full marathon.

In hindsight I wish I picked a different marathon to run; one that flatter, with more runners and spectators. But being a newbie those factors never crossed my mind when selecting the race.

You can tell how excited I was about it by reading my 5-part race report…

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

I know I over did the race report, but I’m actually grateful that I documented so many details, particularly all the support I received.

To say that I’ve been struggling with running lately is an understatement. But in rereading these posts, the joy and excitement I felt that day (and the days leading up to it) all came flooding back to me. I was reminded of all the big and little things I love about the marathon and why I decided to run one in the first place.

I don’t think it’s by coincidence that this past week I have had some of my best runs in a really, really long time. There was nothing monumental about the paces or distances, but just the feelings I felt during the run…I felt so…happy! For once I didn’t feel like I was battling myself.

My first marathon was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It challenged my body and spirit in ways that I never anticipated.

You’d think after such a nightmarish experience I’d never want to run another one, but that was never a question for me. As soon as I finished this first one I was already researching which marathon I’d run next.

This morning, as I ran hill repeats, I thought about all the ways I’ve grown since 04/25/2010.

+ I thought about how my body has physically adapted to running long distances. If you were never active until your adult years (like me), I truly believe it takes years for your body to adjust to long distance running.

+ I thought about how much I’ve learned about the human body through injuries, progress, and setbacks.

+ I thought about the wonderful people I’ve met in the running community.

+ And most of all I thought about how I’ve learned so much about myself as a person. Long runs give you a lot of time to think. I used to think it wasn’t a good thing for me to be alone in my head for hours and hours on end, but it’s during those miles that I have had my deepest thoughts. I’ve gone through a lot of self-introspection and have learned about my capabilities, fears, insecurities, drive, etc. I’ve learned about what I like about myself, what I don’t like about myself and have accepted that all of it is who I am.

And as a result I really try to take strides (pun intended) to become a better person.

This is what the marathon has given me, and why I continue to run them.

What’s Next {aka Fear the Race}

I made it all of eight days without being registered for a marathon.

The truth is, within hours after NYCM being cancelled I knew what I wanted to do next.

But in that moment I was so emotional about the race being cancelled that I had a “West Coast Bias full court press” going on. So I forced myself to take some time to mull over it and make sure it was not just a reactive decision, but one that I truly wanted.

A week later, I haven’t changed my mind. So this afternoon this officially happened:

Yep, I’m taking the plunge to run 26.2 in San Francisco.
{now please excuse me while I puke}

I have run both halves, the 2nd Half twice even, but I have never attempted the Full.

I have wanted to for so long but have always been afraid.

Afraid because of…well, because of this:

Okay, this maybe a slight exaggeration. While this is an actual street in San Francisco it’s not on the race course.

But there are many, many, MANY other hills on the course. It’s why so many runners fear SFM.

It’s why I fear SFM.

But the time has come for me to conquer my fear of hills and there is no better place to do than in the City I love most in this entire world.

But SFM isn’t until June and I’m not spending the next seven months focusing on it.

Well I am, but you know what I mean; I have other goals in the interim.

Like focusing on strength and mobility. Five months of physical therapy taught me where I need to build strength – thus the TRX Bootcamp classes that provide a full body workout of cardio, strength, agility and flexibility.

I could also use more conditioning so for right now I asked my coach to plan shorter interval running workouts with more emphasis intensity and less focus on volume.

I’m also planning to run the Kaiser Half-Marathon in February.

I PR’d at this race earlier this year
so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do at next year’s race.

So, who’s joining me?