Tag Archives: Races

2013 Big Sur Half-Marathon

I have such mixed feelings about this race that its taken me over a week to write this post on it..

Being that this race was the first one I ever ran, it holds a special place in my heart. That first race five years ago was such a great experience and I so wanted this year’s race day to live up to it.

Pre Race

The beauty of staying at the Portola Hotel is that it is literally two blocks away from the Start Line and mere steps from the Finish Line.

With the race starting at 7 am, I set my alarm for 5:30 am so that I could have time to eat a {gluten-free} bagel and let it digest. I lounged around for 45-min, got dressed in five minutes and headed downstairs to the lobby at about 6:30 am to check out the scene. As expected, it was packed with happy runners of all age, shapes and sizes. I took a step outside to gauge the temps. It was chilly, but not cold enough for gloves, so I went back up to my room to drop them off but decided to keep my arm sleeves on.

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When I got to the Start area there were rows and rows of port-a-potties and no lines. I easily found my corral. There were people checking bibs to make sure you entered the right corral – if I recall correctly, this was something different from 2008. As we got closer to the start time, the corrals began filling and I stood there taking it all in, listening to the conversations going on around me. I deduced that names printed in red on bibs indicated it was the runners first half marathon. And there were a lot of those – about 1700 of the registered 7000 runners – in other words, its a great course for first-timers. :)

Race

The first couple corrals started 3-min apart, and corrals after that started 30-seconds apart so my corral didn’t start running until about 10-min after the gun time. I make note of this because I ran without my Garmin.

At the expo I had inquired about clocks on the race course and was told there wouldn’t be any. I debated if I should wear my Garmin, but decided against it. I knew I wasn’t in PR condition (this was my longest run since SFM) and really wanted to enjoy the race. I didn’t want to get sucked into watching time so left it behind.

But right from the start, things didn’t go well.

Just a few steps after we started running a guy in front of me stepped on a gel packet and it splattered ALL OVER me. There I was, not even two minutes into the race and was covered in an apple-flavored gel.

Terrible shin splints and GI distress also showed up early too. But I fell into a pretty good rhythm and hoped that things would work itself out. But by Mile 2 I was already stopping for my first of three potty breaks. I thought after that first bathroom stop I would feel better, but I really didn’t. My body felt like it was at Mile 22 instead of Mile 2. It scared me – I had never felt that fatigued that early on in a race before.

For the first time ever, my local aunt, cousin and Jasmine were cheering me on at a race. I was so excited to see them at Mile 3 that it took my mind of how lousy I felt.

The great thing about this race is that it is very spectator-friendly. So much so that all my family had to do was stand outside their hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel on Cannery Row, to watch the race. They had packed soccer-mom (i.e. folding) chairs and were bundled up holding signs and ringing cowbells, cheering for everyone. I knew exactly where they would be so I ran on the side of the street where we could see each other from “a mile” (not really) away.

go_canneryrow

I ran up and threw them my arm-sleeves {because it was so warm by then} at them, stopped for a pic and yelled, “Things aren’t going well” and then continued running.

go_fam

Confession: it briefly crossed my mind to drop out from the race right then and there (how much more convenient could it get?) but this was one race I wasn’t going to DNF. Not even if I was dying – which I would soon think that I was.

I don’t know why but in my head I always thought that this race was flat. Well I wouldn’t call it hilly, but I its definitely NOT flat. There are modest inclines throughout the entire course.

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By Mile 5 my shin splints disappeared but at Mile 7 my L hamstring decided to remind me that I had pulled it two weeks earlier. That combined with my continued GI distress and heavy fatigue just wasn’t fun. I ran when I could but walked most of the course. Its a good thing we ran with views like this, otherwise it would have been downright miserable.

go_oceanside

And although I flirted with going to a dark place a few times, I ran mostly feeling so grateful to live and run in such a beautiful area of the world.

When I hit the turnaround at Mile 8 I was convinced that I was looking at a personal worst time and thought it would be around the 3-hour mark.

So you can imagine how utterly shocked I was when the 2:10 pace group passed me at Mile 10. With the amount of limping I had done I wondered how was this even possible?! I made an attempt to run with them but it was so crowded, and the pacer kept talking (a pet-peeve of mine), that I couldn’t take it. I dropped back and let them go.

I continued my shuffle, and watched the 2:15 pace group pass. I felt sad because that meant I wouldn’t beat my original time of 2:15, but yet I also felt good because I wasn’t going to finish near 3 hours.

go_peace

The last few miles are on the recreational path along the water. I ran on the dirt on the side of the path which helped my hammy a bit. The crowds were gathered along both sides of the course for the last mile (even impeding the course on the last half mile). Hearing people yell my name and cheer me on was a nice push to the finish, with my finishing time being 2:22:35.

Nowhere close to my PR or my course PR, but definitely not a personal worst.

go_finish

Post-Race Thoughts

While I am disappointed in how this race turned out for me, I can’t help but be grateful for all that it has given me.

If this beautiful race course had not been my first race ever, would there have been a second race?

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Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to run this race the way I wanted to I appreciate the fact that it was this race introduced me to something that I now love to do. I’m proud that five years after running my first half-marathon, I finished my 21st half-marathon, with four marathons in-between.

And I was thrilled to have my family there cheering me on. It meant the world to me to see them there and I love these signs that Jas made for me.

go_goomi

go_goodluck

I’m not sure why I waited five years to return to Big Sur, but I plan to make it a regular part of my race schedule from now on.

go_medal

The Giant Race 2013 – 10K Edition

Today I ran my third SF Giants Race (the 10K this time) after taking last year off. (In case you’re interested, here’s my 2010 and 2011 race reports.) I must say, the race has really grown since that first year, but I guess like everything else, when the team wins suddenly everyone is a fan.

The Expo

I went to the expo on Saturday to pick up my race bib. It was held in the areas behind center field and Triples Alley.

I thought I could be in and out of there in a flash but it took about 20-25 min to enter the ballpark through the Marina gate. Then it was another 15 minutes or so of waiting in line to get my bib. There was a lot of inexperience with the “picking up the bib” process both by volunteers and participants.

When I finally got my bib I was also received a band to which I asked what it was for (since there was no instructions accompanying it). I was told it was a “pace band.” To me, a pace band is something a runner wears with pace times listed on it for the purpose of running for a specific time. Apparently the purpose for this “pace” band was to indicate which corrals to be in at the Start Line.

With my bib I also got my race shirt. When I registered I requested a Medium, which turned out to be the equivalent of a Small. *Sigh*, yet another too small race shirt that I will never wear…

However I did get my Sergio Romo bobble head which is very cool.

On my out I stopped to take a photo with my favorite Giant of all time…

Oh, and one last thing on the expo – parking was available in Lot A, which is right behind the ballpark… for $4.

The Race

Apparently I missed the memo on pre-paid parking for race morning, so I figured I would park at my gym which is a mile from the ballpark. But then last night I realized that it would be dark on race morning and the area is sketchy. So I opted to park in Lot D for $10. Being my father’s daughter I was paranoid that the lot was going to fill up early so I was parked by 5:15 am, just 15-minutes after it opened. (And just so you know, I wasn’t the only Type A’ers there at that hour…)

I sat in my car for a while, then made my way over to Gear Check which was at McCovey Park behind the ballpark. After checking a bag I ran a lap around the ballpark in search of a real bathroom. My stomach was acting up and I needed the real thing, not a port-a-potty.

Not being successful, I made my way to the front of the ballpark on King St. where the Start Line was and met up with Alyssa (she ran – and PR’d! – the half marathon).

As soon as the race started I immediately knew that my stomach was going to be a problem. It was all I could think about during the entire race which was such a bummer because my legs and lungs have been feeling really good lately. I’ve also been in a good place mentally, something that I’ve struggled with.

While I said that I didn’t have any goals, that wasn’t completely true. Over the summer I attended a webinar series by Coach Dean Hebert (which I will elaborate more on in another post). So while I had no time goals, I did have two non-time goals that were based upon things I learned from Coach Dean’s bootcamp:

1. To stay focused: To only think about the current minute, the current mile – not how many miles are left, not what went wrong in the past miles – just the present. Certainly I could manage this for just ONE hour.

2. To learn composure: So that when I get off-task and lose focus, or if something goes wrong, I know how to reorganize, regroup and refocus.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for. Because of my stomach issues it was really, REALLY hard to stay focused on the task at hand.

With the race being such a short distance I thought I could manage the discomfort. But by the time we ran past the second water stop I was frantically looking for a port-a-potty. There wasn’t any, but across the street was one of the public bathrooms. The first one I ran into was broken so I had to run to another one on the opposite side.

When I hopped back into the race I was positive that my pace had slowed down considerably, although I didn’t wear a Garmin so I had no idea what it was to begin with! When I passed the turnaround the clock read 28:46 which was not bad at all for me!

After the bathroom stop I thought the second half of the race would be better but my stomach continued to churn. I had to make a second bathroom stop at another public bathroom just past the Ferry Building. I have never made two bathroom stops in a race before.

Once the ballpark came into view I just put my head down and kept telling myself, “Just one more mile, just one more step” until I got to the Finish Line inside the park.

When I crossed the Finish Line I was completely shocked to see that my gun time was 1:01:36-ish. I thought it would be much slower with the second bathroom stop.

After crossing the Finish Line, I stretched out in the outfield, took a couple of photos, then made my way to the exit.

Later in the morning I checked the race web site and my official time was 1:00:54. This is only 35 seconds slower than my PR. While I was bummed about narrowly missing a PR, I am pleased with my time given the challenges.

I’m also really happy that I was about to stay focused and composed. It’s not easy to do when you’re worried about crapping your pants during a race! (overshare?)

Thoughts On the Race:

* Being that this is the fourth year of the race, I thought pre-race communication could have been better. There were a lot of things that could have been explained in a simple email that could also have been posted to the web site AND included as a printout with the race bib.

* For example:

- What the “pace”/corral band was for?
- Where was the timing chip? (it was on the bib)
- Where was the Start Line? (I scoured the web site for this and did not find it anywhere)

* If you’re going to do things that different from the “norm”, over-communicate it to your audience.

I keep all the emails from the races that I register for and the only one I can find for this race was dated a month ago on July 1st. Most of the race’s emails were about fundraising (which was for a great cause!) but other important logistical details should have also been included.

Later in the morning, after the race was over, I saw that most of this information was posted to the race’s Facebook page this morning. The problem with that? – when the race starts at 7 am, who’s looking at Facebook? And, not everyone is one Facebook. So while social media is a great way to promote (and communicate) the race details, I think important details like this need to be sent in formal communications. The SF Giants do so about ticketing, promotions, game times, etc. (I get the emails), so it would be nice to see the organizers of the Giant Race do so too.

All this being said, I thought that the race was very well-executed. The best things were:

* The volunteers: they were fantastic and really cheered on runners on the last mile – I certainly appreciated it.

* The Finish Line: it was SO MUCH BETTER THAN 2011 (which is why I skipped 2012). There was room for people to move after crossing the Finish Line to cool down and stretch out. I even heard volunteers asking people to clear out of the immediate finish area to prevent congestion. Good job!

* The 5K not starting until 11 am: It wasn’t nearly as congested as it has been in previous years because of this.

I thought it was very cool to open the ballpark to the public at 7 am to allow spectators to sit in the stands and cheer. However, I don’t understand why limited sections of the park couldn’t be opened at 5 am for runners so that we could sit in a warm area, and use real bathrooms.

All things considered, I had a great time and depending on the timing of next year’s race plan will plan to run it again. I mean, it only has the best medal ever!

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!