July 27, 2009

Racing up, down, and around SF

Here's an epic report of the 2009 San Francisco marathon, but if you want the hilariously short version, view this video!

Night before:
After a very slothful Saturday, I enjoyed a pasta dinner at home with Trader Joe's marinara sauce and red velvet cake from the Grand Lake farmers market for dessert! I got in bed before 10pm and actually managed to fall asleep without too much tossing and turning.

Rise and Shine:
I woke up with my 3:45 am alarm. I chugged some water, made coffee and toast with peanut butter and watched a few minutes of Valley Girl on tv (who knew that great 80s movies would be on at 3 am?!?). I took a quick, hot shower to help warm up. I got dressed and sunscreened up and felt surprisingly awake and alert. Thanks to adrenaline, it really didn't feel like 4 am. By the time we got in the car, I had the butterflies. Fortunately, the drive to the start was easy, and I only had to walk a couple blocks to the starting area and, oh so important, porta potties! After taking care of business, I walked and hopped around to get a little blood flowing and burn off nervous energy, and waited for Jenica in the dark with a zillion other runners doing their thang.

We lined up together in the 4-4:15 corral with full and half marathoners mixed together. I need to mention that races that combine fulls and halfs are kind of demoralizing for fullers. It's really not fair to see the halfers at mile 12- they have 1 mile to complete, but you have 14 to crank through. And at mile 20- they've done 7 miles, while your leggies have already done 20.

Start it Up: Miles 1-4
I stuck to my race plan for the first few miles. I kept reminding myself that it should feel too easy. If the pace felt at all hard, I forced myself to relax and jog a few steps. My breathing was easy and there wasn't a niggle or ache in the leggies. It was quite grey and cool- absolutely perfect running weather. I tried my best to run in straight lines and not do too much sprinting around people or weaving around because that only wastes energy and adds mileage.

Over and back the Golden Gate Bridge: Miles 5-10
Crossing the bridge was hectic, to say the least. I couldn't get in a relaxed groove because we were so packed on the bridge. Not everybody was so-well versed in race etiquette; there were walkers on the left and people stopping to take photos. So I had to dodge some mayhem. I felt really strong around mile 8 and ran with a really nice woman from BC, Canada, which was a great distraction.

Happy Miles: Miles 11-12
I worked hard getting up the Presidio Hill but had a blast cruising downhill toward Baker Beach, which was the most scenic part of the race course. The Pacific Ocean looked rad. I turned on my iPod, enjoyed the playlist, and found a good groove. These miles were pure flow because they felt more like a dance than a run.

In Da Park: Miles 13-19
I admit that the downhill through the park was fun, and I felt strong and terrific at mile 12ish. I looked around and was proud to be surrounded by other tenacious runners and was feeling confident in my ability to hang on! In fact, it was feeling too easy, but I told myself to concentrate on these middle miles of the race. Then there was an interminable, gradual climb through the park with the 2nd half marathoners. We had to read a bunch of signs to stay on course, and, at one point, I thought I'd gone in the wrong directions and almost broke down. But then I realized that I *was* on track with the full marathoners. Oh lordy, so many miles in that park. To add insult to injury, I've trained so much in that park so the views didn't provide any distraction.

Haight Street: Miles 20-21
I had some pep at the beginning of Haight Street because I was stoked to have exited the never-ending Golden Gate park. My legs still felt decent , and I think my music and the mile 17 roctane was helping me. I was smiling and encouraging other runners, which also motivated me.

Mission Runpossible: Miles 21-22
Running down 16th street is when things got a bit weird...A bit past Mission St., I noticed that my visor was sliding down over my eyes, so I had to keep pushing it up. This had never happened before on any long runs, so I was a little annoyed and took my visor off. This might not sound like *that* much of a big deal, but you can ask anyone, I wear a hat or visor for 98% of my runs. Therefore, in hindsight, I'm deeming the visor removal around mile 21.5 as the beginning of the wall. I just don't think my brain worked quite right after this point!!

Potrero H-E-L-L & Dog Patch: Miles 22-24
To be fair, the Potrero neighborhood is totally rad (ie- delish Goat Hill pizza!). Plus, a friend from grad school was oh so nice to come out on Connecticut St. (at mile 23) to cheer me on (thanks, Lisa!). But, honestly, I was in my own personal runners hell during the segment through the Potrero Hill and Dogpatch neighborhoods of SF. There were some odd hills and plenty of turns. Yes, my legs were moving. In fact, I felt like I was working really, really hard to eek out a slooow pace. Oh well. I was progressing along the course and not stopping. Just telling myself to go another mile. I was staring at the ground.

At that point, there wasn't that much reflection or body-checks happening, and I'd forgotten about the various strategies for dealing with handling long runs. In future races, I'd love to remember to use my strategies to dig deep, breathe deeply, and say positive mantras during the final miles (I honestly think that's the #1 thing I need to work on!).

Ball Park: Mile 25
Yeah, I could see AT & T Park for awhile before getting there (due to the sloooowed down pace). I think I recall 'Highway to Hell' playing on my iPod- yikes! At this point, my breathing felt strange- somewhere between a hair ball (well, what I imagine a hair ball feels like for my cat, Amiga) and an asthma attack (which I've never really had). I actually forced myself to slow down to remind myself to breathe in and exhale; it was almost like I lacked the coordination of my nose, mouth, lungs, etc.

I was definitely looking forward to seeing that baseball stadium because I knew that meant that I had just another mile to survive. You'd think I was a crazed Giants fan or something, but I'm not! I ran for a little while with a really nice woman with long braids. We encouraged each other, and she was so sweet. It was helpful to get the positivity at this point in the race. After passing the stadium, I tried to figure out how to pull myself together so Jeff (who was going to be spectating around mile 26) wouldn't think I'd totally lost it. At one point, I was going to beg him to walk with me. Then I told myself that I needed to pick it up and force the speed when I saw him. But I also *had* to share with him that I was in pain. Don't know why, but it was really helpful to tell the hubby that I was suffering. I suppose I needed him to carry a bit of the exhausted pain for me :(

Finito: Mile 26
With the finish line in sight, I knew I needed to book it to get in under 4:20. I kicked and couldn't really feel my legs but focused on the big finish line banner and finished in 4:19:30. I'm proud to report that I finished in the top 30% of female finishers.

A fun statistic is that, according to Garmalade, I actually ran 26.6 miles (dang those extra .4 miles!) at an average pace of 9:46 min/mile, so if I'd run exactly 26.2 miles at that pace, my finish time would have been a smokin' 4:15!

The post-race celebration included fried chicken at Luka's plus grapefruit cocktails to die (or run 26.6 miles) for! And about 36 hours post-race, I have extraordinarily sore hamstrings and quads but I can say that I still love running and crazily want to complete more marathons ;)

July 26, 2009


I ran a shiny new personal-best-time at the SF Marathon today, 4:19!

There were hills. My version of hitting 'the wall' around mile 22 felt more like I fell off of a cliff into a vat of molasses. In other words, yes, the wheels fell off somewhat. But it was fun! Some highlights-- J also got a new PR, and I had some nice conversations with fellow runners on the course.

And here's a video from mile 26 (thanks, Jeff!) and a race report will be written later...

July 25, 2009

Am I nervous?

The afternoon before a race is a bit odd. I did my training and survived the two 20 milers. I've tapered my workouts and my legs have done very little running as of late. I've eaten plenty of carbs- from rice and pizza (Goat Hill Pizza was delish!) to bagels and pancakes and drunk lots and lots of water. Yes, I went to the expo yesterday to get my bib and even checked out the course maps.

What now?? Should I get fired up or just nervous or....

Seriously, at this point I feel quite lazy. I guess the work starts tomorrow morning :) And, in 24 hours, the race will be done, done, done. Woh!

Stalk me on race day!

If you click here and then enter my name or bib number 5443, you should be able to track me as I traverse SF!!

July 23, 2009


Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
-- Confucius

July 22, 2009

What's different

I ran the Chicago marathon in October 2001 (the U.S. began bombing targets in Afghanistan on the day of the marathon) and the New Orleans marathon in February 2005 (about 6 months pre-Katrina), and the training for those two races was special and highly-memorable. For Chicago, I trained with my friend Carolyn during the hot months of August and September. One of our long runs was on the shoulder of the 280/Skyline Blvd (ie- not safe) near Daly City. I actually had to cut a long run short due to heatstrokey issues and was, very, very, unfortunately, accosted by a young man while waiting for my ride to pick me up :( I loved getting to know Chitown during the marathon and was pleased to run it in 4:43.

For New Orleans, I trained with a fundraising group. Prior to signing up for the marathon group, I hadn't been running more than four miles for several years, so I didn't start training with the highest fitness level. We actually did a 26.2 mile run/walk during training (all around Golden Gate Park and Sunset Blvd which took FOREVER)! However, during the week, I ran a couple times a week on the treadmill at the gym--pretty sure I didn't run more than 4 miles. I also recall doing jumprope stuff and triceps exercises at the gym with Ang. I was dating Jeff before the New Orleans marathon and distinctly recall us going to out to mega-huge pizza dinners after my training runs, as well as his very sweet encouragement in the days before the race. Thanks, Jeff!!

How has our training for the SF marathon been oh-so-different?? Well, for starters, I trained consistently for about four months after racing a half marathon in 1:51. I ran five times per week, including medium long runs of around 9 miles. The midweek workouts also included hill repeats, track intervals, and tempo runs. I did long pace runs, with 4-7 miles at goal marathon paces of sub 9:20 and plenty of sub 9:10 (yeehaw!). In those previous marathon training cycles, I didn't have Garmalade so couldn't track my speed or weekly mileage. All that variety helped add purpose to each run, each week, and the steps toward race day. At the same, oh my gosh, that's a lot of big, fast new stuff :) So, right now my questions and concerns are *not* about did I train enough, but about whether I trained too much or will be 'peaking' at the right time. I'd like to peak this Sunday morning- sometime between 6:06 am and 10:20 am would work perfectly for me and my dear PR ;)

Run bravely

Today marks the start of a brave new future filled with all your dreams can hold...
Think truly to the future and make those dreams come true!

July 21, 2009

Track wake up

This morning's track workout was designed to wake up my legs and remind them that they can go fast. There was a nice chill in the air which made the breathing and running quite refreshing. I admit that the three 'cruising-pace' 400s did loosen my muscles. As the final track workout of this marathon training cycle, it was intentionally easy, fun, and confidence-boosting! I did some stretching afterward and will do more stretching--along with hydrating--tonight. Now I'm enjoying delicious banana bread baked by Jenica (thanks, missy!) and am quite delighted to be a marathon runner who's earned a sweet and lazy breakfast.

July 19, 2009

Tapering on tap

I've made it to taper-week! That means taking it easy is officially on tap :) This week's taper-outs (instead of workouts) are:
  • easy 35 minute run
  • 3-4 X 400s at cruising speed
  • jog 30-35 minutes on Friday to shake out legs (nice & flat--will probably go up to College Ave.)
  • Sunday morning RACE !!!
Interestingly, as the #1 goal is extra rest and time for muscles to recuperate, I'm not even allowed to cross train and should be cramming in lots of sleep. I think I can handle that ;)

July 17, 2009

Dress rehearsal

From head to toe, I was decked out in my marathon gear for today's 40 minute easy run. So, I wore my pink visor, blue earbuds, orange ipod shuffle, black wrist band with black and red Garmalade, water belt, Fiona sports bra, hot pink Nike tank top, black and white Brooks shorts, white Balega socks, and, of course, Brooks Adrenaline shoes. I even tried out some new elastic hair bands (in blue and green). Although I probably looked like a highly branded (thanks to Nike, Brooks, etc) Rainbow Brite, everything was extremely comfortable. And that's what counts when you're going to run 26+ plus in those clothes, shoes, and accoutrements!

July 16, 2009

My top 10 list

With only ten days to go, it seems fitting to share this list of top ten reasons to run the San Francisco marathon:

10) Enjoy the mandatory, professional-grade laziness of taper week
9) Hydrate & eat more pasta than humanly possible
8) Wake up at the ungodly hour of 3:45 am (that's *not* a typo!)
7) Cross the Golden Gate bridge via foot
6) Guzzle free electrolyte drink (that may or may not taste like disinfectant)
5) Consume Roctane and caffeinated Gus to your heart's content
4) Listen to cheering and groovy tunes
3) Run under the Bay Bridge when oh so close to the finish
2) Get another medal because every girl loves her hardware ;)
....AND 1) Finish the race, bask in the glory, and drink beer

July 15, 2009

The speed of confidence

Tapering can wreak havoc on your confidence because it's extremely easy to forget about the months of training and assortment of workouts that were done in the sun, fog, rain, and wind. But today's tempo run at Lake Merritt gave me a boost of confidence! There's something about tempo runs that makes you get tough as nails. I think it's the leap from a mellow pace to half marathon race pace (around 8:10).

At today's tempo speed, I could feel my legs working at a nice rhythm but still had some control of my breathing. I take that as a sign that my legs, heart, and lungs are more than ready to work hard at my marathon pace (quite a bit slower than this half marathon pace tempo). The last couple minutes were tough but not I-wanna-quit tough...So physically and mentally, all twenty minutes of the tempo went glowingly well; can you tell I'm still on my runner's high?!?

A big part of running--no matter how fast or how mellow--is confidence. If confidence was a commodity, I would not be a millionaire. All of this is to say that I will train my mind over the next eleven days to have some faith, to keep believing, and to buck up my confidence in my hard training and ability to run a rad race on July 26.

July 14, 2009

What I did on my rest day

It's a little early for taper madness, but I'm already noticing that these extra days are giving me more time for very important things like shopping and wandering and....
  • eating a late breakfast
  • going to Best Buy to get a new pair of earbuds for my iPod & IKEA to get a frying pan and assorted kitchen accessories
  • wandering around 4th Street and selecting a nice bottle of white wine to enjoy with the hubby
  • going to Trader Joe's to purchase cheese for dinner!
  • catching up on life to-do list (ie- writing thank you notes and setting up webcam)
  • thinking about going for a swim (but didn't--even thought it's very, very hottt!).
I know that resting is a critical part of training, and I'll pardon myself for today's lazing and shopping incidents ;) Fortunately for my pocketbook, I get to do a tempo run tomorrow!!

July 11, 2009


From A to Z, I love running!

B-Brooks- my rockin' shoes
C-carbo loading
D-dogs that jump on/chase/follow you
E-easy run
GMP- goal marathon pace
Gu- energy gels
HMP- half marathon pace
I- interval
J-Jenica- my lovely running partner extraordinaire
L- long run
M- marathon
N-nice day for a run
O-off, as in day OFF
R-run, run, run
S-skirt, as in sassy running skirt
T- tempo
U-up, as in up massive hills
V-vomitous, as in feeling pukey at the end of a hard workout
X- 5X800
Z-zoned out

July 10, 2009


Goals are funny, and I have a very silly running goal: to not really have a goal!

Last week over a family dinner, I blurted out that my goal was to run a marathon as fast as I could without becoming obsessed over how fast I'm running ;) In other words, I want marathoning to keep feeling fun and not just be a number on the clock. I love running for what it lets me see and feel, and I really appreciate the experiences its given me. I am fortunate to have the space, time, energy, and health to run; racing is an even bigger privilege.


I had fun on today's 50 minute tempo run with 20 minutes at goal marathon pace. My legs felt remarkably fresh which hasn't been the case recently.

It made me realize that my GMP is much, much easier when I haven't already run 12+ miles. It also struck me that I'm going to have to really concentrate at the start of the race to stick to my plan of running 9:35 miles....it would be quite easy to get swept away and run 9 or even 8:30 miles at the start--and that would leave me in a world of pain at the end of the 26.2 :(

Tomorrow's 12 mile run will be a plain, vanilla long run. No fancy paces required! But I'm in hammer time--when the only thing left to do is hammer together the pieces. And save the race legs for race day.

July 8, 2009

Great 8

Track workout can be hellacious, good, or great. Today's 800s were great!

After three months of long runs and hill workouts and assorted track workouts, and it was time for a pure 800s workout. It was a warm morning at the track, and there were plenty of other runners and walkers completing their regimens. I did five 800s, with the first one a 3:38, a couple 3:41, a 3:47 (still in my pace range), and a final gut-busting 3:39.

Something about this track workout was so energizing, probably because it gave me the good kind of tired!!

July 7, 2009

Almost taper time

On tap for this week...a few key workouts, but a bit less mileage because the SF marathon is almost around the corner!
  • Medium long run- 80 minutes (Did that today, thanks to some extra motivation from J!)
  • Track- 800s- will tackle them tomorrow morning with J
  • Tempo run (at goal marathon pace)
  • Long run- 12 mellow miles
Only downside: I'm not supposed to start carbo-loading, yet!

July 6, 2009

People and paces

Thanks to facebook, I re-connected with two former Webb School cross country teammates. They were lovely friends of mine in high school, and back in the mid 90s we spent so many hours (training runs, bus rides, post-race meals at Wendy's, etc) talking about just about everything. Recently, we've chatted back and forth about the possibility of a reunion or, gasp, running a race (dare I say--a marathon!) together! I think it would be terrific to see them and run together.

With less than three weeks till the marathon (I swear that someday I'll stop being a perennial countdown timer), I think I can make some more detailed pacing plans...Right now, I'd love to run a slight negative split. So, I'd like to start around 9:45 pace, then run the first half around 9:30-9:35 pace. After mile 13 or 14, I think I should try to run closer to 9:05 pace and see what happens! Of course, it all depends on how much rest and TLC I can give my legs during the taper. My health or the weather could always throw a big wrench into things. But, whichever way the wind blows, it is exciting!

July 5, 2009

Covering ground in one week

I could say a lot about this week, or, more specifically, this week of running. But I'll just say that I ran 47.2 miles this week! I'll call it a mileage-PR!

So, after fooling around too long with my online mileage tracker program, I need to shower and get back into the groove of paper-writing...

July 3, 2009

Built for what

I'm pretty sure I'm more built for endurance than speed. At the same time, it's still my legs (as opposed to my lungs/heart/breathing stuff) holding me back from running faster. I guess that means that I should continue to develop my endurance. Maybe I should try one of those uber-intensive 70+ mile a week running schedules. On second thought, I doubt that would leave any time for baking, playing with the cat, writing (ah, grad school!), drinking wine, traveling, and fun times with the hubby. If nothing else, the kitty & hubby deserve to be content and well-fed ;)

Which road

I had conflicting feelings about how to tackle this last 20 mile progression run. The debate stemmed from the idea that lord, potatoes!--this is the final major long run of the training cycle. So--part of me (Jen knows this part way of me all too well) wanted to hammer out 20+ miles, with 8 or 9 miles of sub-9 minute miles. But doing that type of workout is far more likely to cause injury than sweet, sweet PRdom. Another part of me (ie- the reasonable one) wanted to run the 20 miles, with 7 miles at my (what I think) semi-conservative marathon pace of 9:30. Doing a hardcore pace would be the highway to pain, while running the 7 miles at a reasonable pace would be taking the high road.

I drove out to Walnut Creek bright and early in the morning. When I started the run on the Iron Horse Trail, I still wasn't clear what my plan was, but the running felt good. My legs had energy even though it had been a fairly high mileage week. I let myself run at a medium pace for the first 12 miles. It was warm-to-hot, for sure. By that point, I'd had plenty of fluids, 2 gels, and was listening to music.

For the pace miles, I think I split the difference because my first 4 miles were sub 9:20, and the next 2 miles were sub-9. The last mile was 8:24 :> I was pleased that the miles got progressively faster. I noticed that I do need to concentrate to maintain a 9:20 pace but it never felt hard, and I never got out of breath at that pace. I didn't feel the 'wall', and I had a bit more energy than June's SF 20 miler. On the last mile, I dug pretty deep and reminded myself to kick it in! At the end of the run, I was a hot and sweaty mess but wasn't feeling heat strokey or anything too awful. Always good.

The good news--the 20 miler is done. The great news--my legs feel decent. My quads and feet feel fine, though tired. The awesomedawesome news--my turkey sandwich was delish & there's a watermelon & corn on the cob waiting for me...
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