Thursday, December 20, 2007

14 minutes closer...

My mom and dad were nice enough to come out and watch me run CIM. They had wanted to come up for my triathlon, but I knew that CIM would be a tough race, and that it would be nice to have some support on the course. My plan for this race was to run a 3:40 – that’s right, Boston qualifying time! – and my training was definitely on the right track.

This blog wouldn’t be complete without talking about the intense training leading up to it. Every week I got together with the same basic group of people – Matt, Pam, Joe, Bob, David, Harriet, and others – to train for this race. We ran ridiculous repeats at the track, we met at 5:30 on Thursdays to do tempo runs, and we did long runs every Saturday. And then there were the runs in-between!

Tuesdays at the track were always hard to get through. Tell me I have to run 5000 meters of speed work, and I’m going to complain, but I’m going to do it. I honestly can’t even remember what the last track workout was, but I do remember that I was DAMN proud of myself for getting through it. Matt and I had perfect splits – every 400 at 1:46. For 8 800’s. It was absolutely painful. We finished right around the same time as David, who was doing his 10 Yassos. I think we were all delirious and in complete disbelief with what we had just done. But we all felt amazing. We all knew that we could have done more (we wouldn’t have WANTED to, but we could have), and that we were very well-trained.

Thursday mornings were pretty ridiculous as well. 5:30 is really early (duh), especially when you know you have to run 11 miles. Fast (oh, and did I mention that most Wednesday nights I ran 4-6 miles as a pace leader with the Nike group?). Every time I got to the Marina Green I was sure that I would never be awake enough to reach my tempo pace. But somehow, after our 3-mile warm-up loop around Crissy Field or the Marina, I would manage to dig deep down and find that extra speed. Maybe it was the post-warm-up Gu. We had some really cool mornings out there, like the time when we watched a cruise ship come in under the Golden Gate, or the many early morning foggy runs, accompanied by nothing else but the crunching of the path under our feet and the occasional sound of the fog horns. After a brief regrouping, we’d head over the hill to Aquatic Park and begin our tempo run. Typically, we’d run to the Ferry Building – me, Matt, Pam, and Patricia, all taking turns pulling the group along, breathing hard, trying to keep pace without checking how much time remained – and then we would turn back toward the Marina. The longest tempo run was 32 minutes. At a 7:42 pace. When I got there that morning, I was absolutely convinced that I didn’t have it in me, but I somehow managed to find my groove that morning, and I ran with it! 4 miles. It was incredibly painful, but felt so satisfying afterward!

Then there were the long runs. I joined the reds (a.k.a the fast people) so that I could run without walk breaks. I managed to keep up with the back of the group, which was just fine with me. We had some pretty hardcore long runs, all around a 9-minute pace (and 18 miles or longer!). The peak of our running experience was the 25-miler to Tiburon (see my blog about last year’s Tiburon run). We were so anxious to be done at the end that I think the last few miles were actually the fastest!
So add all those workouts together, throw in a few other runs for good measure, and you’ve got one hell of a training season.

I expected to be a nervous wreck during the week leading up to the marathon, but I was surprisingly calm. On Friday afternoon, my parents arrived from Phoenix, and we spent the evening hanging out in San Francisco. Saturday morning, we picked up Jack and headed up to Sacramento. The “meeting” went well, which I had expected, and everyone got along just fine, so that made me even more calm.

When we arrived in Sacramento, we went straight to the expo to get my race bib and stuff. We made the rounds and got free samples – Starbucks, Clif Shot Blocks, and Powerbars – and we ran into a few other SFRRC members and said hi. After the expo, we checked into the hotel (slightly awkward moment when my dad asked, “How many rooms did you get? 3?), and my parents settled into their room and Jack and I into ours. We didn’t get much time to rest because we had to head to Buca di Beppo for dinner with the club. We all rode over to the restaurant with Matt, and had a nice, simple pasta dinner with the other runners.

Me and Jack at dinner

Matt, John, and Sina

David, Wanda, Karl, Joe, Pierre, and Leslie

After dinner, we headed back and made arrangements for the next morning – figured out where mom, dad, and Jack were going to meet me on the course and all that good stuff. I spent a good half an hour laying out my stuff in exactly the order I wanted it, and then tried my best to get some sleep. I had a hard time falling asleep, so Jack and I chatted for a while. Then we heard the music. Apparently there was a party going on upstairs. The people at the Holiday Inn are a bunch of geniuses to allow a loud party the night before a marathon (especially when 90% of their guests are there for the race!).

So anyway, 5:30 rolled around earlier than I would have liked, but I got up, made my oatmeal, and got dressed, doing my best not to wake up Jack, and then I headed downstairs to meet Matt and Denise (who was running the first leg of the relay). Matt and I chatted about the training season on the bus ride to the start – we were both feeling pretty good about the work we’d put in!

Denise and I decided to hang out on the bus for awhile…it was cold outside, so we wanted to stay warm as long as possible. We made a final trip to the bathroom, dropped off our sweats, and then lined up at the start. It was kind of a mess – the pace groups weren’t lined up in order, so the 3:40 group was behind the 3:45 group, so I was a little panicked. But the race started, and Denise and I did our best to weave through the crowd with the 3:40 paceleader, Mike, a serious ultrarunner who has done the Western States 100 nine time (and had just gotten into his 10th!). Since Denise was just doing the first leg of the relay, I let her pull ahead and did my best to pace myself with the group. Mike was really good at giving us tips – he knew the course well, and he made sure we always ran on tangents so we wouldn’t waste any energy.

I helped call out split times to keep my mind occupied, and I tried my best to ignore the chatty, annoying women who were running with the group. I don’t think some of them realize how frustrating it is to try to concentrate and keep pace when they’re talking about random, unimportant stuff. There was one chick in particular who kept talking to the paceleader, and for some reason she just couldn’t get the hint. So I pulled ahead of the group just a bit to avoid having to listen to her. I felt a little better not having to watch the pace sign, like I wasn’t under as much pressure. When we got to Fair Oaks, at mile 10, was feeling pretty dang good. Mom, Dad, and Jack were waiting there for me, which gave me a huge boost. I tossed my gloves at them, and kept on going.

The 3:40 pace group somewhere around the 10 mile mark. I'm in there someplace...

The half marathon mark is kind of a blur. In fact, the next five miles or so are a total blur to me. I was hanging on alright, but could feel the 3:40’s creeping up behind me. Knowing that Leslie would be waiting for me at mile 15 kept me going. When I saw her, I couldn’t have been happier! I was really starting to struggle at this point, but she kept me on pace. We passed Bob, David, and Harriet somewhere around mile 16 or 17. It just wasn’t David’s race since he had gotten really sick just a few days earlier. Crappy!

Me and Leslie at mile 20. I look pretty dang good considering how bad I felt!

I was slowly breaking down, and by mile 20, the next time I saw Mom, Dad, and Jack (with his poofy orange vest – thank God he wore it, because it made him really easy to pick out of the crowd!) I pretty much knew that Boston wasn’t in the cards for me. I was so happy to see them though…their cheers gave me a boost that would allow me to pick it up just a little bit and still finish strong.

It had been pretty windy all morning, but here’s where it really got me. We ran through these trees right after mile 20, and then over the Sacramento River. The bridge was the worst. Not only was it a hill, but we were running straight into the wind at that point. Not fun.

As we headed into the outskirts of Sacramento, I actually started to kind of have fun, though you would never know by the way I looked – I’m sure I looked like hell! It was at this point that one of our faster runners, Megan, passed me by, well on her way to qualifying for Boston. This is also where Leslie and I caught Pat and Harriet. The four of us ran together for a bit, and then I surged ahead just a bit, knowing that a 3:45 was still a possibility. The last couple of miles through Sacramento are terrible, because the course runs through numbered streets. From 40 or 50 something all the way to 3rd Street. I did my best to ignore them, and picked it up for the last mile or so. I came around the corner toward the Capitol Building, and I was happy to see Denise, Jenny, Melisse, and Sam all standing right there, cheering for me – they’d all just finished the relay.

I sprinted the final few hundred feet into the finish line, barely managing to keep myself on my feet on the other side. 3:45:54. 5 minutes short of a Boston qualifier, but still a 14 minute PR over last year’s CIM. I was slightly disappointed, but I’d had time to come to terms with it over the past 7 miles or so, and was really just happy with my overall performance!

I probably should have gone to the med tent…my legs were *this* close to giving out, but I really just wanted to find Jack and my parents and the rest of SFRRC to find out how everyone had done. I found Jack and the ‘rents, and used them all to help steady myself. Not long after, I ran into a big group of SFRRC runners, many of whom had qualified for Boston or gotten huge PRs.

Matt and me after the race - we ran this one together last year, and he managed a huge PR too!

Pam: 3:48:51 BQ, PR
Matt: 3:50:08 PR
Megan: 3:44:31 BQ, PR
Pierre: 3:59:14 PR
Elizabeth: 3:59:27 BQ, PR
Kevin: 3:59:23 PR
John: 4:11:02
Sina: 3:10:46 BQ, PR
Joe: 3:05:20 BQ, PR
Karl: 3:19:39 PR
Harriet: 3:47:43
David: 4:09:40
Bob Bellino: 4:10:35 PR
Emily: 4:08:57 BQ

After running into the other runners, I decided that I really just needed to sit down on the grass for a minute. Bad idea. I took off my shoes, and then when I tried to walk again, the balls of my feet were in so much pain that I couldn’t walk without assistance. They looked fine, but it was ridiculously painful (later I would find out that I had basically rubbed my feet raw from the inside out – a couple weeks after the race, two massive blisters came to the surface!). I somehow managed to hobble the five blocks or so to the hotel, where I was more than happy to relax and clean up.

Getting some assistance from Jack...

After a little bit of rest, we all headed out. The drive home was pretty uneventful, and we ended the trip in Berkeley where we stopped for some dinner at Vik’s Chaat House – we had all kinds of yummy Indian goodies – dosas and curries and all that fun stuff. It was a very well-deserved post-race meal!

So it was a great race. I didn’t meet my ultimate goal, but the hard training period and the race itself taught me volumes. And I’m 14 minutes closer to Boston. I’ve signed up for the Chicago marathon, and I’m starting to get excited about training…watch out, Boston, here I come!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sugarland Turkey Trot

When I found out our family was doing Thanksgiving in Houston this year, I knew I would be able to wrangle up a group to run a Turkey Trot. My cousin Kim has always been athletic, and her mom Barb has been cycling and running for the past several years (and was actually training for a 50k at the time). Throw in me, my dad, and a few other family members, and we had a pretty good showing.

So Thanksgiving morning, we got up and made some oatmeal for breakfast and then headed down to Sugarland’s local running store for the run. This particular Turkey Trot included a 5k walk and a 5 mile run. Kim, Barb, Dad and I did the 5 miler and my mom and cousin Becca did the 5k (Katie was going to run with us, but was getting over a cold, so she opted out). It was absolutely FREEZING at the race start. It was also ridiculously windy, so you can imagine it wasn’t particularly pleasant. Needless to say, we were really glad when the race finally started!

The race wound through a nice Sugarland neighborhood, but it was really hard to gauge how many runners were ahead of me. There were a lot of really fast people though, so I didn’t really think about placing. Mostly I just wanted to get a sub-8 pace (I decided this on a whim sometime in the first 5 minutes of the race). So I ran hard. I focused on random people and picked them off one by one. My favorites to pick off were the guys who seemed really tough at first, and who would try passing me, only to be passed by me again a short time later (for good!).

I knew there was a turnaround somewhere in the race, but the road seemed to go on forever and it was curved, so you couldn’t where the turn was. The fast runners had been running by on the other side of the median for a while, so I was getting annoyed. Fortunately, the turn finally came, and I knew that I could at least look forward to seeing my dad, Kim, and Barb on the other side. Dad and Kim came first, and Barb came shortly after. They gave me an extra boost just before I turned out of the neighborhood. The water stop after the turn was serving brown water from the fire hydrant…definitely the crappiest water station I’ve ever seen in a race! I was seriously disappointed, but I knew the end was close, so I don’t even know if I bothered drinking anything.

We passed a little park, and then hit the final stretch that led to the shopping center where we started. I out-kicked the girl I’d been running behind for the last stretch, and made it across the finish line in 38:53, a 7:46 pace! This was the first time I was honestly afraid that I was going to throw up after a race. I walked around a little bit to compose myself, and then I jogged back to pick up my dad and Kim. I caught them somewhere around mile 4, and we all ran in together (they came in around 56:30). Barb came in shortly after us (at 57:50), and then we waited for my mom and Becca. Becca actually decided to run most of the 5k (mostly just because it was so cold). I decided to run back and get my mom, and I walked her in too.

We were all freezing cold, so we went over to the finish area, and we got some coffee. Barb went over to check out the race results and noticed that I had placed 3rd in my age group – I had no clue! There were so many fast people ahead of me that I didn’t think it was possible, but things worked out in my favor. We stuck around and waited for the awards ceremony – fortunately it was sunny, so at least we had that going for us! I took home some of the coolest hardware ever. Check it out:

My kick-ass turkey trophy

Double-fisting it: Turkey trophy and a well deserved glass of wine

Barb is cool. By the way, she finished her 50k in 8:44:45!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nike Women's Marathon 2007

The Nike Women’s Marathon deserves a bit of an introduction because I’ve been involved with the thing for the past 15 weeks. You see, as most of you know, I’m a pace leader for Nike Club Run SF, and our goal is to get everyone ready for the Nike Women’s Marathon. We spend our Saturdays and Wednesdays leading groups of runners on one to 22-mile runs in preparation for the half or full marathon, so we’re all pretty passionate about it. It’s great to bond with other runners and the other pace leaders!

So here’s what went on this week:
Monday: Expotique training

Fortunately I had this night off, so I went to Jessica’s and we ate really good pasta and watched trashy reality TV!

Our last CRSF run…we all ran three miles, and then we had a pasta party afterward at Niketown. The glasses of wine were generous, the food was pretty good, and there were lots of fun things to buy! Unfortunately, a fire alarm cleared the entire party for about 20 minutes, but most people stuck around so they could get their race gear before the big crowds arrived from out of town. This is when Denise (you might remember her from my Nike recap last year…she was one of my runners, and this year she became a pace leader too!) and Jenny V. and I decided that we were going to buy matching outfits for the race. I’m hoping I’ll have some pictures of those soon because we were REALLY cute!

There was a special event with early packet pickup, and I was under the impression that it was only supposed to be Bay Area people. They were raffling off 4 pairs of diamond earrings from Tiffany’s, and none of us were about to miss that! Unfortunately, there were a ton of out-of-towners there, and I don’t think any Bay Area residents won the earrings. Oh well. It was nice to get the packet early, and they had wine and cheese and stuff too. Almost forgot - I met Brandi Chastain too!

Me and Brandi Chastain, just one of the elites who showed up for the race!

Friday: I worked at the info booth at the expo with a bunch of the other girls.

Me, Annamarie, and Melisse at the expo.

It started raining later in the day, so most of the people cleared out, which was nice…there were no lines, so we all got our iPods engraved and all the stuff that had had really long lines earlier in the evening.

Me, Starla, and Tanya, showing off our engraved iPods. Oh, and Marcus too!

Afterward, a bunch of us went out to dinner, and then I headed home to try to get some sleep!

I got up bright and early to help out as a pace leader for the Nike Media Team. I was really excited because there were supposed to be writers for Runner’s World and lots of other publications, but, much to our dismay, we ended up with 4 pace leaders and only 2 runners, both from Nike corporate. Apparently, the media people took full advantage of the free dinner the night before, and they were all hung over! Anyway, we split into two groups, and I ended up running with this woman Jill, who’s one of two in-house PR reps at Nike. We had a great 4.5 mile run, and chatted about CRSF, the marathon, and life in general. Afterward, Ernest pulled out a bunch of the new shoe models to show us…he works on all the really technical shoes, so he had some cool racing flats and new trail shoes. I definitely have to get some of those!

So after that run, I got some breakfast, stopped at the expo to say hi to some people, and then went to the gym to shower. After that, I headed to the office, where I stayed until about 5pm. My coworker Jorge was nice enough to drive me home, but when I got there I realized that I had lost my camera. I wasn’t able to find it earlier (I wanted to charge the battery), but I figured maybe I’d left it at home or something. Well, basically, with all the pre-race jitters and everything, I kinda freaked out. To the point where I actually went back to my office to see if I could find the damn thing. After much backtracking, the only thing I can think of is that the concierge at the hotel stole it. My camera case was in my bag, empty and closed, and my charger was also missing. I think it’s way too much of a coincidence that both of them went missing at the same time like that. So I was pretty pissed. This, on top of all that built up energy and emotion sent me into a downward spiral, and I was a total mess. I managed to make myself some spaghetti with shrimp and marinara at about 8:30, and I watched “The Holiday” in bed. I don’t think I fell asleep until at least 12:30…not good when you have to get up at 5:00am and run a marathon!

Race day
Well, I made it out of bed alright, showered, went through my race morning routine, and made it to the start by 6:00. I met all the other CRSF VIPs in our special tent, and I did a bib swap with one of Denise’s friends…she paid for the full with the intention to run the half, and I paid for the half, but decided that I wanted to run the full, so we kept our own chips, but we traded bibs so that neither of us would get any crap out on the course (they were different colors, so it was obvious if you were wearing the wrong one).

Justine, Annamarie, Lisa, me, Denise, Jenny, and Sam in the VIP tent before the race.

We all did our last-minute race prep, went to the bathroom a couple of times, and then lined up at the start. It was a little chilly outside, and there was a breeze, but it didn’t feel like it would be anything problematic. The sky was perfectly clear, which was good, considering it had been pouring rain two days earlier!

We made it into the corral about 5 minutes before the race start, gave everyone a few words of encouragement, and then we were off.

From the SF Chronicle...that's me, Jenny, and Denise in the box!

Mile 1
Now one of the benefits of being a Nike VIP is that you get to start behind the elites and in front of the rest of the crowd. This is great, because even though I run a decent marathon, I would still have thousands of people in front of me (that’s what happens when there are 20.000 people running a race!).

Just a small portion of the people waiting to start with the regular pack - sooo glad I didn't have to do that!

Only problem is that there are lots of fast people behind you, and it’s easy to get caught up in their pace. Denise and Jenny and I were a little fast on this first mile, but we were much better once we had our own pace running around us.

Mile 2
The Boston qualifying crowd started passing us right as we turned the corner onto the Embarcadero. There was a bit of a headwind going down the Embarcadero, but it felt good. I always enjoy running through Fisherman’s Wharf early in the morning when there’s no one out there!

Mile 3
The first hill is here – it’s a hill that I run at least once a week, and it’s not a nice one…in fact, it’s pretty damn steep. Not long, but it definitely makes it obvious who’s from out of town! We totally took it in stride. I don’t think we were even breathing any harder when we hit the top!

Mile 4
Marina Blvd. is a favorite with runners in the City, and this morning it was obvious why. The Golden Gate Bridge looked spectacular – it was one of those mornings when I feel especially privileged to live in San Francisco. The sunrise gave off this golden glow that made the bridge and the hills look amazing! Mile 4 is also when I realized that I had to pee. The same thing happened to me last year, and I knew that there were port-a-potties up ahead, so I made the decision to pull ahead. I was running tempo pace, but I felt great! Fortunately, there were about 15 bathrooms, so I didn’t even have to wait. I fully expected to see Jenny and Denise when I stepped out of the bathroom, but they were nowhere to be seen. Had they passed me? No way…I was really quick! Then I finally saw someone I had passed when I pulled away and I knew that they were still behind me. I took my time at the water stop, ate a Gu, and waited for them at the mile marker.

Mile 5
A few seconds later, Denise yelled my name, and we were off again. Eric, one of our runners from CRSF, was running with us, and we gave him a hard time for actually taking the time to run over to a garbage can and throw away his Gu packet.  This is where we started to mentally prepare for the upcoming hills.

Mile 6
The entire mile is a series of hills without much of a break, and I don’t remember much about it. We laughed about the oxygen bar by the turn-off for the Golden Gate Bridge, but we kept right on going. We all kind of went into our own minds and did whatever it took to get us up the hill, and then we regrouped at the top. That’s when we realized that we had kicked some serious hill butt! We were a full minute and a half ahead when we got to the top because we had barely dropped our pace going up that monster of a hill!

Mile 7
This mile totally makes up for the previous one because it’s almost all downhill. It feels easy, but it’s such a steep downhill that we weren’t able to take full advantage of it. Our pace was almost the same as our previous uphill mile. The photographer caught me double fisting it after the aid station – a cup of water in one hand and a cup of Gatorade in the other. Can’t wait to see how that one turns out!

Mile 8
Up the hill to Seacliff, we ran past Robin Williams’s and a load of other really nice houses and over toward the last big hill.

Mile 9
I grabbed some Luna Moons (which I love, by the way), and chewed them as I ran up the hill carrying a folded cup of water and hoping that there would still be something left in it when I was done chewing. Note to race directors: if you’re planning on handing out food or gels, put the aid station a little before the hill so that people have time to get it down before they have to run up it! I don’t know if it’s the crowd that makes the hill seem less daunting or what, but the hill really wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Always a nice feeling!

Mile 10
Another nice downhill…the view from the Cliff House was amazing – the waves at Ocean Beach looked really cool, and I knew the bottom of the hill meant a great crowd, and our first glimpse of the finish line.

Mile 11
As we turned into the park, we got a big surge from the crowd, and had a pretty fast mile despite the fact that we were running uphill. Just before mile 12, the half marathoners turned off toward the finish line as we kept going straight into the park.

Mile 12
Just after the turnoff, we saw Jill, the Nike PR woman I ran with on Saturday. She spotted the three of us in our matching Nike outfits. I forgot to mention that not only did we have matching tops and shorts, but (unplanned), we all had the same white Nike visor, the same Nike sunglasses, and the same Nike shoes. It was ridiculously cute! Jill told us that there was a Runner’s World photographer up ahead, and she told us to smile – I’m sure she would love to have a picture of such good Nike brand ambassadors in Runner’s World (and I wouldn’t mind being in there either!).

Mile 13
Somewhere around here I saw Jaime McClure, who I know from high school. I found out she was running this race on our high school alumni website, and we talked about it when we were at our reunion just a couple of weeks ago. I never expected to see her at the race! Mile 13.1 put us at about 2:03 – a couple of minutes ahead of our goal, and we were all feeling good. Shortly after that, we turned around and headed back down the park (and downhill) toward the Great Highway.

Mile 14
I don’t really remember much about this mile except that it was all downhill, and I felt great.

Mile 15
I was starting to get frustrated with the walkers at this point, taking up the entire walkway, and I was REALLY tempted to yell at them, but somehow, at that point it didn’t seem to be a problem anymore. The half marathoners joined back up with us and we all ran through the crazy Nike + tunnel, where we got some words of encouragement from Lance Armstrong and Paula Radcliffe, the voices of Nike +.  Then we joined back up with Chrissy, who I’ve run with at CRSF for the past two years.

Mile 16
Here, a couple of Chrissy’s friends joined us. We all sped up a bit thanks to the huge finish line crowds at the end of the park. I tried not to look right because I wanted to avoid catching sight of the finish, knowing full well that I still had ten miles to go. Chrissy and her friends pulled ahead, but we somehow managed to catch back up to them, still feeling good.

Mile 17
The Great Highway sucks. It’s flat, it’s hot, and it feels like it will never end. I realized that if I looked at the street signs at all, I would make myself crazy – the blocks go in alpha order for about two miles! I was pretty proud of myself that I managed to avoid looking up.

Mile 18
More Luna Moons (thank God! My stomach was growling!), and we headed over the hill to Lake Merced. Denise and Eric started to fall back a little bit here, but Jenny and I stayed strong.

Mile 19
Jenny decided to pull back and run with Denise, but I knew that if I slowed down, that I would probably hit the wall. To keep myself mentally with it, I had to really dig in and focus on running the last 7 miles well.

Mile 20
It was starting to get really hot around the lake, and there was this super annoying Team in Training coach riding his bike up and down the course, getting water for people. He kept riding alongside this guy that was near me, and it was driving me crazy!!! I finally managed to get ahead, which made me feel a lot better.

Mile 21
This is a long, nasty stretch. The water stop just can’t come fast enough. Somewhere around here I figured out that if I could keep up a 9:00 minute pace for the rest of the race, I could manage a 4:05. That got me excited!

Mile 22
This is another really desolate stretch. No spectators and very few runners make for a pretty crappy mile. I think I saw Harriet from SFRRC around here. She was surprised to see me so soon – she knew that this was just a training run for me – but she told me I looked good, and I felt good too, so I kept right on going.

Mile 23
I could see the runners turning left to go up the hill, and I was sooo happy! The hill seemed a lot smaller than I remembered, and I passed a lot of other runners, which gave me a boost. The biggest boost, though, came at the top of the hill. The view was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so clear in San Francisco! I could even see the Farallones Islands off the coast, something that only happens about five times a year. I passed a TNT woman from New York, and I told her, “This is a lucky day to be in San Francisco – it’s so beautiful!” I think she thought I was crazy, but I had to say something to someone!

Mile 24
More Great Highway. I figured out that if I finished the last 2.2 in under 20 minutes, I would be under 2:05. Woo hoo!

Mile 25
Still more Great Highway, but I still hadn’t looked at one street sign. I think it was the only thing keeping me sane. I just kept picking off other runners, and I focused on the finish line ahead. I was glad to see Sam and Mike who had run the half. And then I saw Melisse – she had also run the half, and planned to come run Denise, and Jenny and me in to the finish. I told her to wait for them, that they probably needed her more. I was feeling great!

Mile 26
The finish line in sight, I also saw my friend Adam from the back. I knew that he already had a better time than I did (he started with the regular pack instead of the VIPs, so his chip time put him ahead of me), so I ran as hard as I could to pass him up. I needed a goal! There were people lining the whole finish chute, and for all I know they could have all been yelling for me, but I didn’t hear a darn thing. I was focused on the finish!

Final time: 4:04:41

I stumbled across the finish line and collected my little blue box from one of the tuxedo-clad firefighters standing at the finish. I pushed my way through to have my chip removed, and Adam caught up with me shortly after. He ran a 3:59, and was really happy with himself. Can’t say that I blame him! I made my way through the crowd (and crowded it was!) to the VIP tent, where I met up with all the other CRSF members who had run the race. I caught up with Patricia from SFRRC, where I found out she had qualified for Boston (with 25 seconds to spare!). I regrouped with Jenny and Denise, who finished in 4:08 and 4:13, respectively. Sam and Melisse both had a great half (1:31 and 1:44) too. Lots of other people were really happy with their performance, and we all had a good time!

Jenny, me, and Denise after the race - how cute are we in our matching outfits?

I hopped on the N Judah to get back home, and I spent the whole ride talking to a woman and her sister who had come up from San Diego. It was fun getting to talk to someone who had experienced the race all four years! I went home and showered, got some lunch, and then went and stood in the Bay for a good 15 minutes. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt better after a marathon. I didn’t hit the wall, I had a great training run for CIM, and I don’t even hurt afterward. The best part is that I know I could have set a PR if I wanted to, but that wasn’t the point of this marathon, and I feel really good about my performance!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

San Jose Rock N Roll, part deux

Yesterday after our Nike run (I did an easy 4 miles – the shortest possible distance), Annie, Michelle, Clare, her roommate Jessica, Jodi, Maria, Marcus and another pace leader whose name escapes me at the moment went to lunch at Home Plate down on Lombard Street. We had some fabulous scones and other tasty breakfast items (got there!), and then Annie, Michelle, and I headed down to San Jose to pick up our race packets. We got to the expo at about 3:00, and after we got the essentials, we wandered around a bit to see if there was anything good. We didn’t find a whole heck of a lot, but we managed to run into about 6 other people we knew. Bob (AKA White Tiger) and Mitch (AKA…) arrived at the expo shortly after I did, so we all hung out there together. I had planned to catch a ride back up with Annie, but I decided to stay in San Jo and have dinner with Bob and Mitch so we could catch up.

Tanya, Mitch, Bob, me, Annie, and Kathryn at the expo

There were a ton of people downtown because there was a Sharks game last night (and I’m sure there were a ton of runners in town for the race), so finding a restaurant >looked like it might be a bit of a challenge. There was an hour wait at the Old Spaghetti Factory, so we nixed that idea, but there happened to be a place next door that was kind of hidden, and since they had pasta on the menu, we went for it. Mitch and I both had Chicken Marsala and spaghetti (which, much to my disappointment, had mysteriously creamy Marsala and Marinara sauces…this worried me a little bit because it was not what I was expecting!), and Bob had Chicken Tikka Masala, which looked delicious! The food was pretty good, and we chatted for a little over an hour until I had to leave to catch my train back to the city.

My ride back up was pretty uneventful, but it was a long, and fairly complicated ride. I made it to bed at about 10:30, and I slept like a baby!

I got up around 5:30, and Matt came to get me at around 6:00. We headed down to San Jose in the dark, and through a massive fog bank for the majority of the 45 minute drive. At times we couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of us! But as we got closer to San Jose, we came over the hill, the fog broke, and it was a beautiful day! We found a sweet parking spot close to the start line, and we did our last minute preparations before we headed over to the start area. We made a stop at the port-a-potties, and then checked in our bags. It was a little cold, so we went for a bit of a jog to warm up our legs and our bodies. Another trip to the bathroom and another quick jog, and we decided to make our way to the corral. We were happy to see that Carolyn was in the same corral, so we lined up with her (but not before one more quick trip to the port-a-potty), and before long we were off.

The first few miles were great. We were on pace for a 1:45 half (that’s an 8 minute mile). Problem was, the 1:45 pace was NOT EVEN CLOSE! They ran the first three miles way too slow (by about 15 seconds each), but then decided to surge, running 7:30 miles to catch up. While we weren’t really planning on running with them, they totally screwed us up mentally. There were two pacers running together, supposedly to keep each other in check, but they didn’t do a very good job. They both wore just a regular running watch, and I think it would have been beneficial if one of them had worn a Garmin while the other wore the regular watch, just to keep a more even pace overall.

I was still feeling good until about mile 8 (those miles were pretty much a blur, except for my 10k PR!), but then I started to get a little tired. I also started to have some kind of stomach issue…I didn’t know if it was the Accelerade (which I’d never used in a race before), or if I’d had too much liquid at the first couple of aid stations or what, but I was feeling a little funky, and my legs started to feel weak. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace for the rest of the race, so around mile 9, I told Matt to go on ahead.

I kept him right in front of me for a good mile or so, but somewhere between miles 10 and 11 I got a massive cramp in my side. I tried to breathe it out, but it was one of those side cramps that requires you to stop, hold your side, and breathe really deeply. I wanted to cry, it hurt so bad! I did that three different times in the last 3 miles, which made my time suffer A LOT. I tried my best to push it when I was able to, but I went from an 8 minute pace in the first 9 miles to just over a 9 minute pace in the last four.

I managed to finish strong though…the side cramp let me get through the last .6 without any more issues, and I came in at 1:48:38.

Matt managed to finish a few minutes before me in 1:45:16 – a 5 minute PR!!!

Here are some of our splits:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

As you can see, we were right on (and right together) for the first part of the race. The 10-mile is one mile after I told him to go on ahead. After that, I died! While I didn’t set a PR (I was off by about 30 seconds), I did do a lot better than last year (1:51:59), and my body feels absolutely fine right now. I honestly don’t feel any different than I would after a tempo run. So that, combined with my course PR makes me feel good about today’s race, even though I didn’t meet the goal I was going for.

When I got home I realized that I must have been pretty dehydrated during the race (possibly the root of my cramping issue)…I drank a decent amount during the race, and I drank two bottles of water and a latte afterward, and my pee was really dark (funny the things we runners are willing to talk about, isn’t it?). If it was still that dark after all that liquid, I’m sure it was not a good sign for the race. Lesson learned. I’m going to be very well hydrated for the next one!

Speaking of the next one, I’ve got the Nike Women’s Marathon coming up in ONE WEEK, so it’s probably good that I didn’t kill myself at this race. I’ll have plenty of other opportunities to get that 1:45 in the near future!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Santa Cruz Sentinel Triathlon

Saturday morning, Leslie, Pam, and I loaded our bikes and our mountains of gear into Pam’s truck and headed down to Santa Cruz for the Sentinel Triathlon. We somehow managed to get the bikes tacked down in the back – the rack only held two bikes, so we had to get creative to make mine and the three front wheels stay in place – and then we stuffed poor Leslie in the back seat with all the rest of our junk. Side note here…this is what I like about marathons – all you need is a pair of running shoes and one outfit. Makes traveling quite a bit easier! Anyway, the drive down was a long one. Not only did it pour most of the way down, but there was also an accident on the highway through the mountains that had us sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic for about an hour. All the training had us quite hungry, and the Wheat Thins, while tasty, weren’t really cutting it.

We got to Santa Cruz and magically convened with the rest of the SFRRC members who would be joining us in the race, and we all picked up our race numbers and chips at the “expo”. The reason I put this is quotes is because it was a rather pathetic one. Other than the usual check-in areas, there were just three tents selling random gear. I was actually pretty happy about this lack of hype because I didn’t have time to get all nervous thinking about the race. We picked up our numbers and swim caps, got our cool tech shirts, and then headed to the hotel to check in and get some lunch. After a tasty lunch (I had a great chicken sandwich with avocado and bleu cheese!), we went back to the rooms to rest and go through our stuff and make sure we were ready for the race.

Later in the afternoon we met up with Karl and Wanda and their adorable kids, Taylor and Isaac down at the boardwalk. We got some chocolate and watched the kids on some of the rides, made a quick stop for some bottled water, and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. We had made a reservation at a place near the boardwalk, but at the last minute, we decided to change it because there weren’t a whole lot of pasta options (and those that they did have were served with cream sauce – not exactly ideal for a pre-race meal!). The eleven of us – Pam, Leslie and Chris, Bob and Judy, Karl and Wanda and their friend Patrick and the kids, and me – ended up back at the hotel restaurant. Most of us had pasta or some other carb-loaded meal, and we talked a little about the race. We also got some unsettling news about the bike course (something about hairpin turns and potholes) that had Leslie and me pretty nervous. But we figured there’s nothing we could do about it until race time, so we tried not to let it bother us too much.

After dinner, we headed up to our rooms where Bob was nice enough to help us pump up our tires a bit – something that we all seem to have some trouble with because all of us had low tire pressure! It was still early, so Pam read and I watched “The Wedding Date” and tried to fall asleep. Fortunately, I managed to sleep pretty well, so the 5am wake-up call wasn’t too much of a shock. We both made it out of bed by about 5:15, and soon after, Leslie came over for breakfast. We got creative with the coffee makers, and we had some oatmeal and coffee (but not without making a HUGE mess!).

We finished getting our stuff together to go over to the transition area where we staked out a good spot that was pretty easy to get in and out of. We all set up our transition areas, and then we headed back to the hotel to chill for a while before going through the whole wetsuit ritual. After watching a little bit of CNN and chatting with Harriet who had come down for the race, we slathered tons of Body Glide on our arms and legs, pulled on our wetsuits, grabbed our caps and goggles (and that was the easy part – see how complicated this tri thing is???) and headed down to the beach. The sand was incredibly cold, which I think was a good thing, because my feet were numb before I even got in the water. We listened to a few instructions from the race directors, and then jumped in for a quick swim.

The water wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected, and after a few strokes, I knew that I was going to feel pretty good about the swim. After 5 minutes or so, we got back out and waited for the race start. The first wave was guys 29 and under, which didn’t include any of us, but Karl was in the second wave, and Bob was in the third. As we watched their waves start, this girl next to me leans over and asks, “Is there a reason you all got in and swam before the race?” I tried to hide my shock at her question, and just told her, “Um, to get used to the water before we have to start.” (DUH!!!) She’d obviously never been in the water, or she would know that it basically makes you hyperventilate if you don’t have a strategy that works for you. Then she asked me if I tuck my hair into my swim cap – I was beginning to wonder if she’d ever even been into the pool – so I told her yes, and then, just to be nice, I suggested that she go wet her goggles and make sure that they suction to her face. Salt water in the eyes is not fun! That conversation took my mind off of my upcoming start, and shortly after, it was my turn to line up in the corral.

1.5k (.93mile) SWIM: 30:17

Before I knew it, I was running down the beach and wading into the water. Like I said, the water wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d expected, which was nice. I soon got into a good groove, and did my best to keep my eye on the end of the pier (where we’d make our turn) while avoiding all the flailing arms and legs around me. A couple of people swam right over me, and I think I did the same to a few others, but I managed to get through without any serious injury. I got kicked in the head once, but thankfully I didn’t lose my goggles. The way people were cutting in front of me, I wondered if they had ever learned to sight when they were practicing…I don’t think they ever looked up to see where they were going, and they probably ended up swimming a heck of a lot farther than they needed to (either that, or I was totally off!). It was a really beautiful morning for a swim- the pier looked really cool from the water, the sun was shining, and the sea lions were barking. It felt kind of surreal! We rounded the buoys at the end of the pier and came back on the other side. I thought I had the water exit in my sight, but it turns out that I was a little too far to the right. When I finally made it close enough to stand up, people shouted from the shore to watch for the waves coming from behind. A small one gave me an extra push toward shore, and I took off running through the sand. I made the mistake of taking off my goggles and cap before I took off the top half of my wetsuit, which made it a little bit tricky to take off, but I managed okay. Too bad I look so scary in my picture!

TI: 4:51

I knew this would be a long transition – the distance from the water to the transition area was pretty far, not to mention up a big hill. And we would be running it barefoot! I crossed the mat and ran around the side of the hotel and up the hill toward the transition area (without stubbing any toes). I ran through the kiddie pools to rinse off my feet, and headed toward my bike, but the area was so crowded with bikes that I got stuck behind this older guy who was taking his sweet time, which frustrated me a bit. At my bike, I stepped out of my wetsuit, pulled on my shirt, struggled with my socks and shoes – my feet were still damp even though I had dried them off – and then put on my helmet and sunglasses. It all seemed to go pretty quickly except for the socks part…I definitely need to work on that for next time! I threw a couple of Clif Shot Blocks in my mouth, took a drink, and ran out of the transition area with my bike.

40k (24.8 mile) Bike: 1:22:14

This section went by a LOT faster than I remembered last time. Maybe it’s because it was actually a nice bike course this time around! We did a few twists and turns through Santa Cruz, and then we headed out to Highway 1. We rode all the way out to Davenport on the shoulder of the highway, which I expected to be a little scary (the course was not closed to traffic), but the shoulder was pretty wide in most areas. I was a little wary of passing other cyclists because of the traffic, but most of the drivers were respectful and gave us enough room to get around. I did see a couple of drivers honk at cyclists, which was totally uncalled for, and a few big SUVs seemed to come dangerously close to us, but none of it was enough to completely freak me out. I got passed by a few intimidating cyclists with their super-expensive tri bikes (most of them probably weren’t great athletes, they can just afford $8000 bikes to make themselves SEEM intimidating!), but otherwise I felt like I did alright. The “rollers” that people had talked about looked more like Mount Everest, but I soon found that if I got a lot of speed going down the hill, it was usually enough to get at least halfway up the hill without having to shift into a lower gear. At the turnaround in Davenport, they handed out cool water bottles with the race logo on them, so I grabbed one and stowed it in my extra water bottle cage. That was the only time I felt the least bit uncomfortable on my bike…I almost fell over trying to put the stupid thing away! But I didn’t have time to think about it, because I still had more than 12 miles to go! When we got back to Santa Cruz, we had to do an extra loop, out to some beach, and it would have been nice except that the road in that particular area had, at one time, been cobblestone. The reason I know this is that half of it still IS cobblestone, but they’ve covered it up with asphalt. Trouble is, it still FEELS like cobblestone the entire way, which is not exactly comfortable on the bike. Let’s just say that my hands and my backside were not happy! I really picked it up after that section, and soon I was back at the transition area.

T2: 2:02

I got off my bike and hobbled over to my spot to change my shoes. I threw a couple more Clif Blocks in my mouth, changed my shoes (it’s really hard to tie your shoes when your fingers are numb!), drank some Cytomax, grabbed my race belt, and ran out of the transition area.

10k (6.2 mile) run: 50:26

As soon as I had gotten off my bike, I knew I was home free. I was a little tired, and of course my legs felt like lead from the bike portion, but I know the run is my strongest of the three events. I don’t think I was going particularly fast, but I immediately started passing people. A lot of them I recognized as people who had passed me on the bike. Not it was payback time! I passed a 17-year-old kid who was walking, and I almost told him, “Come on, man! You wanna let all us old ladies pass you???” But I decided I would rather not refer to myself as an old lady, and, well, I wanted to beat the kid!!! The run course was beautiful…most of it ran along a small cliff that sat above a beach, and the slightly rolling terrain was good (especially because it gave me the chance to smoke some dudes on the uphills!). At the turnaround I ate half of a GU, had some water, and headed back into town. I saw Pam, looking strong, shortly after the turnaround, and I knew that Leslie couldn’t be too much farther behind. Surely enough, a few minutes later I saw Leslie and Chris come around the corner – she was looking great too! I kept my sights on the little lighthouse up ahead because I knew that it was less than a mile to the finish line from that spot. I really kicked it into high gear, and I passed a whole group of guys in their 40’s (who actually cheered for me as I passed them!). I knew that if I kept it up, I’d make it in under 2:50. As I approached the finish line, I saw Bob and Harriet, and Adam from Club Run SF yelled at me that it wasn’t worth it if I didn’t sprint across the finish. That final push (Thanks, Adam!) put me across the finish line in 2:49:50.











































Everyone finished really strong, and for the most part, we were all happy with our performance. After the race, we got cleaned up and went to lunch at (guess where??) the hotel restaurant. The burgers and fries never tasted so good – and they were well deserved!

More pictures HERE!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Run Forrest Run 5k

This morning Jack and I got up bright and early and headed down to Santa Clara for Bubba Gump Shrimp Company’s 5k at the Great America theme park (to raise money for the United Way). The drive down was quick thanks to almost non-existent Sunday morning traffic, and we got there with plenty of time to get our race numbers and warm up. I ran 18 miles on Saturday, and so I was planning on making this a pretty easy run - my quads were tight, and I was just plain tired - but as we were standing at the starting line, looking around, we noticed that there weren’t a whole lot of “competitive-looking” runners at this event. Jack helped me size up the competition, and before I knew it, he had talked me into racing the thing. I could only see one woman who was a definite threat, and a few others who looked like they might be hard to beat, and I figured that most of the younger kids would peter out before we made it to the end.

The course: This consisted of a loop through the park, a loop around the parking lot, and another modified loop through the park. It was a pretty easy course, with just a few rolling hills, although it was a little tough running through the park, never knowing when you were finally going to turn the corner that would take you home!

After the national anthem and a cheesy send-off from “Forrest Gump,” we were off.
About a quarter mile into it, I was wishing that I had just taken it easy – my quads were burning, and I really just wanted to stop. I knew that the one woman I had suspected as a threat was in the lead, and there were a couple of teenage girls in front of me too. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to catch up to them, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let a bunch of ten-year-olds kick my butt! So I dug deep and somehow found it in me to run through the burn. I spent a good quarter of a mile trying desperately to lose one little girl…she kept cutting me off, which just fueled me even more. If it had been the end of the race, it might have been warranted, but it was still the first mile!

As we exited the park, I realized how much I was going to hate the parking lot portion of the race. I could see way more of the course than I like to see at once – little rollers all the way around what looked like a never-ending expanse of asphalt. Granted, at this point I could finally count all of the women in front of me – I picked off one little girl and a teenager, which left three more: the one fast lady, a young girl, probably 10 years old, and another girl who was probably 13 or so. The father of one of the little kids was out there, yelling the whole time we were in the parking lot – I can’t be sure if he was yelling at the little girl that I had picked off or at the little boy who managed to pass me in the parking lot, but either way, I wanted to hunt him down after the race and kick his ass. He was one of THOSE parents. You all know the kind - the obnoxious ones who always show up at sporting events. Sooo annoying!!! But once again, it gave the fuel I needed to make sure that those girls didn’t come back to pass me.

When we came back into the park, the guy was up on the hill, yelling at his kid to watch his form – "Shoulders relaxed, head straight, pelvis forward!!!" – and as much as I wanted to knock him down on my way past, I was grateful for this reminder because I was getting pretty tense. Now all I had to do was make it back through the park one more time. I was happy to see that the route had been modified, and that we didn’t have to do the full loop that we had done before. Unfortunately, with about a half mile to go, this woman came out of nowhere and passed me. I tried to latch onto her, but I knew I didn’t have it in me. A few guys surged past me in the final stretch, and after one more push, I came through the gates and saw the clock ahead of me. Mind you, I didn’t have a watch this whole time – I ran purely on feel and the determination not to get my ass kicked by a bunch of kids! When I saw the clock, my jaw dropped. “No effing way!” The final sprint put me across the finish line in 21:10 – a TWO-MINUTE PR!!! That’s a 6:48 pace, and my first sub-7:00 race ever. Needless to say, I was in total shock!

After I crossed the finish line, another guy came from behind and slipped in front of me – the finish line people and I yelled at him and one of the guys was nice enough to make sure that my tag got collected first since I had crossed before him. I caught my breath, got some water, and went back to the finish line to wait for Jack. A couple minutes later, he came barreling through, finishing in around 25:14 (still waiting on the official time for him because neither of us can remember what it was!). It was a great performance on his part too!

After the race, we got some food and stuck around for the awards ceremony – I ended up coming in 5th overall for the women and first in my age group. I think I need to do these smaller races more often! The prizes somehow got screwed up, and they made ribbons for the 20-39 bracket rather than doing 20-29 and 30-39, so I didn’t end up bringing anything home, but they said they would send my ribbon and prize later. I’m hoping I get the Run Forrest Run license plate instead of a flashing cup or box of chocolates (God knows I don’t need those)!

Jack and I spent the rest of the morning hanging out at Great America (we got in free as part of the race entry) – he even managed to get me on ALL the roller coasters, which weren’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated (I used to be terrified of roller coasters, but these were fun!). I hear they’re not as good as most other theme parks, but it was a good intro anyway!

It was a great day, and this run was a huge boost for my confidence with CIM coming up in a few months. The next five weekends are going to be super busy with the Sentinel Oly Tri in Santa Cruz, a possible appearance at the TI2Y swim under the Bay Bridge, my high school reunion, the San Jose half marathon, and Nike Women's Marathon. Once that's over, I'll peak for CIM, and then it's taper time. It's going to be here before I know it, and I can't wait!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Plate to Plate 5k - Coaches' Challenge Part 2

Holy. Jesus. That's what I have to say about this morning's 5k.

But before I tell you why, let's start at the beginning.

I signed up for the Plate to Plate 5k as part of the SFRRC Coaches' Challenge. It supports a great cause - Project Open Hand, an organization that one of our fellow Road Runners, Devesh Khatu, works for. I headed down to the race start, which was near the ballpark, at around 8:30 for a 9:00 race start. I was very pleased to see that the port-a-potty lines were short, and that I would have plenty of time to do a warm up before the race began. I did my business, and then ran about a mile (waving to a few fellow Road Runners along the way), finishing with some strides. I felt a little tight, but good considering yesterday's 10-miler. I got to the start line nice and warm. I pushed my way toward the front (and past anyone who looked remotely like a walker) and lined up near a group of friends. After the National Anthem and the start cannon (really - it was so loud!) we were off.

The race couse

The race was nice and flat - around the ballpark, down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, back around the other side of the park, into the stadium, around the outfield, down the third base line, across home plate, out the stadium, and around the corner to the finish.

On the first stretch down the Embarcadero I did my best to keep Julie, one of our faster runners, in my sight, because I knew she would do well. At mile one, a guy asked me what out time was, and much to my surprise, it was 6:56! Woo hoo! But I had a feeling it was a little too fast. I managed to keep Julie in my sight until well after the turnaround, and I saw a lot of runners I knew up in the lead.

At mile 2, I was starting to really feel it. I slowed to about a 7:30 for the second mile, but I knew that I should be able to keep about the same pace for the rest of the race. One more mile to go!

We ran into the stadium, which was really cool...they projected the image of the runners coming across home plate onto the big screen, so even though there weren't a lot of people in there, it still felt kinda like there was a game going on. I came around the corner to the third base line (we even got to run on the grass!), but there was a hold up at home plate.

For some reason no one wanted to pass anyone else, and I couldn't really get around the guy in front of me. Then I noticed the guy with the jogging stroller. He had obviously been running pretty dang fast to start with, but then he decided to take his little girl (less than 2 years old) out of the stroller and let her run across home plate so they could get her picture (of course, there was a photographer taking pictures of people crossing home plate). I was cussing up a storm because I couldn't get around the mess of people - I was trying for a PR, dammit! I finally ran around the guy with the stroller, probably missing home plate, almost trampled his damn kid...and lost ALL momentum! I really hope I ruined their damn picture!!!

What the scene COULD have looked like at home plate...

Knowing that there was only about a tenth of a mile left outside of the stadium, I did my best to pick it back up, but it wasn't quite good enough. I came around the corner and saw that I'd already missed my sub 23:00, which was my goal (my previous PR was 23:14). But I still managed to bring it in in 23:10 (23:07 by my watch), so I was pleased enough. I walked off the pukey feeling for a minute, and joined some friends on the other side - most of whom were pretty pleased.

I got some free stuff from the booths, and then headed home on Muni to take a shower before coming back down to the baseball game (included in the race registration).

So while we're sitting at the game (which sucked, by the way - Giants lost to Pittsburg 0-5), one of my friends decides to check the results of the race on his iPhone. Cool deal. He reads off the winner's time - 16 minutes and change, and a couple others, and then he gets to mine - 23:10, just as I'd seen on the finish line clock. 96th overall out of about 2000. Not too shabby. But wait, he says, "Look at this." NO. FRIGGIN. WAY. I placed 3rd in my age group!!! I NEVER in a million years imagined that I would place. At least not until I was in my 50's! So the one time I'll probably ever place, I didn't even stick around to get my award! CRAP! Oh least I know I did it. WOO HOO!

One last little thing: I would like to thank all the 20-29 year old women who didn't race this morning because you were out of town, stayed out too late last night, or just didn't feel like getting out of bed this morning. It's because of you that I was able to do this (it sure as hell isn't because I'm fast!). Thank you. :)

Oh, and congrats to Sina (5th in his age group), Julie (10th female overall), Sean (5th overall, 1st in his age group), and everyone else who kicked some serious ass out there today!!!

UPDATE (8/30/07): The other day I received a package in the mail which contained a certificate and a very cool medal of the race logo (see top of post) for my third place AG finish! Yay!

Monday, July 30, 2007

SF Half Marathon

I'll start with the pictures here:

The pre-race festivities started on Thursday afternoon with an SFRRC Happy Hour. What better way to prepare for a race than to have a couple glasses of wine, right? We all chatted about our goals and got to know each other a little better, which was nice. It was also the first time I’d seen many people in normal clothing – we all clean up pretty well!

On Saturday, Jack and I made our way to the expo to pick up our race packets and shirts, grabbed some free stuff, and checked out the cheap merchandise. I have to say, for as big of a gear freak as I am, and despite the good prices, race expos are the only place where I’m not tempted to buy a bunch of stuff. I don’t know if it’s the “shopping mall at Christmastime” atmosphere or what, but I managed to steer clear of any disastrous blows to my bank account. :)

After the expo, we relaxed and hung out on the beach with a few friends, and then we enjoyed a great pre-race pasta dinner at Il Borgo. We weren’t really tired yet, so we decided to stop into this cool place called Sauce for dessert. They have the craziest stuff on their dessert menu – chocolate chip pancakes, mini donuts, and all kinds of other fun concoctions, but we settled for their version of a PB&J, with spongecake for bread and a layer of ice cream in the middle. It was VERY tasty! After that, it was off to attempt to get a good night’s sleep.

Race day:
The alarm went off at 6:00am, and while I wasn’t happy about getting up so early, I was thankful that we weren’t running the first half (or the full) – they had already started by then! We ate our oatmeal and went through the regular pre-race rituals: Bodyglide? Check! Timing chip? Check! Bib number? Check! Gu? Check! And then we were out the door. We caught a bus that took us to the race start, and rather than waiting for the road block to clear, we got out early and walked through the fog to warm up our legs a bit. We cheered on some runners along the way, including Sarah from SFRRC, and then, with about 35 minutes to spare, went immediately to the port-a-potty lines.

COMPLAINT #1: When you have more than 2000 people running a race, it’s a good idea to have more than 15 port-a-potties available. After waiting more than 15 minutes, Jack finally convinced me that I wasn’t going to make it to the front before our wave was scheduled to leave, so I headed to the bushes. After my jaunt into the wilderness, I felt much better, and we headed over to the start area. The oatmeal still wasn’t sitting quite right in my stomach, but I figured it was just nerves, and I did my best to ignore it.

Once we were there, we ran into a big group of Red runners (AKA fast people) from SFRRC, and I found that Leslie, Pam, and David were all going for a 1:44. My original goal was a 1:45, so I figured I’d stick with them. Jack and I did a quick warm-up jog around Spreckels Lake and headed straight to the start. We said, “Good luck,” and before we knew it, we were off and running. I managed to stick with the Reds for about a mile and a half, but I knew there was no way I would be able to keep up their sub-8 pace for the whole race, so I backed off a little bit, doing my best to keep them in my sights. At the first out-and-back, I waved to Jack, who was looking great, just before the course split off again.

COMPLAINT #2: At the split, we joined up with the full marathoners, and shortly after that, I realized that there were going to be some problems. The next mile marker listed 15 miles for the full marathoners and 1.9 miles for the half marathoners, and so from that point on my splits were totally messed up! For some reason, the race directors couldn’t have figured out a way to make some little sign (jeez, a piece of white paper attached to a stake would have been sufficient) to mark the ACTUAL miles for the half marathoners. This frustrated me beyond belief, but I adjusted my splits to the signs, knowing that I would have to deal with .2 at the end rather than just .1 mile.

Anyway, I was getting really tired of running in the park, and not just because of the hills. I think I know the park a little too well...there’s something in the mystery of running in a place that you’re not familiar with – it’s easier to take the tough things in stride! As I headed up around Stow Lake and then toward the Conservatory of Flowers, I remembered last year’s full marathon, and how I basically hit the wall at mile 18. Not pretty. But I was feeling good this time around, so I kept right on going, knowing that Haight Street was just around the corner. As I left the park, I was happy to see Kirk standing at the park exit – his cheers of (something like), “Go Jenni! Lookin’ hot!!!” gave me a boost and helped me over that last little slope before the downhill.

I enjoyed the slight downward slope of Haight Street, and tried to ignore the names of the streets that I run by so often. It helped that I saw Kevin, Kate and Little John from SFRRC along this stretch! Then I took the three blocks of serious downhill and ran with them (no pun intended). I think I blew by about 30 runners in those 3 blocks (mostly full marathoners, whose knees, I’m sure, were feeling the distance), and I was running so fast that I didn’t even notice I’d passed my street until I got a whiff of the garlicky everything bagels baking at the shop around the corner from my place. This was also a good sign, because I knew if I was hungry, that pesky oatmeal (which had never really stopped bugging me) wasn’t going to come back to haunt me. I took advantage of the next flat section and a series of downhills across Market Street and into the Mission, and before I knew it, I was heading into Potrero Hill.

I’m thankful for the course preview that we did a couple weeks ago, because I was more than prepared for the hills that came in this section of the race. I blasted up them, and was feeling great as we were making our way south (which is disheartening because everyone knows that the finish line is in the exact opposite direction!). We made our final turns back the other way, into the industrial area south of the ballpark. It’s not the prettiest part of town (understatement of the century), but I knew there wasn’t much farther to go. I tried to dig in, but my legs were starting to feel like Jell-O.

COMPLAINT #3: This is the point where I was thinking, “Where in God’s name is everyone?!?!?” There is very little course support for this race, and I really could have used it right about then. Granted, it starts at 5:30am, and it’s not nearly as big, but I think this race has the potential to be like New York or Chicago. SF is a relatively athletic city, and there are tons of runners here, yet hardly anyone who’s not a runner (or supporting a first-time marathoner) will come out for the race. Who’s in charge of the PR for this thing??? That’s it for my complaints. :)

I walked through the final water stop, and then went for it. About a minute later, my friend Melisse passed me, and I was kicking myself for having walked through the water stop (I barely squeaked by her when I PR’ed in February). I tried desperately to stay on her heels, but I just didn’t have it. I had known for a while that I wasn’t going to make my 1:45 (goal #1), and I was suspecting that I wouldn’t make a PR either (goal #2), but I knew that I could at least beat my last “official time” (they didn’t use timing chips in my last half) of 1:48:23. As I came around McCovey Cove, where people were already waiting patiently in their boats in hopes of catching Barry Bond’s record-tying home run ball, I knew that I had to run as hard as I could for that last 1.2. The Bay Bridge still seemed so far off, but I kept pushing until I could finally see the finish line. One last sprint, and I was done.

FINAL TIME: 1:48:10.

No hands up for the cameras, no excitement, just sheer exhaustion and relief that it was over. But as I was trying to steady myself, I looked up, and there was Leslie, about 20 feet in front of me. I tried to yell, but I couldn’t get it out...I finally got her attention, and realized that we were in the same boat. Her 1:44 turned into a 1:47 just as my 1:45 had turned into a 1:48. And then, to my surprise, up came Pam. She came in about 30 seconds behind me. Apparently, it wasn’t a day for SFRRC PRs (at least not the group I talked to), but all in all a good race, we agreed. It was a little tougher than expected! Mostly, I think, we were just happy to be done.

But no time for rest, at least not for me...I knew Jack wouldn’t be far behind, and I wanted to find him before he crossed the finish line. I grabbed a bottle of water and my medal, and headed back out the race course (“Hey look, this one’s still running,” one guy said) in hopes of finding him. Thankfully for our bright orange SFRRC singlets, he wasn’t too hard to spot when I found him about 5 blocks from the finish. I jumped up and down and cheered for him, gave him a little water, and ran alongside him toward the finish. I left him at the chutes, where he sprinted his way past another runner to finish in 2:11:27 – An awesome time for a first race...I have no doubt that he will keep getting better (although I’m not exactly looking forward to the day when he passes me by!). :)

1) Golden Gate Park on Crossover Drive
2) Potrero Hill on Indiana, near Cafe Cocomo
3) Me and Jack, Happy to be done!

After the race, we got some goodies (my favorite was the cheese biscuit from ACME bakery!), greeted a few other SFRRC members at our booth, and then got a much-needed free massage (I think Jack actually drooled on the table). We headed back to my place, got cleaned up, and then had a beer and some delicious Chicago style deep-dish pizza at Patxi’s in Hayes Valley (highly recommended!). What a great day!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

SFRRC Coaches' Challenge 5k

Tonight my running club put on the first of a series of 5ks used to track our progress throughout the season.

We met at the track as we usually do on Tuesday nights, and then went for a nice warmup run through Golden Gate Park. It was actually a course preview, 3.1 miles. It was great, because the course was fresh in my mind (not to mention, these are roads I've run a hundred times before). I was a little worried, because I've never really spent that much time warming up, although I knew that I hadn't spent enough time preparing before my last race, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Here's the course (forgive me, my hand's not too steady with the touch pad mouse!):

We all met back at the starting line about 30 minutes later, and Coach Kirk, Mr. Enthusiasm himself, sent us on our way. The first mile felt good - I stayed on the heels of Kortney, who runs with my pace group but I think has the potential to be quite a bit faster. A pretty good group of us stuck together for most of mile one - Some Silvers: Little John, Aida, Kortney and me, and some reds: Leslie, Pam, and Rob. About halfway through the first mile was the hill behind the Conservatory of Flowers, but it was followed by a nice, gradual downhill, making my first mile 7:21. Not too shabby!

The Conservatory of Flowers

Mile 2 was down JFK, which is mostly flat. The group started to spread out here. Leslie, Pam, Kortney, and Rob pulled ahead, and John, Aida, and I were close behind. We had a slight downhill just past the deYoung Museum (by the creepy purple head), and then a gradual uphill to Stow Lake. That one was killer! I somehow managed to pass Rob, who stopped for a walk break, and Kortney, and kept my focus on Leslie. I knew if I could keep her in my sights, I would probably PR. Mile 2: 8:18

Creepy purple head - the one in GGPark is just like this one that was featured at Burning Man.

Mile 3 started out as a piece of cake. A little bit of flat, and then a nice downhill out of the lake drive. The rest was back up MLK toward Kezar Stadium. Rob passed me up again, but I managed to stick to him until he stopped to walk again. At that point, though, I was all alone. Leslie had pulled far enough ahead that I couldn't see her because of the curve in the path, and I could hear distant footsteps behind me, but I didn't dare look back. I knew I had less than a half mile left, so I really kicked it into high gear. I could hear Kortney getting closer, and I tried my best to sprint up the last hill toward the finish, but I was feeling like I might puke, and she managed to pass me. I did my best to stay right behind her, and made my final sprint over the crest of the hill and to the finish. Mile 3.1: 7:51

Total time: 23:14!!! A new PR! That's 1:10 off my last 5k, just over a month ago! BTW, that's a 7:29 mile, in case you were wondering (I'm just a little proud of myself, can't you tell??). A couple of years ago I could barely break 30 minutes!!! We had lots of runners with really great times - most of Silver came in just before or just after me, and a lot of people managed to PR, so we all agreed it was a great race. The best part, I felt great afterward! Sure, I had to walk it off for a minute because I thought I might collapse and/or puke, but once that wore off, I felt awesome!

According to my pace card (and I know these things aren't always completely accurate), I'm right on track for a 3:40 marathon - BQ, baby (ooh, and I found someone who offered to pace me for the last ten miles of CIM)!!! But I won't get ahead of myself here...let's see how the SF half goes in a couple of weeks!

I wasn't really expecting to do so well...I had a REALLY bad day, and was also feeling rushed to get to the stadium for our warmup, but I used all that negative energy to push myself to a new PR. Running really is the best therapy!

Afterward, eleven of us went to dinner at Pasta Pomodoro, refueled and chatted about the race, running, the upcoming Sentinel Triathlon (which a ton of SFRRC members are doing), and just life in general. We have a really fun group, and it was a great night!