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
Tuesday: Fortunately I had this night off, so I went to Jessica’s and we ate really good pasta and watched trashy reality TV!
Wednesday: 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!
Thursday: 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!
Saturday: 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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!).
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.
I don’t really remember much about this mile except that it was all downhill, and I felt great.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!