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San Francisco Marathon Race Recap

Back in March, when I found out that I would be staying in San Francisco for the summer, I decided to sign up for the San Francisco marathon. I had no idea what I was in for seeing as Palo Alto, where I had lived for the past year, is a fairly flat area. But that didn’t deter me since I’m an easy sell when it comes to great races. So with more than three months to prepare and another marathon on the way, I went along with life, running, and finishing my first year of grad school.

Which brought me to June and my move into San Francisco. As my internship started I found less and less time to actually go out for runs in my neighborhood during the week. Though I was fortunately able to push myself out the door every Saturday morning to run with the San Francisco Road Runners Club. They are a great group of runners who really helped me complete all my long runs on schedule. Yet I had somehow forgotten about the hill aspect of the city…

The night before the race I set out my clothing and got into bed early. It still hadn’t hit me that I was about to run a full marathon. As I woke up at 4:30am, I wasn’t still fully aware of what I had signed up to do. But I suited up, fueled, and got myself out the door. Thank goodness a friend was there to drive me to the start line or I don’t know if I would have made it myself.

When I got to the start line I realized that the weather was absolutely perfect. I didn’t need any extra layers, or the disposable arm warmers I had made, and I prayed that the weather would stay in my favor. After dropping off my bag and getting into the portapotty line, I met a new friend who was also hoping for a five hour marathon. We talked strategy for a while before lining up in the corral. My plan was to run for 6 minutes and walk for 1 minute. The SFRRC uses the interval system so I knew the plan would work for me (for at least 14 miles).

At first I was embarrassed to be walking so quickly out of the gate, but I reminded myself that it would be in my best interest to continue with the plan. My strategy worked beautifully for the first few miles. I may have walked a bit extra up a large hill, but I compensated with additional jogging down the other side. By the time I reached Golden Gate bridge I was feeling pretty good.  I knew that if I could make it up the large hill to the bridge, then I’d be okay (since it was the steepest on the trail).

Golden Gate bridge was crowded since they used one side and split it for runners going outbound and inbound. It was tough to pass slower moving folks and there was water on the bridge so it was slippery at times, but the views were beautiful. At that point in the race I was steadily with or in front of the five hour pacer and still feeling good, there was hope for a new PR.

The next few miles through the Presidio are now a blur. There were rolling hills (as one would expect in San Francisco) and very few spectators. And then I entered Golden Gate park. I’d looked over the elevation map a bit too much so I knew that I had to expect some rolling hills along the path, so I sucked it up and tried to push through the whiny voices in my head. It didn’t work out the entire time, as I reached the 16 mile mark I found myself walking more than I would have liked.  But I was moving forward and still on track with my overall pace.

As I reached mile 18.5, I was relieved to see my friends. I’m a member of a running and drinking group and they were the water (and beer) stop. There were a lot of cheers and it was refreshing as I set out on the final 8 miles. Getting out of the park was more difficult than I would have liked due to tunneling situations where it was nearly impossible to pass. So I slowed down and was slightly more rude than I should have been trying to get around folks…

Miles 20 to 23 were mainly down hill and it was a welcome change. Coming down the hill, my new friend from the portapotties passed and egged me on. Thanks to her insistence I found myself picking up the pace. Although I was definitely hurting by mile 23. Of course that is no time to stop, so I pushed ahead to a flatter area. The terrain was flat, but it was rough.

Coming into the finish I willed myself to go harder. It took more than I had expected, but I knew that the end was nigh. My Garmin read 26.2 miles at 5:04 which gives me a new PR by nearly 5 minutes. I’ll admit that my chip time is 5:07, but according to Garmy (who I trust very much) I ran 26.57 miles on their course. I think I’ll stick with the lower number (who is going to question my logic, hmmm?!).

Overall it was a fun morning (since I was finished by noon). I’m not sure if I’ll go out of my way to run this race again, I had a few issues with the organization of the water stations and the alternating course changes. It was also disappointing that there were so few spectators on the course. It appeared that no on in the city was aware of the race.

Looking at my splits, I can tell that I need to find and stick with a new strategy. I steadily get slower along the course. Even with the intervals, I came seriously close to my CIM time, I’ll have to figure out why that happened since I’d very much like to speed up in the next year.  I also realized that the half marathon may be my favorite race and I should focus more energy to improving that distance. I don’t have another marathon in the books (after NYC), but I’m looking forward to a year full of half marathons!

Marathon #4 is officially in the books, now onto #5 in NYC!  What races are you looking forward to this next year?

A run to remember

Saturday’s run was honestly one of the best I’ve ever had. Not because of the distance (I only managed 18.5 of the 19 I had planned), or the speed (sloooow), but of the overall way my body and mind meshed. It was a long day, with an early start, but somehow things went much better than I had expected.

I woke up at 4:30am to a miserable Charley horse, clutching my leg in pain and getting angry with myself for being dehydrated. I immediately chugged some water and returned to bed until 6am. In earlier days I would have taken this incident as a bad omen for my run and come up with an excuse to sleep through my run. But not Saturday. At 6am I got out of bed, consumed a lot more water and some challah. By 6:45 I had suited up and was ready to get out for this long run.

And wow was it chilly! Since I live in the foggier area, it was kind enough to be windy and cold. Great, right? So I started on the 3.5 mile journey to the office where a running club was meeting. A mile in I found myself going in the wrong direction and had to take out my phone for directions. Just as the group was preparing to head out at 7:45, I shuffled up. I managed to run 4.25 miles to the start (yay for getting lost!).

We separated into groups and went off. This running club incorporates intervals into the workout and my group does 6 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking. As we began to run towards the hills I felt okay, my mind knew I could do it. Even with the hills I was able to keep up without falling behind. Yes, there was one hill that threatened my being, but I was able to complete it without discouraging myself from continuing on after.

Last week when I ran with this group, I deeply considered dropping out at 8 miles instead of 12. I didn’t, but as the 10 mile mark came up I had to drag myself off to continue. This week I knew that I was doing 14 with the group and that I had no option otherwise. Each time some people fell off to do a shorter distance I waved at them instead of trying to sneak into their group.

It never crossed my mind that stopping was an option. Slowing down was something I considered, but the two other individuals pushing me to 14 miles didn’t seem interested in changing pace so I moved ahead with them. And as we returned to the starting location I was overjoyed to know that I had done it. I conquered the hills, finished (most of) the miles, and was still in a very happy place.

I don’t know how I did it, mentally pushing myself further than I ever have, but I can’t complain. My only hope is that I learn how to harness this power so my future runs can be just as successful. (San Francisco Marathon in less than three weeks, eep!)

More about my dilemma with intervals during the marathon later this week…

How do you mentally fuel yourself during runs? What is your mantra to keep moving?

NYC Marathon, here I come!

On November 4th, I will be traversing the five boroughs along with 40,000 of my closest running friends. New York is a city I have known and loved for years; it is where my parents were born and where I spent many of my weekends with my grandparents.  I knew that I wanted to do this race and hopped at the opportunity to run it this year.

Although I missed the lottery, I was invited to run as a member of the Blue Card team.  A bit about the Blue Card: the fund was established in 1934 in Germany to assist families who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the Nazi regime.  In 1939, the original founders of The Blue Card reestablished the organization in the United States to help those individuals who survived the Holocaust to start over their lives in the new country.  Today the Blue Card is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing direct financial assistance to needy Holocaust survivors who live at or near the Federal poverty level. For more information about The Blue Card including description of programs, testimonials and articles, please visit www.bluecardfund.org.

As you may have realized at this point, I am a proud (and loud) Jewess. But what you may not know is that I am the granddaughter of two wonderful and brave Holocaust survivors. It was their strength and perseverance that paved the way for my family. They are by far two of the most influential individuals in my life. It will be an honor to run in their memory and to help support others who survived.

To guarantee my entry into the race I am required to fundraise at least $1800.  I recognize that there are many worthy causes out there, but I appreciate every donation that you amazing folks can provide. I am also hoping to have a blogger bake sale and a super bad ass raffle to help me raise money.*  More information to come.

In other news, things in my part of the world are going well.  Classes are almost over for the quarter which means I am officially half way through with my program (as long as I finish my research proposal).  Being a bit foolish, I decided I wanted to start my internship almost immediately, so I won’t have any time off between the end of classes and work, but I couldn’t be more excited for this summer.  I’ll be moving into San Francisco for three months and plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible.  May all your summers be sunny and beautiful!

What are you running these days?

*If you would like to help support me in the bake sale or have an item that you would be willing to add to my raffle, please let me know.  All offers will be greatly appreciated

Big Sur Marathon Recap

I’m not completely sure how I got it in my mind that I wanted to run Big Sur, but October of last year I took the plunge and signed up.  According to the amazing Bart Yasso, this is one of the most beautiful marathons in the world so how could I miss out on that?  It didn’t really hit me until January that I should probably pick up my training again so I could run another marathon.

Unfortunately, due to my ridiculous schedule, I wasn’t able to train perfectly.  Classes were hectic and I didn’t get in all of my runs.  Fast forward to last week and I finally sorted out my schedule for the race (nothing like saving things to the last minute…).  No, I wasn’t trained properly, but I knew that I could finish within the six hour time limit.  As Saturday morning approached, I gathered a large pile of running accessories and began to pack.

While there was a slight snafu as to where I would be staying Saturday morning, I was able to find room and board to guarantee I wouldn’t have to crash on the floor of someone’s hotel room.  (Thank goodness.)  So I traveled down to Monterey for the expo where I thoroughly enjoyed Bart’s seminar (we’re besties now) and started to get properly nervous.  Somehow it didn’t occur to me that I had to wake up at ungodly early to get down to the start line, something to take note of before race day.

After a fantastic dinner with some great runners, Layla and I returned to our quaint hotel room and proceeded to get ready for bed.  I attempted to fall asleep at 9pm, but that just wasn’t going to happen.  Eventually I fell asleep and just as quickly got back up at 2:30am to prepare.  An hour long bus ride later, Karin, Layla, and I found ourselves hanging out in a ridiculous crowd of people at the start line.  And it was still way too early to be awake.  Check out one of the awesome port-a-potty signs.

It wasn’t until I crossed the start line that I realized what I was about to do.  Alright, maybe that is a lie, it probably wasn’t until mile five or so that I fully understood what I had gotten myself into.  The first few miles were great, my legs were feeling wonderful and I felt on top of the world.  That is until we reached mile six and the wind began.  It was truly a wind tunnel between miles six and nine.  Then at mile ten we started another windy two mile ascent to Hurricane Point.

I think it was at this point that I started to slow down (for the first time at least).  The wind really attacked me and I couldn’t keep up the pace.  But I was enjoying myself.  I found some individuals on my path and used them as pace rabbits.  What I love about runners is how nice (most) are.  I began running beside two gentleman who were using the Galloway method and we discussed our marathon aspirations.  They were great to pace me for a bit, but then I left them on a downhill and never saw them again.

Most of the last ten miles was a blur, I was just enjoying the scenery and talking to random strangers.  The one that intrigued me the most was a gentleman following a 30 seconds running, 30 seconds walking Galloway strategy.  Somehow he was beating me and I couldn’t comprehend it.  This really made me reconsider my running technique, perhaps I’ll try walk/run while training for San Francisco in July.

And then there it was, the finish line!  As I approached the line I decided it was in my best interest to start sprinting, this didn’t lend itself well for finish line photos, but I did pass a few individuals in my final kick.

In retrospect I would do many things different with my training.  I know that I can run a marathon faster than I have these past three times, so I need to rework my strategy.  My goal for May is to focus on speed work.  I’m going back to the track and doing HIIT workouts at least two to three times a week.  I’m hoping to PR at San Francisco in July and potentially do even better in Philadelphia in November.

Sorry about my hiatus from the blogosphere, I’ve missed you all very much.  Now tell me, how is your running going?

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CIM Race Recap

Three months ago, before I started graduate school, I made the decision to register for the California International Marathon. It was a bit naive of me to register without considering my school schedule, but we all do silly things sometimes (some more than others…). CIM touted itself as being the “fastest marathon in the west” and foolishly I believed them. So I trained, as well as I could with my ridiculous schedule, and I prepared for marathon #2.

Then last Saturday rolled around and it finally hit me that I’d actually have to run a marathon. There was no turning back, I had no excuse not to put myself out there and run the damn thing. So I packed up my running gear and headed toward Sacramento with the lovely Layla. After hitting up the expo, where I spent far too much on marathon gear and a new winter jacket, we made our way over to Courtney’s for a pre-race dinner and slumber party. We had five lovely runners there, two preparing for there first marathons and three hoping to set new PRs.

Some fantastic runners - Layla, Alyssa, Courtney, me, Don, Angela, and Sesa

It was great to meet so many wonderful runners! We ate a fantastic dinner before gabbing about running and our race strategy. I’m so grateful that Courtney arranged this, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been stuck preparing in a hotel room by myself. Then it was off to bed so we could be up early to get to the start line.

At 5am Alyssa’s alarm went off and I begrudgingly got out of bed to get dressed. We all shuffled around the house in a half-awake state and tried to eat breakfast even though no one was interested in food. When the clock hit 6am, we piled into Layla’s car to make our way to the start line. My least favorite part of a race? Pre-race porta-potty time. Fortunately there were several hundred lined up and we didn’t have to wait very long.

Wearing Courtney's sweat pants on my arms. Next time I'll be smart enough to wear an extra layer.

I parted ways from the faster runner gals and lined myself up in the back of the corrals. And then I got emotional. I hope the people around didn’t think it was too odd that I was tearing up… After waiting for a while, I finally crossed the start line and realized that there was absolutely no turning back now. With my iPod on loudly, I started to find my own pace. I ran the first two miles by myself before latching on to a pace group. The next eight miles went by quickly, I barely noticed as we passed each mile marker. Well, barely, except for when we made our way up some hills…

Now CIM claims that it is mostly downhill and I believed them, for a little while. Then I realized how horribly they had lied to me. The course does have many downhills, but it has an equal number of inclines. I was doing decently well on the inclines, but I felt that the pacer was pushing me too quickly on the inclines and not picking up speed on the downhill portions.

By the half way point I had started to reclaim my run. I changed my strategy and walked a bit on the uphill portions. When I crossed the half marker I was still on target for the pace group, but I wasn’t running with them anymore. And then everything changed. Everything from the waist down began to ache more than normal. I slowed down further.

Fortunately I found a woman who had been going at a similar speed, I caught up to her, and I posed the question – would she run the rest of the race with me. I think that took her by surprise. She claimed that she was considering bagging the entire thing, but I told her that wasn’t an option. She agreed and we began the rest of our journey together.

Running along with Kimberly

Over the next few miles we enjoyed the crowds together and taking it at our new pace. Eventually the next pace group found us (15 minutes slower than the one I started out with). This pace leader was much more animated and motivating. He made sure that everyone had a smile on their face, even if that required telling many bad jokes. I started to enjoy the race again, thank goodness.

But then around mile 23 my calves were throbbing and my hips were faltering. Kimberly (the woman I was running with) was kind enough to stay with me. I tried to shoo her off, but she wouldn’t leave me alone (thank goodness!). We began to use intervals, walking for a short distance and then running as far as we could. And then the end was in sight and we found the pace group we had been running with. With two-tenths of a mile to go I bid Kimberly adieu and I picked up the pace. As I turned the final corner to the finish line, I went into an all out sprint. And I finished.

I’m not overjoyed with my time. I know that I could have done better if I had gone at a more appropriate pace earlier on, but there is always room to improve next time. Although I can’t truly compare the two races (since I was injured for marathon #1), I completed CIM 23 minutes and 56 seconds faster than Boston in April. I set a new PR and I will do my best not to won’t complain about that.

Layla was at the finish line to give me a hug and walk my sore butt over to get food and my bags. Then we ran off to get a proper brunch with all the other amazing finishers. Both Courtney and Alyssa set substantial new PRs! And Angela kicked ass at her first marathon! Overall it was a fantastic weekend and hopefully I’ll get to spend more time with these lovely runners in the future.

I still can’t believe I did it, but I’m so happy I did. Here is to the next one!