Top Ten Reasons to Run the San Francisco Marathon in 2014!

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Those of you who follow my twitter or facebook page, know that for the past 10 days (ok really 12 days), I have been posting my top 10 reasons that I love the San Francisco Marathon. So for those of you who have missed some or all of these reasons, here they are in all their glory:

10. This race has AMAZING swag and awesome expos. I mean I wrote a whole blog about how much fun I had the expo last year (read it HERE).
9. If you run the 2nd Half Marathon, don’t worry about being cold when you start the race in Golden Gate park. The race provides heaters! It’s one of the most genius race ideas ever in my opinion.
8. The course is not easy, there is a reason the event’s motto is “Worth the Hurt.” You will run a LOT of hills – but then you get serious bragging rights!
7. We all missed him last year, but this year the one-and-only Bart Yasso is back at home with SFM! We are so thrilled!!
6. When you run the Haight, you not only get a nice downhill stretch you also will be entertained by some seriously funny signs. The neighborhood is world famous for its eternal ’60s vibe, but you never knew what great cheerleaders they are for racers too!
5. One of my favorite things about Golden Gate Park is the bison who live there. And you get to say hello as you make your way through the 2nd half or full marathon.
4. Sure this race is in July, but you will be in San Francisco, so while other summer races will be in the sweltering heat – you will be nice and cool for the entire run!
3. There are 5 races to choose from when you decide to run in SF this July: Charity Worth the Hurt Ultra 52.4, the full marathon, two half marathons (first or second half of the course) and a 5k.
2. If you run the first half or the full, you get to run across the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge. SFM was the first event to give runners this privilege and it is reason enough to sign up for the race.
1. This race is in San Francisco. Need I say more? Yes? Ok, I know there are lots of races in SF (and I’ve run most of them) but no other organization puts on as well-organized, fun-filled, exciting, race as SFM – and well, they definitely have the best course!

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If you are still unsure about running SFM, check out my previous race recaps from the event:

2012 – Second Half Marathon
2013 – First Half Marathon

Still not sure? Here’s another fact, the SFM has lots of challenges to motivate you to run: the 52 Club, Half it All Challenge, SF/Berkeley Challenge, and the brand new California Dreamin’ Racing Cup. Ran the event before? Don’t worry SFM has loyal runner benefits too!

Now I know there is no way that you can resist running SFM this year!

So for my favorite blog readers, here is a $10 discount code: DSC10TSFM2014A59
Use this code at the registration page for any of the races (5k, either half marathon, or full marathon).

Can’t wait to see you on July 27 when I’ll be running the full marathon and completing the 52 Club.

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Fit Friday: Exciting News!

Well, readers and Fit Fridayers (yes that’s a word), it’s official: I’m a 2014 San Francisco Marathon Ambassador!

 

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I had the opportunity to be an ambassador last year and it was amazing. I can’t wait to meet new runners, reconnect with old friends, and hopefully get you all excited to run SF! And I’m hoping this will the year I finally run the full! We can all train virtually together!

Have you run SF before? What’s your favorite part? If you haven’t ran it, what are you looking forward to?

 

Back in the Game: The Santa Rosa Marathon Recap

This past weekend I ran my 3rd marathon in the past 9 months (and my 4th overall marathon). I had been pretty quiet about this race, not writing much on Twitter and the blog about it. I wanted it to be my race with my goals but also not let it dictate all of my life, which can sometimes happen when I’m writing about races. But now that it’s over, I’m happy to share my experience.

After the LA Marathon, I immediately begin thinking about my next marathon. I decided to work with a coach (I’ll share my experiences of working with a coach in another post) and looking for courses that appealed to me. I eventually settled on The Santa Rosa Marathon. This was the 5th running of the race and they put on a great event. I’m very happy that I chose this race. I went into this race with several goals: My first goal (as with every marathon) was to finish. I feel like with marathons that is always an important goal. My second goal was to run a strong marathon. LA shook my confidence in running and I wanted to fix that! And my third goal was to qualify for Boston. I met two of the three goals and I’m very happy with that.

Originally this weekend was going to be a fun weekend with the hubs and another couple (my friend Hillary was also running the marathon). Unfortunately, at almost the last minute the hubs had to go on a business trip. My friend Hillary offered to make it a girls weekend and leave her hubby at home. While it was a bummer to not have Kevin there, I had a great time with Hillary. Before leaving the house, I had a bit of tumble. While carrying all my gear downstairs, I slipped and fell down half a flight of stairs. Ouch! I just sat there thinking, of course I fall down the stairs the day before a marathon!! I was a little sore but nothing serious. Hillary and I headed up Saturday morning to get to the expo. The expo was held at DeLoach Vineyards, one of the sponsors for the race. I think this was the best expo I have ever attended! The race is relatively small (only 1600 registered marathon runners plus the half marathon and 5k). Most of the expo was outside. There were not too many booths and short lines to pick up everything. Instead of a shirt, they gave away jackets (score! I’ll actually wear this!) and a bottle of wine (what!?!). Plus they provided a taste of their Pinot Noir to the runners. (I loved both their Pinot and the red blend of the giveaway wine, Finisher’s Red.) This was definitely the best swag for a marathon.

Hillary and I enjoying some Pinot & Cheez-Its at the expo.

Hillary and I enjoying some Pinot & Cheez-Its at the expo.

Sweet new jacket courtesy Santa Rosa Marathon

Sweet new jacket courtesy Santa Rosa Marathon

photo 1-1 After the expo, Hillary and I ran a little shakeout run on part of the course and then settled into the hotel. We finished up the day with some delicious food at Flavor (yum!).

Prepping the legs with some Recovery Pumping

Prepping the legs with some Recovery Pumping

How we carbo load!

How we carbo load!

My alarm rang the next morning at 3am. The race start time had been moved up from 7 to 6am in case the day proved to be a warm one. I wanted to get plenty of time to eat, prep, and head over to the starting line. After forcing my non-hungry self to eat and walking around a bit to warm up, Hillary and I headed out. Parking was easy and there was plenty of port-a-potties. The only issue was that with the earlier start time, the starting area was pretty dark. If they continue to keep the early start time going forward, the race organizers might want to consider renting some lights. Before I knew it, we were lining up to start. We wanted to situate ourselves near the 3:30 pacer and keep them in sight. We couldn’t find him but did see the 3:00, 3:15, 3:25, 3:50, and 4:00 pacers. Oddly the 3:50 and 4:00 hour pacers were in the 7 minute pace area. Not sure what that was about. A few minutes before the start, we spotted the 3:30 pacer. It ended up not really mattering anyway since the plan was to keep a 8:05-8:15 pace until about mile 18 or so. The first part of the race winds through downtown Santa Rosa, which was very pretty. I love running through a town, especially when its early and all you hear is the feet of all the runners hitting the pavement. Then the course heads to the Santa Rosa Creek Trail for the next 5.5 miles. This is a very nice trail, away from any road traffic. The only down side is at times it gets narrow, only 2-3 runners wide and can allow you to get stuck a little (it did contribute to one mile slower than my goal pace). I felt great during this portion and was just enjoying the run.
Miles 1-7
8:14, 7:55, 8:05, 8:16, 8:11, 8:24, 8:08

Sorry that Hillary is partially cropped from this one :(

Sorry that Hillary is partially cropped from this one :(

After leaving the trail, we headed out to some of the larger roads on the course. We then headed down to DeLoach Vineyards, where we ran through the barrel room! This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the course!! Between miles 8 and 9 I took my first Sports Beans (I took little water sips at almost every aid station). Also at about mile 8, I reset the auto-lap of my Garmin to make sure that it giving splits according to the mile markers rather than how it was mapping my run (there is always a difference and it seemed running under a few bridges on the trail might have added some extra mileage). Then we headed out to the country roads. This was beautiful, at times we could see the sun peaking through the clouds over the vineyards. Another favorite sight was seeing the runners ahead of me on slightly rolling hills with tree cover. It looked like a postcard! The 13th mile was definitely the longest mile for me, it just seemed to stretch FOREVER! But then I felt back on track. We did have to run in the bike lane on part of the course (around mile 15 or 16), that was a little bit of a bummer but it was flat and there was still ample room. At this time, I fueled with the Sports Beans again. Around mile 17 or so, my back started to ache a little – likely from my tumble the previous day. Following this section, we headed back onto the smaller roads.
Miles 8-18
8:18, 8:10, 8:10, 8:10 (steady pacing!), 8:14, 8:18, 8:14, 8:12, 8:18, 8:26, 8:27

Wine Barrels!

Wine Barrels!

At mile 19, Hillary dropped back to fuel again and slow down through the aid station. I felt pretty good, tired (but that’s to be expected) but my legs still felt strong. At this point we also headed back to the trail. This time it felt much less crowded. At mile 20, I tried to turn on my ipod to give me a little extra motivation. However, I hit some setting (that I seem to only trigger when racing!) that had the device announcing the name of my playlists and albums. I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off, so I just took the earbuds out of my ears and kept plugging along. I was able to pass some people during this section, which always feels nice. Mile 22 had a portion on gravel, this was not my favorite part of the run. I slowed down and lost some of my momentum. Following this, I started to notice that I was losing a lot of salt. I decided to stop drinking water at the aid stations and instead drink Gatorade for the electrolytes. At the next station I did this and had an orange slice (my favorite during a marathon!). I started slowing down a lot and felt that I had lost too much energy. My legs weren’t the problem, it was my fueling. Hillary caught me around mile 25 and we ran together for part of that last mile. I had to slow down so we were about 40 seconds  to a minute apart when we crossed the finish line. I wish I could have stuck with her to cross the finish with her! Oh well. I crossed the finish line at 3:43:43, about a minute slower than my PR (but well within a strong finish!).
Miles 19-26.2
8:22, 8:25, 8:37, 9:10, 9:24, 9:35, 9:10, 9:17, 2:24 (0.2 mile)

Coming up to the finish... finally!

Coming up to the finish… finally!

Post race Delirium

Post race Delirium

 After the run, Hillary and I both did what we knew we shouldn’t – sit down! I don’t regret it! As we were sitting and looking at our giant spinner medals, a man came up and asked us how we liked the course (this was a different course from previous years). He introduced himself as Arthur, one of the race organizers and writer of Art’s Alley. It was clear that he had a lot of passion for the event and it was fun to chat with him for a minute. I really liked this course, it was pretty and had enough variety to keep things interesting. There were a few rollers but very small, never more than 100 feet climb. I liked that aspect a lot! This is a course that results in a lot of BQs, so that also says something.  I definitely recommend this race for those looking to PR or BQ (even though I didn’t do either).

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After showering and checking out of the hotel, Hillary joined me for my post marathon tradition of eating an In n Out lunch! (Yep, I still love their grilled cheese sandwiches!) Then it was time to head back to Santa Cruz. I recovered that night by trying out the Finisher’s  Red and it was also pretty tasty.

The tradition continues!

The tradition continues!

Going forward, I am going to take a break from marathoning for a little bit. It’s been a lot of training and running since I ran CIM in December. I have learned a lot about myself as a runner and my racing. For my future marathons, I’d like to do a better job of practicing fueling on my training runs and try salt tablets to see how that affects my nutrition during a race. But for the time being, I’m focusing on goals I have for shorter distances.

First glass of Finisher's Red. Perfect end to a race day.

First glass of Finisher’s Red. Perfect end to a race day.

The Changing Plans Continue

The changes just keep coming in my training/running schedule.

I had originally planned to run the Big Sur Marathon on April 28. This was assuming that I did well at LA and then could run Big Sur easy (well relatively speaking of course). Big Sur holds a special place in my heart because it was my first marathon. I had been especially looking forward to running it again because the year I ran the race was the year that part of Highway 1 collapsed and so rather than being a point-to-point course it was an out and back. So I was eagerly looking to running the full, original course.

But … I had to change all of that. For the 2nd race of 2013, I have dropped out of a race. Well, unlike the Santa Cruz Half Marathon and I am changing my registration for Big Sur. I have officially downgraded from the marathon (all 26.2 miles of it) to the 5k (all 3.1 miles!). I could have run the full but I was starting to worry that would erase all of the recovery work I have been doing. As I reassess the rest of my running goals for 2013, I didn’t want to throw any possibilities away because I ran Big Sur. While it’s a bummer to not run the marathon, I am excited to run the 5k because I get to run with two of my favorite running/training partners and SCE teammates, Elise and Leslie. The full marathon will just have to wait for another year (perhaps a Boston 2 Big Sur year? A girl can dream!)

When have you had to change your running/training plans? Have you had to drop a race?

My Lackluster LA Marathon

Warning: It’s a long post.

As the saying goes, even the best laid plans… the LA Marathon did not result in a Boston Qualifier or a new PR. It ended up being a hard and frustrating race.

I came into town Thursday evening, spent some time with my parents, and met up with my very good friend (and super talented friend) Tara. The following morning, my mom and I drove up to LA for the marathon’s expo. We missed morning traffic and made it to LA pretty quickly. After picking up my bib and goodies, I headed to the SF Marathon booth where I met Luis and Ciara. After saying hi, I picked up a few things I needed for the race and my mom and I headed back down south. We had a nice day and my mom even got me a new pair of running shorts (I needed some green for Sunday!). And Kevin got me the Jawbone Up bracelet that I have been eyeing (Kevin wasn’t able to be with me for the race weekend as was at spring training with his dad and nephew, an annual tradition that had been planned before I signed up for the race).

At the expo

At the expo

Saturday was a nice relaxing day. I had a short shakeout run with some strides but other wise laid low. We had sushi for dinner (my fave pre-race meal) and headed up to the hotel. I headed to sleep fairly early but my parents went to the bar! Talk about a role reversal, haha!

Swanky hotel room

Swanky hotel room

Laying out the race outfit. Hello new Lulu shorts :)

Laying out the race outfit. Hello new Lulu shorts :)

My alarm went off at 4am. I got dressed, ate peanut butter and a banana, and had some Energy Bits. At 5am, my dad (graciously) drove me to Dodgers Stadium where the race starts. I learned that driving in 5am on a Sunday might be the only time there is no traffic in LA! (Well until you get to the runner drop off.) I quickly met up with fellow SFM ambassador Chris and got to say hi (and meet) Lauren, Wes, and Luis. Chris and I soon headed off to our corral (B), ready to race. In the B corral we ran into the SFM ambassadors Keith and Ryan. At this point, I still felt great! I had a positive attitude and tried to remind myself that I had the training and could run a 3:35 marathon. Right before the race started, I went to turn on my ipod and found that it was dead. Oops! Oh well, I put it, with my headphones, my headband (I had been debating about wearing a running cap and decided to do so meaning I didn’t need to wear my headband), and my phone in my back pocket.

Repping SCE

Repping SCE

Marathon Gridlock

Marathon Gridlock

Dodger Stadium

Dodger Stadium

SFM Ambassadors

SFM Ambassadors

The first 6 miles of the race was perfect. For the first couple miles, the course has a lot of downhill so I just enjoyed it. My pace was right on target (a bit fast sometimes with downhill but nothing crazy). I was just ahead of the 3:35 pace group and feeling happy about my race. There was a water station after each mile marker so I knew that when I took my Sports Beans at mile 8, there would be water to take with them. Wrong! It seemed like an eternity before I came to the water station. Somewhere in mile 9 my stomach started to feel weird (likely due to not being to able to drink water after taking my beans) and I was super hot. It wasn’t particularly warm weather but the humidity was getting to me. I slowed down a bit but was still near the 3:35 group, slightly ahead and then slightly behind – back and forth for a little while. Around mile 10 or 11 I thought I should use a port o potty to try to help my stomach. I didn’t have to go to the bathroom so back to the course.

At the halfway point, everything started to fall apart. My stomach felt strange, I was hot and had to drink more water than I normally do in a race. I was even pouring it directly on my head. I lost the 3:35 group somewhere at this point but could still see them. I figured if I could just overcome this rough spot I would catch them. My legs also started to feel heavy. I’m not sure if it was due to the stomach and humidity problems, if I had overtrained and my legs were just done for, or if all that stuff in my back pocket (that I suddenly became very aware of in mile 15) had caused me to slightly change my running form affecting my legs. But regardless, I was having trouble keeping a reasonable pace and my legs were tired. I knew my parents would be at some mid-point in the course so I started to look for them, I wanted to give them the stuff in my pocket, and my hat. When I saw them at mile 18, I was so happy to relieve myself of my stuff that I couldn’t really appreciate how nice it was to have some mid course support. In hindsight, it was awesome!

Taking off my hat to give my parents

Taking off my hat to give my parents

During this time I also lost the 3:35 group and when I saw the 3:45 group, I was so mad. Sorry to anyone I offended as I swore. I swore again when the 4 hour pace group passed me.

By mile 20, I was exhausted. The weather started to cool down but I still was thirsty. I was in a bind, all the water intake was giving me side cramps but I needed to drink something. By mile 22 I had to walk A LOT because of the cramping. My miles went from an 8 minute pace in the first 10 miles, to 8:30 pace to 9 minute pace, and then some ugly 11 minute and, gasp, two 14 minute miles. There went the 4:15 group. I was so bummed I wasn’t even mad. This sucked. A few times I considered DNFing because I was just sad and tired. But I wanted to finish and I forced myself to run the last mile and half. I got my medal and my cool LA/SF Challenge medal, ran into Keith again, and headed off to find my parents. Sad but at the same proud for pushing through and finishing.

Done.

Done.

Love the medals!

Love the medals!

This race was hard. It wasn’t what I was capable of doing and it wasn’t what I planned for. I thought if anything I’d miss my goal by a few minutes, not 45. But I was so thankful to have my parents with me. They made the weekend fun and they were proud of me. And my dad even bought me a sweatshirt so I wouldn’t be cold after the race. Our post-race In n Out was the best.

My favorite post-race meal!

My favorite post-race meal!

I loved the course, there were some hills but lots of downhill. The course winded around just the right amount. Best of all was the amazing crowd support! There were spectators everywhere we went! And they cheered for all of us, strangers yelled “Go Meg!” the whole race. It made not having my iPod totally fine. This is by far the best crowd support I have ever experienced. I also knew at the various points my friends and Kevin were getting updates through the race tracking. That was a huge motivator but I knew they were wondering what went wrong as my time slowed down so much in the second half (thanks to all of you for reaching out to me after the race, it was awesome!)

Indulging in guilty pleasures for the plane trip back.

Indulging in guilty pleasures for the plane trip back.

It wasn’t my day to BQ or PR. As my friend Leslie says, the marathon is a beast. You can train and plan, but come marathon day you never know what might unfold. For this one, just finishing was an accomplishment.

{Update 3/19/2013}: I can also see that I overtrained. I took on too much and I needed better guidance. My amazing runner friends have advised me to rest and consider a coach going forward. This week I’m taking off from all exercise and next week I’ll return to cross training and maybe a little bit of running. Then I will be re-evaluating race goals and consider working with a coach.

Have you had a bad race? How do you deal with disappointed race days?