Catching that Unicorn in San Francisco

Something amazing happened this weekend…and I don’t even know how to start this blog post. And I know it’s going to be crazy long…so you’ve been warned!

After I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon last summer, I knew I needed a break from marathons. And I was pretty sure I would wait until the SF Marathon before taking on 26.2. I had considered running Eugene (which unfortunately was moved to the same day as SF) or SLO, but just wasn’t feeling it when I would have needed to start training. I was pretty happy to be running more trails and hills, and focusing less on speed … until I had a great race at the Super Bowl 10k, which started my streak of PRing in every distance this year. The only downside of choosing SFM was that I would not be able to run Wharf to Wharf. (But you can read all about my friend Leslie’s race experience at her blog.) My goals for SF (my 5th marathon) remained the same from the moment I decided to run it until race day: run a smart, strong race regardless of what that might mean in time. And I can say I did just that – but it also resulted in a great time that I never expected!

Saturday

Ok introductions for the post are over and now its time to get through the weekend. I packed up a ton of snacks (lots o’ carbs as taught to me by Hillary) and the hubs and I headed up to SF. Like last year, I again had the privilege of serving as a SFM ambassador. Unlike last year, I decided to commit less time to volunteering so I could save my energy for the race. This meant that I only volunteered for a few hours at the expo. Props to the hubs who hung out at the expo, not the most exciting place if you’re not running the race. The expo was held at Fort Mason and had amazing views. I helped to register runners for 2015 and if I looked to my left, I had a stunning view of the bay. I got to work with Paulette, who I always have a fun time with, and Bonnie, who I just met but was full of excitement for the weekend! SFM hooked up its ambassador volunteers with some nice goodies (lots of GU and a sweet water bottle). In addition to picking up my bib and shirt, I also got my 52 Club sweatshirt. As I was heading out of the expo, I saw Erin G. and got a big awesome bear hug from this awesome gal. Then the hubs and I got some awesome grub at one of the food trucks outside the expo: Doc’s of they Bay. They had the best veggie burger I’ve ever had!

Goodies for SFM Ambassador volunteers

Goodies for SFM Ambassador volunteers

Black Bean Burger, photo courtesy of Doc's website.

Black Bean Burger, photo courtesy of Doc’s website.

After eating, the hubs and I headed to the Hotel Triton, our home for the race weekend. It took FOREVER to get the hotel because of a pro Palestine protest weaving its way through the city. Once we finally checked in, we got to our funky little room (I loved the character of this hotel! Only downside was that our mini fridge wasn’t working). After relaxing a bit, we decided to head out for a beer at Golden Gate Tap Room. We had been trying to organize dinner plans with Chris and finally decided on the Cheesecake Factory because it would a wide selection and was convenient (I also thought it would be kid friendly for Chris’s son, but even though we told them we had a child with us they didn’t bring a child’s menu or even a chair for him… boo!). Even though it’s a chain and I like to eat more locally, it’s a nice pick because of its location looking down on Union Square. The wait was long but it ended up being almost perfect as it took a while for us all to connect. Fellow ambassador, Wes, also came by to say hello. It was fun to have dinner with the hubs and Chris’s fam; it was also pretty low-key and not far from our hotels. Then, after heading back to get my forgotten water bottle, it was time to get to bed for an early morning wake up.

Protestors in SF

Protestors in SF

Fun hotel room

Fun hotel room

Sunday, Race Day!

I was scheduled to run in Wave 3, which started at 5:42am (yep you read that right). So my alarm was set for 2:45 to eat breakfast. I got up, ate my Picky Bars and banana. And then back to bed. I didn’t need 3 hours to get ready, so I set my alarm for 4am and tried to sleep. I didn’t really, but it was nice to relax a little more anyway. Once it was really time to get up, I quickly got dressed and headed out. When I got to the street there was a car that appeared to have been crushed by a ton of concrete. I was so confused… how did I sleep through this?! Turns out they were filming a movie about an earthquake outside our hotel (according to the internet The Rock will be in it). It looked pretty legit. Then I jogged down to the start (yep I had a warm up mile before my marathon). By the time I found the ambassador tent, I was pretty warm. I only brought a few things in my gear check (asthma inhaler, Immodium, hotel key, long sleeve… wish I would have brought some sweatpants and flip-flops but I never really plan well for post race). I met up with old friends, including Alisyn who I missed at the expo, and met some of the ambassadors. I also caught up with Erin S. and Sarah. Erin S. and I had talked over Strava about starting the race together since we had similar goals. I was glad to find her as we hadn’t really made any real meet up plans. Then it was time for the Wave 2 runners to hop into their corral. A few minutes later, Erin S., Sarah, and I decided to look for the 3:35 pacers as that was where we all wanted to start. We found them quickly but didn’t realize that they were in Wave 2 (Wave 3 was for 3:35-4 hour marathoners). We asked them about it and said they would start with Wave 3. Well, then the race started and we were off at 5:30. I was happy to get going earlier, no time for race nerves to undermine me… but it also meant that I was starting 12 minutes earlier than I told the hubs and I worried he would miss me at the finish. I had no phone and no way of telling him.

The first few miles were easy, breezy. We stuck with the pacers, told some jokes and had a good time. I was glad to start off with some friendly faces as I typically run with others and I knew it would make it feel more like a long run than a race, and it kept me from getting in my head too much. I also paid no attention to my watch, I never once looked at the overall time in the entire race, I trusted the pacers to do the math and let myself just run by feel. As we headed into our first climb, we joked “it’s getting a little boring, what do you say we climb a hill?” This was the way we approached the first couple of climbs… until we hit mile 11, which has several good hills, we started to call them speed bumps to keep ourselves relaxed. When we were climbing a Presidio hill, we looked to our right and saw the sun rising over Alactraz – so beautiful!  And soon we at the beginning of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Miles 1-6 (from Strava’s miles as I missed a ton of mile markers and didn’t get all the splits): 8:11, 8:09, 8:20, 8:00, 8:07, 9:02 (hill climb much?)

Photo from fellow SFM ambassador Stan's FB

Photo from fellow SFM ambassador Stan’s FB

We all knew that the Bridge is a false flat… meaning it looks flat but you’re climbing that sucker. But the Bridge is my favorite part and not just because it’s beautiful. I love this part because we get to see so many of the other runners. We cheered on the winners who looked strong and fast. We saw Chris and Erin G. rocking their races and Albert doing a great job of pacing. On our way back over the bridge, I saw so many friends running, it was awesome! I just missing cheering for Jordan (but girl, know that I totally screamed for you!), so I’m not sure if she heard me, but definitely had a cheer fest with Alisyn, Paulette, and Wes. Then we were over the bridge and heading toward mile 10. I remembered from last year’s half marathon that I trashed my quads by screaming down hill only to push through the punishing hills of mile 11. I told the girls, I was going to be conservative and take it easy downhill, and they agreed. And while the following hills were hard, they didn’t feel nearly as difficult as they did last year. So my plan worked and I survived what I think is really the most difficult climbing in the race. We then headed into Golden Gate Park. I knew fellow SCE team member and friend Sam would be somewhere around my mile 13 or 14 as she was running the Second Half. When I saw her, I was stoked. I knew I felt good still and strong. I totally waved like a crazy person at her and she, with her friend Jill, cheered for me. I love that feeling. Sam also sent a video of my craziness to the hubs and some friends. Now we just had to get through the park.
Miles 7-14: 8:11, 8:03, 8:16, 8:04, 8:00, 8:21, 8:25, 7:48

Coming off the bridge

Coming off the bridge

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Golden Gate Park is deceiving because you’re in it for 6 miles and it’s full of rolling hills. I have only run in there a handful of times, but Erin S. and Sarah run it often and knew the hardest hills. For a while we had been about 30 seconds to a minute ahead of the 3:35 pacers, but in the park they caught back up with us. At this point we had some goals: we had gotten Sarah through miles 11-12, that she had dreaded and now we focused on pushing Erin S. through mile 15 (a spot that had been hard for her at Boston this year). We encouraged each other, Sarah and Erin S. sang some songs that my running brain could not recognize, and Erin S. told jokes when we climbed. Soon enough we were through mile 15 and our next goal was to get through the park. Unfortunately, Sarah fell behind here (but don’t worry she still scored a PR at the race, which was only her 2nd marathon – rock star!). We got out of the park and headed toward Haight, and some nice downhills. We ran through some awesome bubbles in that stretch and didn’t let Erin S. go home (she lives near the 20 mile mark). I also had my fastest mile in this stretch.

Miles 15-21: 8:12, 7:49, 8:21, 7:32, 7:45, 7:54, 7:42.

In the park (I think?)

In the park – all smiles

Final stretch! I told Erin S. that mile 22 was my beast to overcome. It’s where I really felt apart at Santa Rosa and started walking. She and one of the pacers both said we’d get through it, and I told the pacer that he better even if he had to tie a rope to me and pull me. Even though there are a few little climbs beginning in mile 22, I actually felt ok. I started mentally telling myself things like “only 36 minutes left, you can do this” (assuming I was running way slower than I was). We were quieter in these final miles, but still encouraged each other. Around mile 24, a police tried to stop us to get an emergency vehicle through. We stopped, briefly, it wasn’t ready to go so we decided to sprint through the intersection. Not a fun forced stop but I hope they reached the emergency safely. I had never dreamed I would be at this point in a marathon. I really thought I would slow down and end up closer to my previous marathon PR (3:42). (Despite how many times Leslie told me I was going to BQ this weekend! She knew better than I did!) Erin S. said something about how we were about to qualify for Boston but I didn’t believe her. It seemed so unreal. We cruised up to AT&T Park and I told myself it was only about 10 minutes left, I could do anything for 10 minutes. At some point we eeked a little ahead of the pacers (who BTW did a great job! They reminded us to keep our shoulders down and run by effort on the hills). I never really felt terrible in the race but in that last mile, I REALLY wanted to see that finish line. I started scanning the crowds around mile 25 for the hubs, but I feared that since I started early and was ending close to my unrealistic earliest finish time, he was going to miss me at the end (he was probably walking just by the finish as I crossed). And then there was the finish, I had been dragging a little but told Erin S. “let’s do this” and forced a little sprint to the end. Official finish time: 3:33:49 (age group: 13, gender: 63, overall: 560). This is a 9 minute PR. And a Boston Qualifier. On a course with nearly 1000 feet of climbing. What!?! And by the way, running a full marathon and BQing is a fast way to secure a bond with someone, so a special awesome thanks and high-five to my BQ BFF, Erin S.!
Miles 22-26.2: 7:52, 8:03, 8:13, 7:55, 7:51 (last .2, or .5 if you’re my Garmin, was a 7:13 pace).

So close to the finish!

So close to the finish!

Done!!

Done!!

Post race excitement with amazing runners: Erin S. my BQ BFF, me, Erin G. (speedy and 3rd in her age group), Taryn who ran her 35th marathon by 35, and Sarah with a sweet new PR.

Post race excitement with amazing runners: Erin S. my BQ BFF, me, Erin G. speedy and 3rd in her age group, Taryn who ran her 35th marathon by 35, and Sarah with a sweet new PR. (photo cred: Erin G.)

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After the finish, I borrowed Erin S.’s phone to text the hubs and tell him I had finished… yep he just missed me. He was bummed he had missed me and I was too, but he had been there to support me and even if he didn’t see me at the end, that was still awesome. I didn’t hang out for long, I was smelly and sweaty and wanted a shower and a Coke. The hubs and I headed back to the hotel, with a stop for that Coke. They were still filming the movie but we were able to easily get to the hotel and I hopped in the shower. Soon we were heading home with a long pit stop for my traditional post-race In N Out feast (this time with 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, fries, and a strawberry shake). I was exhausted but soo happy! I spent the rest of the day responding to congrats texts (thanks friends!), checking in with the coach who totally provided the perfect training for this race, and hanging out in the compression boots.

Sweet celebratory gift from Leslie :)

Sweet celebratory gift from Leslie :)

Erin G. loves to call running goals unicorns (like, you know, the mascot for the Boston Marathon) and I had been chasing this unicorn since December 2012. It was one I that started to feel was unattainable and to have it happen in SF, with such amazing people around me (and virtually supporting me in Santa Cruz and my parents in So Cal), was the best way I could have ever caught this unicorn!

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?