Wine, Espresso, and Running: The 2013 Nike Women’s (half) Marathon

This past weekend, I ran the Nike Women’s (Half) Marathon for the fourth year in a row. I’ve tried to race this event in the past but have never been successful. However, last year I ran it for fun with my friend Leslie and it reignited my love for NWM. So, as I wrote about in my recent Fit Friday post, I had to fun run it again this year. This time, I had several friends with me and we had a great time!

Image 2

Hair ties for the weekend

We headed up Saturday morning. I had been a little worried about traffic due to the now-resolved BART strike, but we had no problem getting into the city and finding our hotel (Wyndham Parc 55, just 2 blocks from the starting line!). After a little wait to park the car, we checked in to our room,  dropped off our bags, and headed to the expo. There was no line and we were able to get our bibs super quickly. We had to wait a bit to get our free gift (shoelaces) and find some other necessities. By then we were starving and headed off to find some lunch. We spent the rest of our afternoon shopping, drinking espresso, eating, and drinking wine. It was pretty perfect. We finished off the day with some sushi and more wine and then tried to get some sleep before our 5am wake up.

Wine in the afternoon

Wine in the afternoon

Keeping the marathon girl off her feet!

Keeping the marathon girl off her feet!

Prepped for race morning

Prepped for race morning

We woke up easily and ate some breakfast. Ashley was running the full marathon, so we really had to make sure that she ate enough (it’s not fun to force feed yourself so early in the morning). Then we headed down to lobby to meet the final runner in our group. I was really impressed by the organization this year. Nike really made an effort to keep the giant corrals separate and even had the specific gear check in each wave. This meant no lines and we were in our wave before we knew it. (Seriously this is really important, there were 30,000 registered runners this year!).

Ready to run!

Ready to run!

Race morning (compliments of NWM FB)

Race morning (compliments of NWM FB)

We all went into this race with no goals, just a long run with lots of other women (and a few dudes). We kept the pace pretty easy (I had an average pace of 8:24). We stopped for port-a-potties a few times, walked through the water stations, and the orange slices station. We were bummed that wasn’t a bra exchange this year! (Also I have to say I miss Safeway and Ghirardelli as sponsors, I missed the reusable bags and chocolate). But it was still a great morning. The miles flew by and I was a little sad as we rounded the corner to finish. Our official finishing time was 1:57 (but with the stops it was 1:51). Not my fastest time at NWM by any means (but also not my slowest).

Finish area

Finish area

After the race, we picked up some goodies (love the beach towel) including the coveted Tiffany’s necklace. Then we headed back to the hotel. We had hoped to make it back to the finish line to cheer on Ashley with the full, but we didn’t give ourselves enough time. So, we headed to the Cheesecake Factory on the Macy’s building because it has such great views and enjoyed our mimosas, bloody marys, and brunch. After a little more espresso , we were heading back to Santa Cruz.

X for 10 years of NWM

X for 10 years of NWM

Brunch!

Brunch!

Good view from Cheesecake Factory

Good view from Cheesecake Factory

This was the perfect weekend, spent with some of my favorite people! Thanks Leslie, Hillary, Trinity, and Ashley for the great time!

(Photo compliments of NWM FB page)

(Photo compliments of NWM FB page)

 

Fit Friday: Fun Runs

This weekend I am running the Nike Women’s (Half) Marathon for the fourth year in a row. I love running this event because there are lots of fun perks (including the sports bra exchange and the chocolate mile), it celebrates women running, and you get a Tiffany’s necklace as your medal. In fact I like to say I’m buying a Tiffany’s necklace and get a free race (it’s a pricey race). You can read my previous here, here, and here.

This year I am running it with a handful of my friends and we aren’t looking to PR or really race the event, we’re looking to have fun. We have matching shirts, are stopping at all the fun stops, might take photos if it’s a clear day, and we might even walk some of the hills (ok I’m not really planning to do that but it will be a fun race). It might seem silly to sign up for an event and not actually race it, but it can be a great opportunity to have a lot of fun and get a supported long run.

Leslie & I at NWM last year

Leslie & I at NWM last year

In fact, I have several races a year that I don’t “race.” I like to pick specific events as my “A Races” where I try to PR or reach another goal. Then I pick races that friends are doing, fit into my schedule, or are cheap to fill up my calendar. Sometimes I use these as practices, running a goal pace for some or all of the event, and other times I just like to have fun. Sunday’s race will be a little bit of both.

Do you ever “fun run” your races? Or are they all about speed? ;)

Nike Women’s (Half) Marathon – Third Times the Charm

This was my third year running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. You can read about my other times running it in 2010 and 2011. Both had their pros and cons, but this year was all good!

Leslie & I before the race

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow SCE member, Leslie, decided to bid on a raffle entry. She won and we decided we run the race together. I was using it as a training run for CIM and she just wanted to have fun. We decided to run it as a “fun run.” We ran the Presidio Cross Country Challenge a few weeks back and the hills destroyed me. Leslie and I decided to do some hill repeats in the in between weeks and thank goodness we did! (More to come on that).

Friday afternoon we headed up to pick up our race packets and we were in and out of the expo. Then Sunday, October 14, it was race day. I had my alarm set for 3:45am (yep) and I woke up pretty easily. I had an egg and a piece of toast (my new favorite pre-race meal) and headed off to pick up Leslie. We got to the city very easily, found a great parking spot, and jumped into the Hilton for some pre-race potty breaks. Then we headed to our wave and waited for the race to start.

so … many … runners!

It was cold and dark but not too bad. We started but had a very slow first mile just navigating the crowd. 25,000 runners ran the half & full this year, so lots of dodging. After that we settled into a nice pace and just had a good time. After a quick bathroom break we were through the Embarcadero, past Pier 39, and heading up the Presidio hills. I felt great on all of them. Yay for hill repeats working! We passed lots of runners going up the hills, which made us feel great. The race was flying by!

Runners conquering the hills

Feeling strong!

Soon we were in the beautiful neighborhoods outside of the Presidio and again climbing the hills. We had both forgotten the hill in mile 9, so that was a little rough but in mile 10 you get to fly downhill. Before we knew it we were zooming down miles 9 & 10 and about to head into Golden Gate Park. This year they skipped the Chocolate mile (good, I want my chocolate but it’s not fun to hold on to it while you run). And we sped into the finishing line (final mile 7:04). I pulled out my Miles for Mokie sign (it had fallen off my back around mile 9).   I held it up as we crossed the finish line. Official finishing time: 1:48:36 (unofficial removing the potty break: 1:47:41). In fact six of our miles were under 8 minutes. This was a course PR for me and knowing that I wasn’t super pushing myself, just having fun, I was stoked!

Miles for Mokie sign I wore on my back.
It got wet from the fog & fell off, so I held it across the finish line…

Holding Mokie’s sign

Leslie & I at the finish

 

Leslie and I made our way through the finishers area, picking up our Tiffany’s necklace and a lot of other goodies (including a full bottle of Neutrogena sunscreen and a yoga mat). We jumped on a shuttle (ok we shivered in line waiting but no biggie) and headed back to Union Square. After a quick change of clothes we were off. Getting in & out of the city was super easy this year!

so many goodies!

After we picked up some breakfast and came home, I headed out for 7 more miles to complete the 20 miles on my training plan for today. Surprisingly, I also felt really good during that run, averaging just over a 8:30 mile.

Heading out for my 2nd run

So in conclusion, this was my favorite NWM experience yet. And this is definitely a race to run with friends! So much fun!! Oh, NWM you have won me back over :)

 

Nike Women’s (Half) Marathon… Take 2

Last year I ran the Nike Women’s Half Marathon (NWM) for the first time (read about my experiences at that race here). I loved running the 2010 NWM and couldn’t wait to run it again this year. The NWM is a lottery race but they opened several thousand spots for college students, so I was able to secure my spot in the half marathon through that opportunity. Despite all my excitement, I’m sad to say this is not a race experience I enjoyed as much as 2010.

For those who follow me on dailymile, you know that coming up to this race I had been disappointed with my training. I had run the San Jose Rock n Roll Half two weeks before (with my father-in-law) and had hoped to amp up my runs between the two so I could improve my time. (Somehow with the wedding and school, my training for the SJ RnR had also suffered and I ran a slower half.) But life continues to get in the way and I was too busy to get many runs in and also got sick (I found yesterday I have bronchitis).

But did I let this get me down? No! I drove up to San Francisco three days before the race to pick up my race packet and pick up my goodies. My experience at the expo was better than last year, no lines and not many people – one of the perks of going in the afternoon on a Thursday. I was a little disappointed in the lack of goodies and samples, but nothing to complain about. What I have learned since then is that when I picked up my bib, the volunteer didn’t scan it and therefore I currently have no official race results (more on that later).

At 4am on Sunday morning I somehow rolled out of bed. I put on my Big Sur tech shirt (I thought a little mental reminder that I ran a marathon would help me power through the NWM). I had a little bowl of oatmeal and a bit of coffee and headed out to the city. I arrived around 6:20am, just what I wanted and parked on the street easily. I stopped in the Union Square Hilton for a potty break (much better than a port-o-potty) and headed out to Union Square. I brought a gear check back so I could change into some warm, non-sweaty clothes immediately after the race. In hindsight, I really wish I hadn’t done this. The gear check was a mess, a mob of people surrounded the gear buses and the runners were all trapped in this mess. Finally after 30 minutes of wading through people I got my stuff checked and tried to make it to my wave. The race had already started but I was in the third wave and thought I might be able to make it. No luck. I got through some people, but got stuck in what I think was a 12 minute pace wave (boo). Some nasty girls wouldn’t let me through and I tried to explain to them what I was doing. Here is the convo:

Me: I’m sorry, I’m just trying to get my wave.
Mean Girls: Well, you should have gotten here earlier.
Me: I did, I drove from Santa Cruz.
Mean Girls: Well, you should have left there earlier.
Me: I did! I got here almost an hour ago, I got stuck in bag check.
Mean Girls: <rolls eyes>

Sigh. So 17 minutes after the race officially started, I finally crossed the starting line. I would spend the next 8 miles weaving through the crowds, avoiding those who walk the NWM, alternating between sidewalk and street, and zig zagging across the streets adding about a mile to my overall distance.

While I had a grumpy start, I couldn’t help but be happy as I ran. The NWM has a beautiful course and I enjoyed it just as much as I did previous years. The first 7 miles or so, I was averaging between 8 and 9 minutes miles and feeling pretty good. But then my lungs lost it. Did I mention I ran this with bronchitis? So I slowed down considerably and looked to just finishing the race. This meant more walking than I would have liked, a lot of coughing, and stopping at each water station.

I got excited when I saw the volunteers handing out the Ghirardelli chocolate squares, because I knew that meant it was just over a mile until I crossed the finish line (and that I could eat the chocolate soon!). I finished well over 2 hours :( But I finished. I was disappointed to see my time wasn’t immediately posted but not a biggie. I waiting in a line to have my photo taken with my “medal” (yep, another tiffany’s necklace!). But the line was long and then I saw the firefighters were in the photos too and I thought that was kind of weird. So I decided to skip it after all and get my gear. Picking up my stuff was painless, I slipped into my warm, non sweaty clothes and took the shuttle back to Union Square. An hour and a half later, I was home.

For the next few days, I continued to check for my official race times. Nothing. Finally, I emailed the official time keeping company, Pacific Sports Events. A very nice man named Jon promptly replied to my email and said that while my bib number had been tracked, my name was not in the system. What?! I have since learned from other NWM participants that if the volunteer did not scan your bib at check-in, you were not in the system. Awesome. (Note my sarcasm.) But Jon at Pacific Sports is updating the records so I’ll have results. Apparently Nike isn’t doing much to rectify this problem (and it seems I’m not alone here).

Overall, I still enjoyed the event because I just can’t complain about running through those parts of San Francisco and there is something amazing about knowing your running with 20,000 other runners. I think Nike was much less organized this year and didn’t prepare their volunteers as well as they did last year. I am happy to have another Tiffany’s necklace (although personally I like the 2010 design better than the 2011, but that’s just my taste). But for the cost of the race, I’d like to see things run more smoothly.

The Nike Women’s (Half) Marathon

I tried to come up a clever name for this post, but really just the name of the race is enough. Once I learned about the NWM, I knew I wanted to run the half marathon! I love San Francisco, I love that the race gives money to a good cause, and I loved the medal (more to come on that). This, however, is a very popular race and the largest women’s marathon. You enter an online raffle to participate. Unfortunately, I did not win the raffle and sadly resigned myself to the fact that I would not be running the race this year. However, I got a race registration code about a month ago thanks to the NWM’s Facebook page.

My weekend began with driving up to the city. My commute started off well. There had been a great deal of traffic going the normal way up so I decided to the take the coast. Great idea until I hit some major traffic (thanks Half Moon Bay fall festival! boo!). The traffic stressed me out. I had wanted to go up earlier in the week to pick up my race packet, but my school schedule conflicted with the expo’s times (I refuse to use the word expotique, sorry NWM). Anyway, I got into the city about an hour before the expo closed. I parked and joined a very long line… but it moved quickly and before I knew it I had my race bib, bag, and timing chip. Then I headed to my best friend’s sister’s house. She and her husband graciously let me stay with them. We had some pizza, watched part of a movie, and then I headed off to bed.

I woke up Sunday morning at 5:15am, I was excited to get to Union Square. I hurried off and joined thousands (and I mean thousands, there were almost 22,000 runners participating!) waiting to run the race. I dropped off my bag at the bag check (I had a runner’s jacket and pants in it to put on at the end of the race). By 6:45, people had settled into their corrals. The race officials led us in a giant group stretch and after the national anthem we were off!

The race made its way through Union Square and off to the Embarcadero, and then followed the coast up to Golden Gate Park. The views kept a smile on my face. I especially enjoyed seeing a very empty Fisherman’s Wharf. But the best view, by far, was the Golden Gate
Bridge. I happily ran along the coast, keeping my eyes focused on all these sites and then we started to climb the hills. Thankfully, we didn’t run up any of the cable hills. However, the hills we did run up lasted miles (literally) and really took their toll on my legs. I slowed down a great deal plugging up those hills. However, the cheering squads along with the inspiration signs from Kaiser Permanente and Safeway kept me going. Oh and I loved that Kaiser gave us orange wedges, just the right amount of sugar and no GU (I avoided the aid stations for the most of the run, just a few quick gulps of water).

I made it to mile 11, entered Golden Gate Park, and then my runner’s stomach hit. We runners tend to have GI issues and I’ve had them for years. So I had to make a pit stop at the bathroom. I stopped my watch and started it again when I rejoined the race. I wanted to see what my time would be without the pit stop (but I forgot to stop my watch after I crossed the finish line). I kept going but my legs ached… those hills had really worked me. I saw the split in the course (marathoners to the left, half marathoners to the right) and knew the end was near. Mile 12 (aka the chocolate mile thanks to Ghiradelli handing out its famous squares) felt like the longest mile, and then stomach cramps hit! I tried to power through but I had to take a few steps as I stretched my side. Then I heard the screams from the finish line and started up running again. I ran as fast as I could. I saw some of the people I had been around before my pit stop and felt good that I had made up a little time.

I crossed the finish line, received a high five from a race volunteer, and quickly received a foil blanket to warm up (yes, it was that cold!). Then I received the best race medal ever! Firefighters in tuxedos presented finishers with the most famous little blue box. Inside, I found a Tiffany’s necklace with the motto of the race, “I run to be.” and on the back, “NWM 2010″. I love that I can literally wear my medal anywhere! Along with that, the finishing area provided runners with plenty to drink and eat. I quickly headed to the bag check and put on my warm and dry clothes (it had begun to drizzle, soon rain by this point). I hopped on the shuttle and started my journey home.

My time was nowhere near the PR that has been eluding me (official time 1:52:44, without a potty break, probably closer to 1:50), but I knew that this would be a difficult course to beat my best half marathon. I decided that morning to just focus on having a good time, and I had a great time! I hope I make the raffle next year and get to run again!