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!

The Carlsbad 5000 – World’s Fastest 5k

*warning: long recap… I guess I needed to make up for my lack of posts lately*

Those of you who keep up with my blog know that I am running the Ragnar So Cal on Friday April 4. After I confirmed that this worked in my schedule and joined the team, I learned that was the same week as my spring break and I would be lucky enough to spend the whole week in So Cal visiting my parents and seeing a couple close, old friends. So then I decided to look and see if my favorite 5k (this was also my first race ever) might fit into my schedule and lucky me, the Carlsbad 5000 was scheduled for Sunday, March 30. So yep, I had to sign up.

Days away from Ragnar!

Days away from Ragnar!

I originally planned on running this just for fun. It’s a fast course (I mean it’s not called the World’s Fastest 5k for nothing, the men’s and women’s world records were made there), but I hadn’t considered training for a 5k. The beginning of 2014 I was still reeling from some slower races and didn’t have speed goals in mind (see my posts about running goals here, here, and here). But then I had a great couple of races and PR’ed at the Super Bowl 10k. So I emailed my coach and asked him what he thought about training for the race and trying to PR (granted I gave him 5 weeks…). He said this was a short time and it would be hard training but it was possible. So I decided, why not? I didn’t tell anyone that my goal was a PR at this race and only let a few people know that I was throwing in some speed work for this race. I didn’t want to race for anyone else, I wanted my goals to be my goals alone. And I think this worked out well.

March training schedule

March training schedule

Five weeks later and I was ready to race. My mom and I did a quick trip to the expo on Saturday. It was way less crowded then 2012. And I was stoked to see Graced by Grit there! The hubs, my parents, and the coach all told me not to stress about this race and to keep as relaxed as possible. (All my best races have been ones I have not thought of as “A” races and so I’m usually pretty chill about them.) I told myself my only goal was to beat my most recent Carlsbad 5k time (2012: 23:35). Of course, my real goal was a PR and ideally a sub 21. But by focusing on my 2012 time, I took the stress off myself.  I woke up about 30 minutes before we were leaving and tried to keep calm. My stomach had other plans. Boo.

Fleet Feet Racing Kit ready to go (plus my awesome sports bra from Graced by Grit)

Fleet Feet Racing Kit ready to go (plus my awesome sports bra from Graced by Grit)

We got to Carlsbad and I did an easy warm up with a little bit of speed. Nothing fancy. After tracking down the port a potties, I left my long sleeve and sweats with my parents and headed to the start. Right before the race started, I saw Haute Running Mama (HRM). It was great chatting with her a few minutes for the race and this also kept me from freaking out. She was doing the all-day run (Carlsbad 5k has 6 waves: Men’s Masters, Women’s Masters, Men & Women 30-39, Men & Women 29 & Under, Women’s Elite, & Men’s Elite and they have an event that allows runners to run in all waves except the elites) and used this as part of her last long run before Boston (so exciting!). Before I knew it, it was go time!

My first mile felt good. Of course I started too fast, but it’s hard when you are surrounded by so many fasties. I saw my pace in the high 5 minute range and pulled way back – I was looking for 6:45-6:50 for that first mile (actual 6:44). After the turn around, there is a slight climb and we were running into the headwind. I tried to keep my pace right on but slowed down a hair (6:48). The last half mile or so is a nice little decline and now I also had a tailwind. Throughout the race my mouth was dry and my stomach didn’t feel great. I kept telling myself it’s supposed to hurt so just go.

carlsbad 5000

Rounding the corner about to finish.

Just about half a mile from the finish, HRM saw me across the way and yelled for me to keep going. This totally helped and I picked it up. I passed a few women (had Jenn in mind here saying “you can catch her!”) and came into the finish (6:42 pace, not sure of actual time as I messed up my watch at the end). As I came down toward the finish I saw the clock said 20:5X and I thought maybe if I really push it I can pull into under 21 (not knowing exactly how far off from the gun start I was – it ended up being a 5 second difference). After I crossed the finish like, I hit lap but not stop on my watch and didn’t realize it right away. Once I stopped it, I had a time of 21:17, which was definitely a PR but I wasn’t sure what my real finish time was. I later found out it was 21:05 (in the top 250 for the unique medal, 27th in my age group of 266, and 53rd woman of our wave of 755 – pretty good!).

Post race

Post race

After my race and a little cool down run, my parents and I hung around to see the elites race. This was really fun and they are so FAST! We also got to see the Men’s American 5k record broken! Bernard Lagat ran a 13:18 race, breaking the whole record of 13:24 (from 1996!). Then a little brunch and mimosas at Swami’s to finish up the morning.

Women's Elite

Women’s Elite

Men's Elite

Men’s Elite

Brunch

Brunch

It was really great to run this race and have my parents there. They have been to several of my races but never one where I felt I did my best, so I was happy to share that with them. I felt like I raced strong and smart. And I know that I can definitely train for a sub-21 :D

Pretty sweet medal and shirt this year :)

Pretty sweet medal and shirt this year :)

Anyone else run the Carlsbad 5000? Any new PRs?

Super Bowl 10k – Way Better than Actual Super Bowl

Well, I guess I jinxed myself with my Fit Friday post on running in the rain. Because oh, yeah, I ran in the rain on Sunday. The cold, windy, rain. (This also explains why I have no race photos… my fingers were numb, no photos taken!)

For the fifth year in a row, I ran in the local Santa Cruz Track Club Super Bowl 10k. I really like this race. It’s super low key (they don’t even close the roads down or recreation path, which can be a pain, but no problem when no body wants to head out in the cold), it’s a course I know really well, and it’s a fun way to burn some calories before eating a whole lot of food during the game! While I went into this race with few expectations (it was my third race weekend in a row, I had some hard workouts during the week, I hadn’t trained for it), I had a goal. I wanted to PR. My last 10k PR is from this event last year (45:28, a 7:19 pace). So this year, I aimed to run a 44:59 (yes I wanted to just eek into that sub 45 result). And my plan was to try to just run a 7:15 pace. (Truth be told, when I signed up for the race this was not my goal, but after strong runs at the Tinker Bell Half and Jenny’s Light 5k I decided to aim for a PR.) I didn’t know if I could do it, but I thought I was in good enough shape to try. I enlisted the help of Jenn who was running but not racing Sunday.

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I woke up to cold, rain. Look I know the rest of the county is cold, but 40* rain with wind is not fun to run in no matter where you live. Jenn and I did a quick 2 mile warm up, followed by some strides, and said hi to friends who were also racing. It was impressive how many of my running friends made it out in this crummy weather.

brr

brr

The race went pretty close to what I wanted. I started out conservative. I told Jenn I wanted to stay closer to 7:20 for my first mile(s) and if I felt good, pick up the pace in the second half. I averaged around a 7:15 pace for the first 3 miles (7:18, 7:16, 7:13). There was a pretty strong headwind that helped me from running too fast. Poor Jenn tried to shield me from it, but it was pretty impossible to do.

After we turned around the wind was still strong (mile 4 – 7:20). Jenn asked me if I wanted to pick it up. A little part of me thought “no way!” but instead I said I did (this is the benefit of having a pacer.) I tried to tell myself, if I could run 7:05 in the final mile of the Tinker Bell half I could pick up my pace here. We picked it up for a sub-7 mile (6:57). Up until mile 5, Jenn had been calling out my splits. As we came up to that mile, a woman was catching up to me. Jenn let me know but when came up to the 5th mile marker I told Jenn I didn’t want to know (about either the woman behind me or my mile time). I’m glad she didn’t tell me, hearing a sub-7 mile would have freaked me out. I finished the final 1.2 in 8:27 (7:02 average pace).

As I came up to the finish, Aaron and Julian (teammates on SCE) and Michelle (coach of the Fleet Feet team) cheered us on. It really helped me to finish strong. I could see the clock. I knew the first two numbers were 44 but I could not read the final two and was worried that it was going to flip to 45. But I finished at 44:32 (a 7:10 pace!): good enough for 1st in my age group, 4th or 5th woman overall, and nearly a minute PR!

PR & 1st place AG medal

PR & 1st place AG medal

The race went as I hoped – I stayed within the parameters I wanted and finished with negative splits. I was definitely tired at the end but pushed through (this is something I definitely need to work on more). Jenn did a great job of acting as my stop watch, giving me some motivation, but ultimately letting me run my race (thanks Jenn!).

After the race, the hubs and I hosted a Super Bowl party. Twenty or so friends came. And while the game was boring, we had lots of good food, good drink, and good conversation. A pretty awesome day in the end.

Ingredients for the Blue Moon cupcakes for Super Bowl party

Ingredients for the Blue Moon cupcakes for Super Bowl party

Did you race on Super Bowl Sunday? How did it go?

Pacing a Friend to a PR

Way back in June when I ran the SFM half, I decided to sign up for the Berkeley Half Marathon (put on by the same awesome folks from SFM!!). I knew that I wouldn’t be racing it since I would have just raced Big Sur the previous weekend (and well now we know that didn’t go so great), but I still thought it would be really fun to be a part of the first ever Berkeley Half. I thought it would be great if I could find someone looking to PR in the high 1:40s or 1:50s range since I knew that would an easy pace for me to keep. Well, a few months back I convinced my new running pal, Ashley, that she needed to get rid of her old half PR (about 2:00) and that I would help her do that at this race. And then this past week, I also convinced Hillary to join us in the fun.

Saturday afternoon I drove up to Berkeley to pick up the race packets for Hillary and I (Ashley opted to have her mailed to her house) and spend the rest of the day with friends who live in the city. (Ok, so I also totally signed up for this race knowing that I could get to hang out with them too!) We had a great time eating food, drinking wine, and shopping (Wendy came with me to get some new lights for the new house). They are great hosts and I’m excited to have them come visit this weekend!

Pre race

Pre race

Luckily, my friends live just about a mile and a half from the finish so I decided to drive to the finish to meet Ashley and Hillary (who drove up from Santa Cruz that morning). We left my car at the finish and then headed to the start. I love point-to-point courses but it does make it a little difficult to figure out parking/driving (they did have a shuttle to alleviate this problem). After parking fairly close to the start and visiting our friend Port-a-potty, we headed over to the corrals. We were in the 2nd wave and it was PACKED! We couldn’t see the entry gate for the waves and ended up hopping the fence as the race started. So exciting to see such a big turn out for inaugural event! The first 3-4 miles wind through the city portion of Berkeley – I love running the streets much more than driving them! Then we headed out to a run/bike path that parallels the bay and the I-80. Our plan was to keep Ashley at an 8:45 pace for the first 5 miles and then evaluate from there. Like all runners, Ashely felt great in those first few miles (not to mention it was mostly downhill), so we had some speedier paces.

Mile 1 – 8:42
Mile 2 – 8:39
Mile 3 – 7:58 (whoops! bad pacer!)
Mile 4 – 8:12
Mile 5 – 8:39

The stretch between miles 5 and 8 are pretty nice. While the course is next to the freeway, there is a great view of the bay and SF. Thankfully the fog was clearing and we could even see the Golden Gate Bridge. Around this time I also saw some of my favorite running friends/fellow SFM ambassadors: Chris, Alisyn, and Paulette! Then we entered Cesar Chavez park. At times we were on some gravel and dirt trails, but the race did tell runners to expect this. We also took our fuel at this point (unlike when I skipped that part at Big Sur). It was pretty but the course was pretty flat at this point, so there was some leg fatigue. Ashley was feeling good at the pace we had kept in the first 5 miles, so we tried to keep around that same pace for these five as well.

Mile 6 – 8:37
Mile 7 – 8:40
Mile 8 – 8:47
Mile 9 – 8:52
Mile 10 – 8:58

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(I had WAY too  much fun cheering for Ashley as we ran!)

As we ran out of the park we did a couple of U-turns and hairpin turns. I think Ashley just wanted to be headed toward the finish, but hey we had to get in all 3 miles. Unfortunately, we also saw that a man had collapsed and was being given CPR (I looked it up Sunday night and it said his condition was improving in the hospital). Hillary and I encouraged Ashley not to look his way and to keep her focus on her race. At this point she was definitely tired, she had been rocking a great pace and was in the last 5k (the hardest part). I tried to keep her spirits up and even welcomed her to pull my hair if that would help – she did not take me up on the offer. I knew that at this point she would PR no matter what, but both Hillary and I wanted her to finish strong too. Right before the 13 mile marker, the course climbs up a hill. Not exactly what you want to see as you are nearing the finish. But Ashley rocked it and was able to sprint down the hill to the finish chute. She finished with a brand new PR of 1:53:42!!!

Mile 11 – 8:55
Mile 12 – 8:55
Mile 13 – 9:01
.10 – :44

Hillary was so excited she couldn't keep her eyes open ;)

Hillary was so excited she couldn’t keep her eyes open ;)

I am so glad I got to be a part of Ashley’s awesome race! I would recommend pacing a runner at some point – to see them accomplish their goal is an amazing feeling. It reminded me of all the great parts of racing (something I definitely needed after last week). We celebrated with brunch and mimosas. The Berkeley Half was also a great race. The course is pretty flat overall and has nice views. There are a decent amount of turns and turn-arounds but my guess is that will get worked out as the race grows. The shirts were really nice (sorry no photo – I immediately wore mine and now it’s in the laundry) and of course they had great bling – I had two medals one for the race and one for finish the SF/Berkeley Challenge.

 

Working with a Running Coach

I have mentioned a couple times on my blog that this year I started working with a running coach to help me reach my running goals. And since mentioning that, I have received some questions about what that’s like and how to find a coach.

The first thing I would say about having a running coach does not mean you now suddenly have some magical power to PR or BQ. That being said, since working with a coach I think I have become a stronger and smarter runner (and at times a faster one too!). For example, while I didn’t reach my time goal at my last marathon, I did run a strong race that I’m really proud of and before that I PR’ed at a local race (shaving 3 minutes off a 6 mile distance).

Happy & with friends after a big PR at Wharf to Wharf this year
Happy & with friends after a big PR at Wharf to Wharf this year

There are several reasons why I would recommend working with a coach. The first (and most important for me) is you have someone who will tell you no. I personally have the problem of doing too much. I will run fast everyday or run long distances everyday. My coach tells me no, don’t do that (so does my husband but I apparently don’t listen to him about running, sorry babe!).

Another reason a coach can be a benefit is that you will have training personalized to you. I let my coach know weekly how much workouts went, when I felt good, when I didn’t. He can then modify the next week’s workouts to reflect my current fitness levels. The online training plans you can download give you great plans and workouts. I used them for years and likely will again sometime in the future. But they cannot know exactly where you are as a runner and you might not know how to modify them to help you reach your goals.

October Workouts (so far)
October Workouts (so far)

Of course, having a coach costs money. So you have to decide if these benefits are worth that cost. If you decide to go this route, the next step is finding a coach.
Finding my coach was easy – he’s the coach of our running team. But I did talk to friends who had worked with him as individual coach to see what they thought of working with him. I also met with him to discuss my goals, how we would communicate, etc. For example, we both agreed that weekly emails where I give him a kind of report of my runs worked best for us. But others contact him more often. So other than cost, one thing you want to think about is how & when you will communicate with your coach.

Convinced that it’s time to start training with a coach? Remember you have lots of options and you don’t have to work with someone in your community. My training is pretty much all through email communication and long-distance training can work. But also if you need face-to-face training, take that into consideration. Make a list of what you want from a coach (goals, cost, communication). Then I recommend touching base with your local running community, who uses a coach and who do they work with will help you find the right person. But don’t be afraid to stop working with someone. If you don’t click, you don’t click and that could end up harming your running and reaching your goals.

Do you work with a running coach? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?