Link-Up: Best & Worst of Racing

Best (or Worst) of My Racing History

Linking up today with Jessie over at The Right Fits to share some of the best and worst of my racing history! I read about this via my Coeur pal Erin over at SweetSweatLife and enjoyed her post so much that I thought it’d be fun to take a little walk down memory lane.

So without further ado, here are my best and worst…plus a few extra categories I added just for fun!

Best Start Line

Hands-down, the 2014 Detroit Marathon. I mean, c’mon, is there anything better than being in your hometown and hearing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blaring over the speakers as they count down to the start?!

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Best Finish Line

There’s nothing like crossing the finish line in your first 26.2, so my personal favorite here is the 2002 Chicago Marathon. But if I can also count a race I haven’t run (yet?) but attended, I’d have to go with Boston — an iconic race in a city full of spirit.

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The shot above is from 2004 while I was living there and going to grad school; we’d start our day at mile 26 to cheer runners along the last stretch. The shot below isn’t from the actual race (it’s from the Pats Superbowl parade), but gives a good idea of the crowd support at the end; I worked at Boston Sports Club Copley at the time, and we’d finish the day standing on that very same rooftop to watch people cross the finish line.

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Best Expo

Nobody puts on a pre-race party quite like Nike, which is why the expotique from the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon takes the cake for this category. From live DJ, fashion show, social media integration and a host of other activities, it’s something that ever runner should experience at least once.

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Oh, and if your gut can handle it, they have a pretty sweet spread there, too. Care to carb-load with a macaroon, anyone?

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Best Crowd Support

Hm, this one’s a tough call. While 2002’s Chicago Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart for the thousands of people lined up along the route, it’s probably a close tie with this year’s Detroit Marathon.

Why? Well, anytime you can run through the wall (and not hit it) while running 26.2 is a win.

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Hottest Race

No question, I was burning up for most of the 2014 HITS Napa Olympic triathlon. Not only were we battling hot temps while on a course with little shade, but I also found out later that I was racing with a low-grade fever.

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Coldest Race

Hubby and I rang in the start of the holiday season with the 2010 Walnut Creek Turkey Trot…and froze our buns off in the process. At the last minute, I threw on an ill-fitting vest to try to keep warm, but ended up tugging at it for most of the 10K. Outfit fail!

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Most Beautiful Course

I’ll let the picture from the 2014 Lake Chabot Trail Run 30K speak for itself. You can see why it’s so easy to get hooked on the trails!

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Most Coordinated Outfits

Put a hot glue gun in my hand, and I’m not responsible for what’ll happen next. Case in point: I got a little crafty before the 2013 Turkey Trail Trot XI and made Hubby and myself some matching outfits to get into the spirit of this wacky race.

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Funniest Memory

Easily the 2011 Detroit Half Marathon. Here’s the before, with my sister, whom I was going to pace for her second half marathon.

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And the during, in which I proceeded to not only chatter incessantly in an attempt to keep her mind off the pain, but also take a bunch of pictures along the way to document our experience. She was clearly not amused.

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Best New Experience

Running a new distance (especially an ultra) can be scary. But tackling it with a friend, who just so happens to be an accomplished trail runner and fabulous pacer? Awesome, as you can see from this shot from 2014’s Canyon Meadow 50K.

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Best People Watching

Bay to Breakers. Every year. ‘Nuff said.

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Hilliest Course

While it may not rank as my hilliest race in terms of actual elevation, I remember the hills in the 2005 U.S. Half Marathon in San Francisco shocking me the most mid-race. Not only was it my very first 13.1, but I’d never run over the Golden Gate Bridge before, so the steep ascent, steady climb over and switchbacks on the Marin side were a rude awakening to Bay Area running!

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Flattest Course

I’m sure I’ve run on many a pancake-flat course, but the 2011 Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon sticks out as a particularly level one. It also helped me snag my second sub-two-hour time!

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Course That Took the Most Mental Strength

The picture below is from this year’s HITS Napa Olympic triathlon, and it’s also one of my toughest racing moments to-date.

Those other guys in the shot? Yeah, they’re done with their swims and headed out on the bike. Me, not so much — I’ve still got my second lap, and I’m pretty much trying A) to force myself back into the water for round two, and B) not to cry.

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Most Disappointing Start

Making a rookie racing mistake at the 2009 Nike Women’s Half Marathon meant that I had to run it without a time chip (forgot it in the hotel room), effectively meaning I didn’t do it (i.e. there’s no official record of my participation).

Lesson learned: Now I always put my timing chip on my shoe or bib the night before the race, and make sure to double-check it on race morning!

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Most Disappointing Finish

My face says it all in the shot below: Try not to puke.

In 2007, I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon and didn’t respect the distance. Not only was I under-trained and went out too quickly, but I was also coming down with a cold and mistakenly experimented with some Airborne and cold medicine that morning.

Big mistake. My poor friend Marlene was such as saint as I slammed into the wall at mile six, then proceeded to poorly manage gastrointestinal issues and leg cramps for the rest of the race before ending up in the fetal position at the finish line.

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Crappiest Weather

Despite Oregon’s reputation for rain, they say that it’s only been wet once or twice during the city’s very popular fall marathon. So, of course, my 2010 Portland Half Marathon was one of those lucky years where we experienced a downpour.

And, in case you were wondering, that’s not happiness on my face to be running, soaked and chilled to the bone.

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Most Surprising

My very first triathlon — a sprint in the local quarry — was 2010’s Tri for Fun in Pleasanton, Calif. My goggles leaked, the water was warm and full of goose poop, my bike was a poor-fitting Craigslist purchase, and my legs cramped on the run…but I finished with a smile and enjoyed every moment!

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Most Rewarding Race

Helping my sister cross her first 13.1 finish line in the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart. Not only is the city one of our favorites, but to share that experience with her was also something I’ll always remember.

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Coolest Medal

No one will argue with the Nike Women’s Marathon “medal” (below is last year’s version). As far as bling goes, you can’t do much better than that pretty Tiffany necklace!

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Best Worst Experience

A friend joked with me that Hood to Coast was the “best-worst race experience,” and after running this year’s event, I couldn’t agree more. It’s exhausting, intense and overwhelming at times, but so worth it for the 200-mile bonding experience…and getting to cross that sand-filled finish line!

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Got a best (or worst) race memory? I’d love to hear!

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Win an entry into the 2014 Nike Women’s Half Marathon

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Fave Fix: Opedix CORE-Tec Shorts

Runners are no strangers to the occasional aches and pains, but during my marathon training this fall I found myself struggling with nagging lower back pain on longer runs.

More often than not, I’d have to pull over mid-way through to stretch for some relief. Case in point: This was me about 14 miles into one of my weekend runs (thanks to Hubby for capturing this oh-so-flattering moment).

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In comparison, here’s another shot of me about 11 miles into the marathon — with no back pain whatsoever.

So…what gives?

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Well, in a word: Opedix.

Never heard of ’em? Me neither, until I started doing some research on support gear that would allow me to run longer, stronger.

I’m already a big fan of compression socks, and I’ve had success with CW-X tights, but Opedix technology is scientifically designed to aid the recovery of back, leg and knee injuries, which can improve performance for runners, as well as athletes across other disciplines.

The company makes what they call “Kinetic Health” gear to enhance performance, recovery and rehabilitation by improving joint alignment and promoting proper movement.

Bottom line: They make shorts that could possibly let me say “sayonara” to back pain, so I decided to put them to the ultimate test — marathon training.

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Here’s the lowdown on how they work: Think of the joints in your body as being connected structurally and functionally in a kinetic chain (meaning, it’s dynamic). Most of your joints have a three-dimensional range of motion, and the concurrent motion of these joints produces movement.

op12Since most of us are a little off-kilter in one way or another (due to imbalances, previous injury, etc.), athletic performance is reduced when your body can’t move optimally.

When this happens, your muscles fatigue more quickly and your body is exposed to unnecessary stress that causes the progressive destruction of your joints.

The result? A chain reaction that can range from annoying…to downright nasty.

But Opedix’s CORE-Tec Shorts are designed to work like an extra layer of muscle and use a combination of fabric tensions to anatomically direct the body’s inside forces and reconnect the joints to harmoniously function in that kinetic chain.

Source: Opedix

Source: Opedix

We could all use a little extra support (that’s putting it mildly!), and Opedix claims to deliver just that — and in just the right spots.

But do they really work?

Yes; I tested them on several different types of training runs (speed, tempo and long) before using them in my actual race, and they performed beautifully every time.

Full disclosure — they are a bit snug and the waist sits high — but once you get used to the feel of this fit and realize that it’s in the name of function, you all but forget you’ve got ’em on.

The fabric is also breathable, moisture-wicking and anti-stink, which also comes in handy on those mega-long runs and vigorous workouts.

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And they’re well-made, too. Not only is the design top-notch (there’s a strategic 29-panel construction with a combination of stretch and non-stretch fabrics), but Opedix also pays special attention to the small details, such as silicon elastic binding at the leg-openings to help keep the shorts properly anchored.

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Now, if you’re plagued with poor form or an existing injury, these shorts won’t rid you of either — let’s be realistic — but they can help delay the effects of fatigue, keep you better aligned and give you that extra boost to keep doing what you love with less bodily wear and tear.

Now that’s gear that’s gear that’s good for you for long runs…and in the long run.

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Thanks to the folks at Opedix for providing a sample for review; all opinions are my own. 

On marathoning and marriage

Source: Jordan Siemens

Source: Jordan Siemens

Between all the miles logged in training (i.e. time to think) and the fact that Hubby and I recently celebrated our seven year anniversary, I’ve been noticing some parallels between marathoning and marriage.

If you look at it as a race – not in the competitive sense, but in wanting to have a rewarding and successful journey – many of us get caught up in the ‘start.’ We struggle because ‘we’re young,’ ‘we don’t have any money’ or [insert whatever excuse here]. Truth be told, that’s a sprinter’s take on the subject when what would serve us better is more of a marathoner’s mentality.

See, sprinters know that the start is a critical element because time is of the essence when there’s little ground to cover; there’s no room for error. But marathons, on the other hand, are just the opposite. Even with a rocky start, we have the luxury of time to bounce back and ultimately have a great race.

Source: London Evening Standard

Source: London Evening Standard

Why? Because it’s not the start that’s important; it’s the endurance.

That change in focus can empower partners for ‘the long haul’ when it comes to pushing through conflicts without hitting the proverbial wall and quitting. No, there are no quick fixes to either marathons or marriage (and neither are painless!)…but I think we’d all agree that the potential reward is worth all the effort.

Now, I’m by no means an expert at either marathoning or marriage…but I thought I’d share a few of the nuggets of running wisdom that I believe just may translate into more moments of wedded bliss.

1. Have a goal in mind. 

Just as we choose races to stay motivated, it can help to set milestones for your marriage. Having common goals help both parties to get on the same page, and having something to work toward keeps you moving forward rather that getting stuck in a rut.

2. You get out what you put in.

If we want to get technical here, pretty much anyone who wants to do a marathon could probably cover 26.2 miles, but for the best possible experience, it’s smart to prepare properly. This means putting in the work up front to reap the rewards on the back end. There’s something to be said for a little hard work, dedication and delayed gratification – that means sticking to a training plan and putting some real effort into figuring out what it takes to whip your relationship into shape, as well.

3. Run your own race.

The most critical piece of racing advice is to not start out too quickly. Trying to keep pace with faster runners will only bite you in the behind in the second half of the race when you burn through your energy stores and hit the wall with a thud. The same can be said for marriage; just as every body is different, so is every union, so you’ve got to work toward your own personal best…not someone else’s.

4. Pace yourself.

If you’ve set a goal and trained toward it, it’s important to check in at regular intervals during the race to make sure you’re moving along steadily. The same goes for marriage. It’s not about showing your partner how much you love them in fits and spurts with the occasional grand gesture, but committing to treat each other well year-round because the little things really do add up.

5. Prepare for peaks & valleys.

For as many moments of triumph, there will be the inevitable time in the trenches. If you think you’re immune, you’re only fooling yourself, so it’s best to go in with a realistic approach and an open mind. Knowing that there will be ups and downs in your relationship will allow you to approach both with a good head on your shoulders. That way, you and your partner can ride the highs, work through the lows and realize that it’s all part of the experience – and not indicative of the final outcome.

6. Work through the wall.

It may be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be fatal. Again, being aware of (and having a healthy respect for) the wall will help inform your plan of attack if/when it rears it’s ugly head. Instead of getting blindsided, throwing your hands up in the air and giving up, you’ll realize that sometimes it just takes a little extra push to work though what feels like hell – and that you may just come out better for it on the other side.

7. Rejoice in the journey.

Finally, in racing and in life, it’s all what you make of it. Having a sense of humor and not taking yourself too seriously (after all, I don’t expect to win a marathon…or a marriage-of-the-year award), helps keep things in perspective. One day, you’ll look back and realize that even though 26.2 miles – or whatever rough patch you may have been going though at the time – felt like it would never end, it was only a small segment in the grand scheme of your life.

What running wisdom do you apply to your relationships? 

I just ran 26.2 miles…now what?!

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If you read my race recap, you know that as soon as I crossed the finish line of my recent marathon, I actually told Hubby I never wanted to do it again. Ever.

But he called my bluff: “Ha. I give it two weeks, and you’ll be planning your next race.” 

As much as we joke (and he was right, by the way), it got me thinking about the inevitable post-event letdown.

You see, the marathon’s not over once you cross the finish line. Whether you ultimately rock it or it rocked you, there’s a lot of buildup to that big day. Those months of preparation become all-consuming and include hundreds of miles, a roller-coaster of emotions and a hell of a lot of commitment.

So how do you fight boredom, stay sane and find a sense of purpose once the intensity of training has ceased? It’s actually quite simple, when you think in terms of planning for it with as much care as you plan for everything that precedes the race…

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1. Replenish your body. Now’s the time to re-stock what you’ve depleted during months of hard training and a grueling race. Not only will it help move the recovery process along, but rewarding yourself with a favorite treat can also help lift the spirits (just don’t make a habit of it).

2. Kick up your feet. Although it feels counter-intuitive to avoid the very thing that helps you release stress and anxiety (working out), it’s important to let your body rest and recover because it sets the stage for your next round of training.

3. Set a new goal. Think both short- and long-term here. Start by assessing your race performance, then set a master goal, along with incremental goals to help get you there. Maybe one marathon was enough, so you choose a new distance and focus on training toward that. Perhaps you’re hungry to PR in your next marathon, so you focus on building speed and endurance to create a stronger base. Or if this marathon was a stepping stone to a longer race (ultras, triathlon), you can use it as a learning experience to inform your training going forward.

4. Ease back in slowly. Hit it too hard too soon, and you may end up setting yourself back with illness or injury. The general rule of thumb is to take an easy day for each mile you run in a race, so now is the perfect time to pick up a non-impact cross-training activity that will help strengthen your running down the road.

5. Listen to your body. Again, it can be tough to shift gears after months of putting pedal to the metal toward a singular focus, but make a concerted effort to quiet your brain and allow your body to lead the way. Did you notice any weak links during the race? Are you feeling lingering aches and pains in particular spots afterward? Now’s the time to address imbalances so you can “train up” those weaknesses for the next time you toe the start line.

So where am I at this point? Well, I’m happy it’s done, but sad that it’s over.

I’m thrilled with how my marathon went, although there are some things I might tweak next time around. Yes, I said “next time.” And no, I’m not signing up for one in the immediate future…but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about giving that elusive sub-four goal another shot at some point.

For now, though, my main goal is to focus on increasing my speed so I can shoot for PRs at other distances — the half marathon and 10K, in particular. In terms of smaller goals in the interim, I crave the consistency of a regular training schedule, so I’ll be putting together a mix of speed-focused workouts, along with complimentary cross-training.

And, after allowing my body to properly bounce back, I’ll hopefully be ready to hit it hard in the next training cycle.

How do you beat the post-race blues? 

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Race recap (full version)

30,000 strong. We ran SF.

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

And to give you a little idea of the race-day craziness, that image above is mile 10 of the race. Usually the pack thins out two or three miles in, but not this one!

Let’s start at the beginning, though.

Since the start time was 6:30 a.m., I set my alarm for 4:00 a.m. to give myself plenty of time to get up, get dressed, eat, digest and triple check all my gear (no forgetting my timing chip this time!).

I happened to roll over and look at the clock at 3:45 a.m., so I figured I’d just get up…better safe than sorry. My cup of coffee went down well, but I had to choke down the rest of my breakfast (yogurt, fruit and granola) because the nerves were starting to hit.

And before I knew it, it was time to take off. Hubby ushered me out the door and dropped me off a few blocks from Union Square.

Here’s a shot of what the starting area looked like…organized chaos.

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

I say organized because Nike had a method to the madness: Runners were grouped by pace, as is standard in these races, and divided into corrals.

Mine was the Powell Street corral (estimated 8:00-8:59 per mile), so I used the walk over as a quick warm-up, then got in line for one last pit stop before the gun went off.

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

Here’s what it was like to be in the thick of things. Wall-to-wall runners!

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I distracted myself by snapping a few quick pictures before things got going. This one was actually taken as the race began (literally, with a bang) around the corner under a wall of fireworks.

We slowly started making our way toward the start, but everything was happening so quickly, it didn’t really sink in until I crossed the mat, started my watched and thought, “Well, here we go!”

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Miles 1-3: Should have been flat and fast, but it was packed. And there were definitely a lot of people in the corral who were nowhere near a 8:00-9:00 mile. No judgment – to each her own speed – but it was super frustrating bobbing and weaving through walkers and slower paces when you’re running for time and trying to get focused, find a rhythm and get in your groove.

I didn’t want to burn too much energy jockeying for position, so I played it safe and stayed put, trying to suss out what would be a comfortable, sustainable pace. Around Fisherman’s Wharf (mile 2), my hip felt a little tight, but it loosed up by mile 3, thank goodness – just in time for our first few hills near Aquatic Park and Ft. Mason. I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline or my training, but I didn’t even feel ’em, which I took as a good sign either way.

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

Miles 4-6: Once we hit the Marina, it was flat again. But still crowded. There were more spectators along this stretch, so I tried to take in all the signs (one of my favorite parts of races) as we ran past. I’d been contemplating when to take my first chew (too early could mean stomach issues, too late could mean an energy crash), but I started feeling hungry around mile 5, so I ate my first Sharkie and drank a cup each of water and nuun at the aid station (my plan was to hydrate at each station throughout the race).

It was a good choice, because around mile 5.5 we hit this long stretch of hill into the Presidio. It wasn’t horribly difficult, most likely because I’ve been training around here and am used to the hills…but it’s definitely tough on the legs when you’ve got 20 more miles or so to log.

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

Miles 7-9: Over the course of the next few miles, we hit hill after hill…after…hill. At one point, a woman yelled, “What goes up must come down!” I was grateful that she was able to make light of the situation because it was starting to feel like a real grind. Not that I was struggling on the hills – I actually felt pretty good and kept my pace consistent – but more that I knew my legs would make me pay for it later. And it was foggy, so it was tough to see too far ahead…although maybe that was a good thing. All I remember is that a song came on around the hill at mile 9 that reminded me of my sister, and it gave me the push I needed to get to the top.

Miles 10-12: Sweet relief! We hit the ocean and got to coast downhill for about a mile and a half, so I took the opportunity to take care of some business. After texting Ben to let him know where I was, I switched over to my Powerbar Performance Energy Blend fuel. Oh, and I made sure the cameraman along the course knew just how happy I was that we were done with the steepest climbs of the day.

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Source: MarathonFoto.com

The full marathoners split from the half marathoners around mile 12, which was tough, mentally. As they made their turn for the final stretch, cheered on by the growing crowd, we turned off in the exact opposite direction. It was chilly, it was foggy, there was no crowd, and we still had more than half the race to go. I caught myself before I started spiraling, though, and focused on my music, settling into a good pace. The upside? There were so few of us now that we could stretch out and enjoy the extra space.

Miles 13-15: As we ran through the rolling hills of Golden Gate Park, the morning’s adrenaline wore off and I took stock of my physical situation. My lungs felt good and my pace was steady, but my legs were starting to talk back. The left hip tightness had morphed into a tight left quad, and my right glute was starting to respond in kind.

I met up with Ben and Kevin at the mile 15 aid station, where they gave me a few words of encouragement and a second PowerBar packet. I didn’t stop for more than a few seconds to grab water and nuun, though, because I knew if I slowed down, it’d be hard to get my momentum back up. By now, my right glute knot had traveled down to my right IT band and was starting to pull at my knee, but I kept on, hoping it’d work itself out.

Miles 16-18: Mile 16 was a mental turning point; we left Golden Gate park and turned onto the Great Highway. A “mere” 10 more miles to go, and it was just an out-and-back down to Lake Merced, so I dug in. The weather was foggy and cool – perfect – and I was keeping a consistent pace despite the growing stiffness in my legs.

It was along here, too, that we could see the faster runners returning from the lake and heading toward the finish. Ben caught this shot of the leader with the pace car…very cool. It was both exhilarating and slightly terrifying, though; like peering into your future. Some runners looked strong, some looked like they were on the verge of breaking, and all of them had painful looks on their faces. One girl was even crying as she was running, so I offered a, “Keep it up; you’ve got this” to try to give her some support.

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Miles 19-21: Still feeling pretty good at this point, as you can tell from the mile 19 picture below! Ben and Kevin pulled alongside me on their bikes and we exchanged a few jokes, even. They said I looked strong, I was in the midst of a second (or maybe third or fourth) wind, and I told Ben, “I’m going for it!”

But as quickly as that burst of energy came on, it started fading as I approached mile 20. I heard a man cheering for the “four-hour ladies,” and before I knew what we was referring to, the 9:09 pacers began passing me. Oh, crap. 

I did a mental assessment and knew I wouldn’t be able to hold onto them – at least not in that moment. Maybe I could catch them in a bit, but it wouldn’t be smart to try to match their pace; I’d just have to run my race to the best of my ability, whatever that is, I told myself. And I came to peace with it. I had been pacing at a sub-four, and I was so close, buy my right knee was really starting to seize up, so I was worried that if I pushed it too hard it would be to the point of injury.

As I mentioned in the shorter recap, this was the most difficult part of the race: Physically, you’re breaking down. Emotionally, you’re coming to grips with the fact that you may not make your “awesome” goal for the day (however ambitious). And mentally…well, your brain is screaming at you to just STOP, but you have to use everything in your bag of tricks to keep yourself moving.

I put all my focus on making it to the final turnaround – mile 21 – because then it was just a straight shot back around the lake and up to the finish line. Luckily, they had set up a big jumbo-tron at the turn so we could watch ourselves, which I think was meant to distract us (at least momentarily). It worked!

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Miles 22-23: So close, yet so far away! We were now doubling back along the lake, but each rolling hill becomes a mini battle of its own. My right knee was tight, and my right Achilles decided to start getting in on the action, too. I knew it was a razor-thin line between finishing strong and getting injured, so I tried to just keep as steady a pace as possible.

Somewhere in mile 23 there was another decently-sized hill. Ben must have seen the look of dread on my face because he left his bike with Kevin and matched stride with me as we marched upward. I don’t remember what we talked about (he said I was saying, “My legs won’t work!”), but it diverted my attention long enough for me to make it to the top.

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Miles 24-25: Mile 24 took us back onto the Great Highway – the final stretch to the finish. I remember looking at the mile clock and reading 3:44 as I passed it…just as my playlist ran out. I fumbled with my iPhone to restart the music and quickly did the math: I’d have to do 2.2 miles in about 15 minutes to make my sub-four goal, and there was no way that was happening with my legs in their current condition. But I was close enough to that four-hour mark to still make my goal of a new PR, so I re-focused and dug in again.

It was foggy and I couldn’t see that far ahead of me, although I could see the runners on the other side of the street as they made their way to the lake. Oh, thank God I’m done with that part. I focused on my music, drank at the last aid station just before mile 25 and took my last bit of gel at mile 25.5. Time to bring it home! Here’s that smile I promised for the finish line…almost…there.

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Mile 26: Wow, this has to be the longest mile ever. Seriously, I think they mis-measured. But it always feels this way at the end of a race. The crowd is growing again, so I know we’re getting closer. I’m monitoring my watch, trying to move to the beat of my music to keep myself moving…and apparently I’m also squeezing in a quick mid-marathon nap, from the look of this picture.

NWM9 (2)

Last .2 Mile: I think the next shot speaks for itself. I call it, “Finish line in sight.”

As soon as I can see the arch, I hit the gas and give it everything I’ve got. Surprisingly, I have a little something left to pick up the pace and race toward the finish. As I cross the mat, I look up and see that the clock reads 4:10, but I know it took me a few minutes to cross the start line after the gun went off, so I’m well within the PR zone. YEAH!

Official time: 4:07:46, a new PR by 20 minutes!

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Now, you can never really predict how a race will go – or how you’ll feel or react upon completing it. But I can tell you that this was a much different feeling from my Chicago Marathon experience in 2002.

Last time, I remember I crossing the finish line and bursting into tears – partly out of sheer relief, partly out of a need to let some pent-up race day emotions loose…and partly because I was in my early 20’s at the time and in a much different head space.

This race was one of redemption, however. I’ve identified myself as a runner since my track & field and cross country days in high school, but when my body broke while training for the New York City Marathon back in 2004, it took me a long time to bounce back, both mentally and physically, Actually, the physical healing came much sooner than the emotional; ever since then, I’ve had nagging doubts in the back of my mind about my body being able to ever complete this distance again.

But as I mentioned at the outset of training back in June, I had to give it a shot. And this time would be different: I would train with my heart – and my brain.

Crossing the finish line on Sunday felt…surreal. I was happy to be done and proud of my new PR. But I was also keenly aware of an overwhelming sense of peace in finally conquering 26.2 miles again…on my terms.

Source: MarathonFoto.com

Source: MarathonFoto.com

And although I experienced my own small sweet (sweaty?) victory, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the real winners of the race. They are true superstars, inspirations and had the honor of lining up next to Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson (far left) and Kara Goucher (third female from right).

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And, yes, there’s also some great bling associated with this event! Here’s a shot of the much-anticipated “finisher’s medal” from our 2013 race.

Each year Nike and Tiffany & Co. team up for a new design, and this one celebrated the 10th anniversary of the San Francisco event with a nod to participants’ “spirit, style and tenacity.”

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So, you’re probably thinking…what now??

Well, after taking some much-needed time for recovery, I’m going to slowly ease back in to running and start planning my race schedule for the rest of 2013 and into 2014. I’ll also be doing a follow-up post here on KineticFix about “coming down” from a race and transitioning into the next thing.

After all, the race may be over, but I feel like this is just the beginning. There are always new goals to set, PRs to break, stories to tell, and different distances to try as #werunsf. Stay tuned…

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Race recap (short version)

In the words of Nike, “Hills were crushed. Miles were logged. Bragging rights were earned.”

NikeSF1

Official time: 4:07:46.

Just shy of my sub-four reach goal, but I PR’d by 20 minutes, so I can’t complain.

Long story short? I ran the whole way (just walked briefly through water stops to drink), charged up the hills and felt great until around mile 20 when I was passed by the 9:09/mile pace group. That was my mental and physical breaking point; cardiovascularly, I was still going strong, by my legs got stiff and started to really seize up. It was a fight to the finish, but I ran my own race, left it all out there on the course and finished with nothing left in the tank, so I’m happy – and thankful.

Of course, as soon as I finished, I told Hubby I never want to do it again. He said give it two weeks ’til I’m planning my next race. He knows me too well. 

Stay tuned for the full recap here this Wednesday where I’ll share all the specifics – i.e. the good, bad and (borderline) ugly – of race day!

But in the meantime, here are a few highlights in photos…

Before the race in the starting corral:

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During the race, around mile 19:

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After the race with the official finisher’s shirt:

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Oh, and best race sign of the day? Well, although some of the naughtier ones always make me laugh (“Is that a gel in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”) and others are super motivational (“Blisters are Braille for awesome”), those of us who are locals appreciated the Bay Area Rapid Transit strike humor: “You guys are all running better than BART right now!”

Source: Lululemon

Source: Lululemon