Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Week 16 training recap (and race prep!)

Yikes, the official 24-hour countdown to the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon SF is now underway. Let’s DO this!

The Final Week

First, a quick look at the week leading up to race day; I tried to take it easy (i.e. no running) because of the aforementioned hip issues, although it was a struggle at times because I was feeling super ansty/excited/anxious:

  • Mon: Easy 3mi walk
  • Tues: 2mi easy (20 min bike)
  • Wed: Easy 30 min swim & bootcamp
  • Thur: 3mi easy (30 min walk & Expo)
  • Fri: OFF
  • Sat: 2mi “shakeout” run (20 min bike, light stretching)

The Expo

My next order of race business was the expo – or “Expotique,” as Nike calls it – which takes place smack dab in the middle of Union Square in downtown San Francisco. I walked by it on Monday as they were getting it all set up; what a production!

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Thursday was the official opening of the Expotique, so I figured I’d hit it up after work and grab my packet, bib and pace band before the out-of-town crowds descended on the city. I guess a lot of other locals had the same idea, though, because there was already a long line forming when I got there!

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I picked up my race bib and pace band in one tent before we were all ushered over to another station to grab goodie bags. The third, and final, stop was the actual Expotique, which was super modern with cool mood lighting and a DJ spinning dance music.

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There were motivational displays on every wall with slick graphics and screens displaying tweets about the event, plus mannequins dressed in the latest Nike gear alongside gorgeous images of athletes and weekend warriors.

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Of course, I also had to ham it up for the camera in front of a lighted wall display of the course map. Here’s hoping I’ve still got a smile on my face at the real finish line!

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They didn’t have as many vendors as some previous race expos I’ve been to, but what they lacked in quantity they made up for in quality. Case in point: the charcuterie table from Whole Foods, which had a whole assortment of meats, cheeses, nuts and fruits.

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Another hot spot was the macaroon table. I’m not normally a fan of ’em, but these particular ones were pretty and tasty!

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And after all the talk about #WeRunSF these past few months, it was only fitting to take one more picture in front of the outdoor display.

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The final stop of the evening? Niketown SF, where they had graphics on the windows displaying all 30,000 of our names. I found mine, but unfortunately it was near the top (and in the middle of the 10 million other Jennifers), so I couldn’t get a close-up.

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The Gear

Despite my warning not to use anything new on race day, I did pick up a Nike belt with a small pouch to help hold my Sharkies and gels (PowerBarClif Shot and Vega) during the race (I want to try to keep my hands as free as possible), and I thought it’d be fun to walk through the rest of my race-day gear, from top to bottom.

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Up top, I’ll have on a Nike Feather Light Visor to help shield my eyes from the sun. Hubby recently surprised me with a pair of Jaybird Bluebuds (wireless headphones), so I’ll be wearing those with my iPhone in an armband. And, of course, I’ll have on my Nike+ SportWatch GPS with the pod attached to my shoe.

On my body, I’ll have on an Athleta Sprint Seamless Sports Bra under my Nike Dri-Fit Knit Shirt-Sleeve Shirt. I’ll be taping my left hip with KT Tape for some added support under my Opedix Core-Tec Shorts. They support the pelvic region, promote core stability and improve dynamic balance, all of which help with the lower back pain I experience on my long runs.

Finally, I’ll keep my calves (relatively) happy with 2xu’s Compression Performance Run Socks under my trusty Asics Gel-Kayano 19 shoes.

The Plan

Just as I mentioned in my 26 tips for running 26.2 miles, I’ll be loosely following the 10-10-10 rule. This means running the first 10 miles below race pace, the second 10 at race pace and the final 10K (6.2 miles) with everything (anything?) left in the tank. Even though we call it a “race,” it’s more about “pace” than anything else.

Of course, in a perfect world, I’d love to finish under four hours; I believe my fitness level is there, but I’m just not sure the course (hilly), the crowd (lots of casual runners/walkers, so it’ll take some time to jockey for position and get into a good pace) or my current condition (hip) will permit for it at this particular event. So that’s my awesome goal…if everything goes off without a hitch.

More realistically, I’m focusing on my great goal, which would be a marathon PR (anything under 4:27:13). And the good goal? Well, that’d be crossing the finish line, which is an accomplishment in and of itself in the off-chance something goes awry (but let’s hope not!).

The Tunes

I went back and forth on whether or not to create a dedicated playlist for the race. But I figured if I’m in a good groove, the last thing I’ll want is a Pandora commercial to mess with my flow, so I bit the bullet and bought a bunch of new songs on iTunes.

As for how I went about building it, some are old favorites (stuff that’s connected to a memory or gets me pumped up), some are new songs I’m digging, and the rest have a beats-per-minute of around 160, which I read should roughly translate into a 9:00 mile time because, hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

Here’s a look at what I’ll be listening to during the race (shuffled, of course):

    1. Amber, 311
    2. Amsterdam, Guster
    3. Beat It, Michael Jackson
    4. Beggin’, Madcon
    5. Best of You, Foo Fighters
    6. B.O.B., Outkast
    7. The Boys of Summer, Don Henley
    8. Brandy, The Looking Glass
    9. Breathe, Michelle Branch
    10. Bulletproof, LaRoux
    11. Can’t Hold Us, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
    12. Crazy Life, Toad the Wet Sprocket
    13. Die Young, Ke$ha
    14. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult
    15. Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey
    16. Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen
    17. Dynamite, Taio Cruz
    18. Everlong, Foo Fighters
    19. Evil Woman, Electric Light Orchestra
    20. F**k You, Cee Lo Green
    21. Galvanize, The Chemical Brothers
    22. Girl’s Not Grey, AFI
    23. Good Feeling, Flo-Rida
    24. Hey Ya!, Outkast
    25. Higher, Taio Cruz
    26. Ho Hey, The Lumineers
    27. I Gotta Feeling, The Black Eyed Peas
    28. Lights, Ellie Goulding
    29. Lose Yourself, Eminem
    30. Love is a Battlefield, Pat Benetar
    31. Maneater, Hall & Oates
    32. The Middle, Jimmy Eat World
    33. Monkey Wrench, Foo Fighters
    34. More Than a Feeling, Boston
    35. Moves Like Jagger, Maroon 5
    36. No One Knows, Queens of the Stone Age
    37. Not Afraid, Eminem
    38. Radio Nowhere, Bruce Springsteen
    39. Radioactive, Imagine Dragons
    40. Roar, Katy Perry
    41. Rock and Roll, Led Zeppelin
    42. Ruby Soho, Rancid
    43. Running Down a Dream, Tom Petty
    44. Safe and Sound, Capital Cities
    45. Somewhere I Belong, Linkin Park
    46. Stronger, Kanye West
    47. Summertime Sadness, Lana Del Rey
    48. Supermassive Black Hole, Muse
    49. Sweet Nothing, Calvin Harris
    50. Thong Song, Sisqo
    51. Till the World Ends, Britney Spears
    52. Tubthumping, Chumbawamba
    53. Uprising, Muse
    54. Wake Me Up, Avicii
    55. We R Who We R, Ke$ha
    56. 8 Mile, Eminem
    57. 1901, Phoenix

Wow, and with that, training is officially a wrap, folks! Thank you so much for following along; it’s been an incredible journey and I can’t tell you how appreciative I am (and have been) of all of your support and kind words along the way. To say I’m pretty excited to set foot across the start – and finish – lines tomorrow is putting it mildly. 

Stay tuned to Twitter for an immediate update after the race, and I’ve got a quick recap and full-length recap planned for Monday and Wednesday of next week, respectively.

Have a (RUN)DERFUL weekend, everyone!!!

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Finding your marathon mojo: My 26 tips for running 26.2

Source: ROMAIN BLANQUART/ Detroit Free Press

Source: ROMAIN BLANQUART/ Detroit Free Press

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But I’m not talking about crisp weather, brilliantly-colored leaves, Pumpkin Spice Lattes or breaking out cozy sweaters.

As much as I love those things, there’s one thing that truly gets my blood pumping around this time: the fact that we are now in the middle of fall marathon season!

In honor of the upcoming Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Detroit Marathon (i.e. my hometown race), my folks forwarded me an article from Freep fitness columnist LaTasha Lewis in which she revealed her “26 insider tips on training for race day.” Although Lewis will have a three-hour head start (thanks to the ET/PT time difference), we’ll be racing the same distance on the same day, albeit a few states apart.

And as I read through her list, there were a few things I wanted to add from my own experience, so I thought it was only fitting to create a version here to share with you. On your mark…get set…here we go…

My 26 tips for running 26.2

Before the race:

1. Commit to the plan. Almost anyone can cover 26.2 miles, but if you want it to be somewhat of an enjoyable experience, you’ve gotta prepare your body properly. Depending on your goal (finish, PR, win), you’ve chosen a corresponding plan and hopefully made the most of the journey. 

2. But mix it up. My last approach was overzealous and unbalanced, which resulted in injury, so this time I focused on overall fitness by incorporating lots of cross-training into the schedule. From swimming, stretching and biking to yoga, foam rolling and boot camp, prime your body in a variety of ways.

3. Make new friends. Bond over a common goal, and you’ve got some instant – and awesome – friends. I learned this firsthand when @PavementRunner invited me to join his weekend run crew. Not only have we logged a lot of miles, but those social workouts are much more rewarding experiences.

4. Save your soles. Repetitive motion can make you more prone to injury, so I try to limit any contributing factors wherever possible. When I know I’m going to be logging lots of miles, I buy two pairs of the same shoe and swap them each week to keep my feet cushioned throughout training.

5. Know the course. If your marathon is full of hills, try your best not to train on flat-as-a-pancake routes. Locals, consider training along the actual course; out-of-towners, well, it can help to view the course online or scope it out by car on the day of the expo to avoid any race-day surprises.

6. Set three goals. I read an article recently that talked about setting three goals – an ‘awesome’ one, a ‘great’ one and a ‘good’ one. If the day goes perfectly according to plan, awesome indeed; but if not, you can still aim for the great or good goal and have a satisfying race experience.

7. Trust the taper. It’s a natural tendency to get amped up in the final weeks before the race, but now’s not the time to squeeze in more mileage. Allow your body sufficient time to recover and rebound before the big day. Focus on healing any lingering aches and pains, and enjoy all the “found” time!

8. Pick a mantra. When the going gets tough during the race – and trust me, it will – I like to block negative thoughts by repeating a mantra. It can be anything from, “Trust your training,” “Keep pushing,” or “Fight through” to something humorous that’ll make you crack a smile when you feel like absolute hell.

9.  Lay out your gear. Race day nerves tend to override all common sense. Case in point: When I left my timing chip in the hotel room and noticed only as the gun went off for one of my half marathons. Do yourself a favor and organize everything ahead of time. Double-check the weather, too, while you’re at it.

10 Figure out logistics. The last thing you’ll be equipped to deal with on race morning is a wrong turn, a traffic jam or a parking situation. Check the race website beforehand, and figure out your plan of attack for getting there, getting situated and getting to the starting line with some time to spare.

11. Stick with what works. When I did the Chicago Marathon, I ran in a shirt I bought at the expo. Newbie mistake! All went well, thank goodness, but that was an exception to the rule. Race day is not a time to test new apparel shoes of accessories. Use what worked during training to avert potential issues.

12. Stay with safe foods. The same goes for pre-race eating habits; just as you don’t want to experiment with new gear on the outside of your body, you don’t want to do anything to upset your insides in the days leading up to the race. Most importantly, don’t overdo it on your carb-loading the night before!

13. Enjoy the expo. You’ve put blood, sweat and tears into training, so now’s the time to reap a few of the rewards, including a leisurely walk around the expo. Collect your bib, check out the goodies and chat with other participants. Go early to avoid long lines, and try not to be on your feet for too long.

14. Don’t forget to double-check! Yes, it’s worth repeating (see story above about me at the starting line…sans timing chip). Make a list, check it twice, and do yourself a favor by having a friend or spouse triple check everything to make sure all your gear’s ready to go.

During the race:

15. Carry some sustenance. Sure, they’ll have aid stations with drinks, gels, shots, blocks, etc. But if you’ve got a troublesome tummy, like me, (or maybe you just don’t want to make any stops), it’s a good idea to pack your own mid-race treats. Tuck one or two in your pocket – or sports bra! – just to be safe.

16. Start conservatively. The gun goes off, and your first inclination will be to sprint because, hey, You’re! Running! A! Marathon! But resist this urge; it’ll only bite you  in the butt later when you burn out halfway through. Slow and steady may not win the race, but it’ll get you to the finish line in one piece.

17. Pace yourself. Again, think conservatively and have a plan for how you want to attack the race. As Central Park Track Club coach Tony Ruiz told the New York Times, use the “10-10-10” method of compartmentalizing the marathon. “Run the first 10 miles below your race pace. Run the second at race pace. And then go all out (with whatever you have left) in the final 10 kilometers (6.2 miles),” he said.

18. Remember to fuel. I’ve been experimenting with mid-run fuel more frequently this time around, and here’s a tip: Eat before you feel like you actally need it to keep energy levels up. By the time you start to feel tired, it’s too late, and your body has to struggle to process it and catch up. Stay ahead of the curve!

19. Crowdsource strength. My favorite races are the especially raucous ones with crowds that get a kick out of interacting with runners. Put your name on your bib so people can cheer you on (you’ll appreciate it come mile 20), read their signs, nod when they shout words of encouragement and take it all in.

20. Pay it forward. If you see a fellow runner struggling, feel free to offer them a few words of encouragement. Keep it from sounding condescending (or you might get a swift kick in the shin), but something simple that just might shake them from that inevitable mid-race mental spiral, such as, “You’ve got this.”

21. Anticipate peaks and valleys. There will be great moments; there may be awful ones – but hopefully more of the former! Having a realistic attitude will allow you to manage the highs and lows of race day without making it an uphill mental battle. And when all else fails, just put one foot in front of the other.

22. Smile! Remember, there’s a reason you chose to do this. Smile at fellow runners, smile at the crowd, smile to yourself when you hit a goal or push through a painful spot. And most of all, don’t forget to look up and grin as you cross the finish line because that moment in time will be one to cherish.

After the race:

23. Stop and stretch. The last thing you want to do after running 26.2 miles is to keep moving, but resist the urge to curl up in the fetal position in the finisher’s corral. Walk around to loosen legs, grab a drink and a bite, take your official finisher photo – and then get serious about some stretching.

24. Document the day. Whether you snap solo selfies or reunite with friends and family, take a few more pictures after the big finish. You’ll be sweaty and sloppy, but who cares? You just achieved something incredible and lived to tell the tale, so capture that moment and bottle it for later inspiration. 

25. Reward yourself! Pick your poison – massage? dessert? burger and fries? all three? – and enjoy! By all means, don’t go crazy and overdo it, but it’s important to celebrate the fact that you accomplished something you set out to do after many months of hard work, dedication and determination.

26. Process and reassess. In the event that your race doesn’t go as planned – and not all of them will; that’s just the way it works – i.e. when I got injured and had to drop out two weeks before the NYC Marathon – do not beat yourself up. Your body has probably already done that to itself, so no need to compound things; instead, take a step back and re-evaluate the situation once you’ve had a few days (or weeks) to rest, recover and recuperate. Then get back in the game, but with a new approach.

And my final slice of advice (because we can’t do 26 without the .2!):

.2 Look forward. It’s normal to feel some post-race blues, but there’s no better time than your recovery days to take stock of how you did and start to set some new goals. Pick your next race; whether it’s longer, shorter or a different discipline altogether, and challenge yourself to apply what you learned from this experience so you stay motivated for the next one. Happy racing!

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Week 15 training recap

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

I just realized as I sat to write this that it’s my last full recap before race day when 30,000+ of us will descend on the streets of San Francisco. (Let the pre-race nerves commence!)

Here’s a peek at the last week of training as mileage continued to drop for week 15:

  • Tempo run – 8 mi 7mi
  • Track workout – 3 x 1600s
  • Long run – 10 mi 7mi/30min on elliptical

Yep, you’ll notice some extra modifications in there, which I’ll explain below.

But first, as you can see, we’ve finally entered into fall here in the Bay Area. I, for one, am thrilled – not only for the cooler running weather but because dusky evening runs mean maybe, just maybe, I can get away with these obnoxiously-bright calf sleeves?

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In all seriousness, they did help me rock one of those few-and-far-between utterly awesome track workouts where everything feels effortless and running your heart out just hits the spot, like scratching an itch.

My 1600s were supposed to be in the 7:40-7:45 range, but I ran them in negative splits of 7:39, 7:23 and 7:13. I was so happy with how well the workout went that I tweeted one of my favorite running superstars, Kara Goucher.

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And, guess what? She responded. I’m taking this to mean that we are now running BFFs.

(Yes, I realize my fastest mile was slower than her warm-ups. And, yes, I’ll be expecting my restraining order shortly)

KaraGoucher

Tuesday’s workout ended on such a high note, that I couldn’t believe it when I woke up Wednesday with that all-to-familiar dull ache in my left hip.

Oh. No.

Luckily Wednesday was a pool workout, so it was non-impact, but Thursday’s tempo run unraveled quickly. Not only was my hip still nagging me, but my planned route was closed due to construction, which forced me down onto the trails.

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Ok, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad change of scenery…but then I realized that I forgot to re-start my watch after I stopped a few times for photos, so I lost track of how far I had gone.

And then it was around the National Cemetery (about halfway through the run) that my headphones decided to stop working.

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Ok, I thought, I can just double back under the Bay Bridge and make up the half mile or so that I may have lost on the detour, plus the scenery will help distract me.

But thanks to the government shutdown, that wasn’t going to happen.

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You win some, you lose some, right?

Well, I decided to cut the run a bit short anyway to keep from pushing the hip issue, and when I got home I went on the injury offensive with a mixture of ice, Advil and KT Tape to try to keep things from getting any worse.

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And what do you do when you’re trying to distract yourself from obsessing about a potential injury the week before a marathon?

Take a rest day and go to Napa, of course!

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Ben and I took the day off and met up with a high school friend of mine, Lesley, and her husband Josh. We sampled good wine, ate delicious food (see below from my new favorite winery, Robert Sinskey) and had a blast catching up.

Funny thing, too…a few glasses of bubbles later, and suddenly the hip felt much better. Go figure!

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To say I was worried going into Sunday’s long run, though, was putting it mildly.

My heart really wanted to complete the last long run on the schedule, but my brain was warning me not to push myself to the point of injury, so I settled on an easy seven miler.

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It was a scenic loop by the Golden Gate, which helped distract me from the pangs in my hip every now and then.

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We took it easy, and fortunately my hip held out, so I’m just crossing my fingers that I can continue to manage anything else that pops up in the final few days before the race.

In the meantime, my immediate plan of attack is a post-run massage and more Advil, and I’ll be taking it easy the rest of the week with some light cross-training and (potentially) one or two short runs.

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Until then, it’s just putting one foot in front of the other…in the final approach to the starting line. Have a good week, everyone!

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Week 14 training recap

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

Happy hump day, and welcome to the week 14 recap!

There’s quite a bit to get to, so I’ll jump right on in. Here’s what the schedule looked like:

  • Tempo run – 5 mi
  • Track workout – 7 x 800s
  • Long run – 15 mi 13.1 mi

After all the rain in Portland, this week’s downright toasty weather in the Bay Area was a welcome change. Although I did bring one little souvenir home with me: a head cold.

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The first sign of trouble: Tuesday’s five-miler was uneventful, although I felt like I was really dragging. Then came the telltale twinge in my left tonsil when I woke up on Wednesday morning, which evolved into a full-body ache by the end of the day.

No, no, no. I cannot get sick with a half marathon in four days and a full marathon in two and a half weeks.

So I proceeded to lay low (i.e. not leave the apartment; thank goodness for home offices), hydrate like crazy and load up on OJ, smoothies and vitamins. Healthy habits aside, I think it was actually the two nights I knocked myself out with NyQuil that finally did the trick.

While I managed to ward off the worst of it, I still wasn’t feeling 100 percent on Thursday, so I pushed my track workout to Friday. Despite the extra day of rest, I really had to drive myself to stay on pace for the 800’s, which ranged from 3:38-3:48 (the target was 3:45-3:48).

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Aside from a little stuffy nose, I felt better by Saturday morning…although I woke up with a sore left hamstring (seriously, what is wrong with that side of my body this week?!), so I did an easy 30 minutes on the bike and rolled the heck out of it before hitting up the expo for Sunday’s race.

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The schedule technically had me running 15 miles for this week’s long run, but I figured a race of 13.1 would count because it’d be at a harder effort. Plus, there’s no better way to rev the engines than with a little pre-race race. And, Hubby decided to run with me (his first half…yep, just like colds, the running bug also seems to be very contagious).

This race actually turned out to be a great dress rehearsal for the Big Day (aka Nike Women’s Marathon on October 20) because…I slept right through my alarm on Sunday morning!

Yes, total rookie mistake. And no, I was not hopped up on NyQuil at the time. 

Luckily, Hubby was planning on waking up later, so his alarm got us both up…although it was a mere 30 minutes before we had to be out the door. Not exactly an ideal start, but miraculously everything else went smoothly, and we got to the start with time to spare. We even bumped into @PavementRunner and got to wish each other luck before lining up in our respective corrals.

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As you can see, the start was super crowded. I heard there were about 16,000 people doing the race, but they had us well organized into groups by projected finish time, starting with the fastest runners.

Why? Well, mostly to prevent mass chaos when the gun goes off. Rather than having everyone start at once and run the risk of over-eager runners trampling each other, each corral gets its own official start. But don’t worry; your timing chip doesn’t register until you actually cross the line (hence the difference in “gun” time and “chip” time).

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Hubby and I were slotted into the second corral, which means that we’d be in the second wave of runners to cross the starting line.

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After the National Anthem, we were off! My game plan was to run by “feel” to gauge my pace and fitness level, which will better inform my planning for the full 26.2 in two weeks. Here are a few of the highlights:

Miles 1-3: These were the warm-up miles where we focused on getting a feeling for what pace would be sustainable for the duration of the race. You can have a number in mind, but it may change due to a number of external influences (i.e. temperature, humidity, etc.), so it’s good to do an assessment at this point. We resisted the urge to go out too quickly, and stuck by the 1:45 pacers.

Miles 4-6: By now the initial adrenaline wore off, so we settled into an 8:30 pace, which felt comfortable. I ate a chew every mile and a half or so, and we stopped at the aid stations for water because the weather was a bit warmer than what we were used to in the city. And now that we were in the groove, I started to enjoy the scenery, including one inspirational runner who was keeping a good clip despite having both arms occupied – one broken and the other carrying an American flag!

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Miles 7-9: I always see these as the most mental miles; you’re about halfway in, and if you can hold the pace and get to double digits, you’ll be in the clear. Hubby and I were checking in regularly with each other and were both feeling good. We continued to stop at the water stations, and I upped the chews to one per mile to maintain energy. Also helpful for morale was the spectator signs; my two favorites: “Trample the weak, hurdle the dead” and “Remember, your training lasted longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.”

Miles 10-11: Around mile 10, we made a turn out of a shaded neighborhood and onto a main road…into full sun. I could feel the rays getting stronger by the minute, so I knew it was crucial to finish before it started getting too warm. Water stops were no longer optional, and I started to pull away from Hubby around mile 11 (we had an agreement beforehand to go ahead if one of us needed to drop back).

Miles 12-13: This is simultaneously the best and the worst part of the race. You’ve got another rush of adrenaline because your brain realizes you’re almost done…but then you realize that your legs are not able to react as quickly as you’d like, so it becomes a mind/body battle. I just had to dig in and rely on the growing crowd support, even though with all the turns, the finish line was nowhere in sight!

Final .1 mile: At last! We rounded a corner, and the finish line was like a mirage in the desert. It always is (feels?) farther than it appears, so all I could do was try to block out the burning in my lungs and legs and just focus on getting to it. I crossed the line and gratefully took the bottles of water, Gatorade and chocolate milk from volunteers before watching Hubby finish about a minute later.

Official times: 1:53:01 for me, and 1:54:16 for Hubby.

We met up again with @PavementRunner (who rocked a 1:37 PR, by the way) and the rest of my Saturday morning run crew to take a victory photo at the post-race celebration.

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And on the way home, we decided to continue the festivities with a little In-N-Out…”Animal-style,” of course.

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All in all, a successful race day: Although it took some restraint to run without trying to go all out for a PR, I’m happy we ran strong – yet sane – and stayed injury-free, which was the ultimate goal.

Stay tuned for next week…the final full week of training before the Big Day!

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Week 13 training recap

I’ve been referring to this week as “lucky number 13” for a few reasons: First, and most obviously, it’s week no. 13 of the training plan; second, it contained the final looong run before the taper; and third, if I made it this far without major injury, I would consider myself fortunate.

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

So far, so good. Fingers crossed, but the marathon gods seem to be smiling down this time around, and aside from a few proverbial bumps in the road this week, here’s what the schedule looked like:

  • Tempo run – 5 mi
  • Track workout – 6 x 1200s
  • Long run – 20 mi

If last week’s weather didn’t signal the start of a new season, Tuesday’s packed track certainly did. The kiddos are back in school, and training for fall sports is now in full swing.

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It’s also starting to get darker earlier (and lighter later), which is probably part of the reason fall races are so popular. We love to take advantage of the extra-long summer days for training!

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Aside from dodging munchkins and steering clear of sprinters, my speed workout went smoothly. The goal was to keep each 1200 in the 5:42-5:45 range, which I did pretty well (5:41, 5:43, 5:47, 5:41, 5:40, 5:35)…and I even had a little left in the tank to kick it up a notch on the last one.

The only real hiccup was that my Nike GPS Sportwatch, which has been sputtering lately, looks like it has finally gone on the fritz. It skipped a few sections of the track, so my recorded distance was off, and now it won’t sync to my computer, so I’m in the process of troubleshooting with Nike support (fingers crossed).

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Side note: I may have found a new favorite workout headband in the process, as well. Bic Bands sent me two of their Minnie Sparkle Bands ($12) to test, one in Gunmetal and another in Ocean Ombre.

As you can tell from my hair in the shot, there was some wind on the track that evening, but the Bic Band didn’t budge…

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I’m a fan, not only because they’re snazzy (not scratchy) and snug (not strangling),  but because there’s also a great story behind the product. The name, Bic, stands for “Because I can,” and the owner, Sandy, originally came up with the idea as a way to raise funds for her first Team in Training half marathon.

After she met her fundraising goal, demand for the bands continued, so she decided to keep making and selling them, donating a portion of each hand-made band to a different charity each month. Visit BicBands.com to learn more and check out the other styles, sizes and colors.

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But back to the schedule…because we were headed out of town for the weekend, I moved my long run to Thursday again. This time, thank goodness, I had had a full week of recovery between runs. It was a dark start, though, as I made my way into the Marina.

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I hit the water just as the sun started to rise, and the weather was that perfect not-too-hot-not-too-cold temperature for running, so it was shaping up to be a beautiful morning.

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As I made my way through Fisherman’s Wharf, I did get momentarily sidetracked by the smell of freshly-baked bread from Boudin Bakery. It took a massive amount of willpower not to tear into one of the arms of this sourdough ‘gator.

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The game plan was to meet up with @PavementRunner a few miles into my 20 and run 90 minutes of the midsection together before I finished up on my own. We both had number goals for the morning (me for training, him toward a 200-mile challenge for the month), so we were aiming for an out-and-back nine.

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That was before the dreaded GI issues hit about 12 miles in, however. Don’t let the smile above fool you – although the company, the scenery and the weather were all truly awesome that day, my stomach wasn’t cooperating at ALL for the second half of the run.

Like any great running buddy, @PavementRunner reminded me of the bright side, which was that I could use the experience as a learning opportunity for race day in case a similar situation occurs. Well, three pit stops later, there was finally a light at the end of the long-run tunnel.

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The final result? Not terrible in terms of timing, considering, but definitely not on pace for the four(ish)-hour goal with which I’ve been toying. And, needless to say, I’ll be re-evaluating my pre-run nutrition routine. I thought I had it figured out, but the last thing I want is to get thrown for a loop like this on race day.

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And since we were traveling later that day, hubby was on ice duty and tripled the amount from last time for the post-run soak.

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A 20-minute phone call to Mom helped pass the time (and take my mind off the searing pain!).

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And although all I wanted to do was crash on the couch and take a nap, this was our view just a few hours later as we headed to the Great Northwest…Portland!

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Powered by Stumptown coffee and VooDoo Doughnuts, I squeezed in a rainy five-mile tempo run on Saturday. Of course, it helped that we stopped by Nike Portland the night before to pick up some new gear, including these super-techy Luxe Running Tights.

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I’m a tad obsessed with them – they look cool, fit like a glove and wicked well in the wet weather – but as you can see, the back zipper has a tendency to rub on the Achilles, so next time I’ll try keeping them slightly unzipped. Just another good reminder of why it’s smart to do a trial run with new gear before race day!

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Stay tuned for next week – the taper has started, but the excitement continues: Hubby and I will be running the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon on Oct. 6.

I’ll be at @PavementRunner’s Tweet Up at the expo; hope to see some of you there!

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Week 12 training recap

Source: Nike

Source: Nike

Wake up, gear up, lace up, run, recover, repeat.

That pretty much sums up life as of late, but this week was a welcome change of pace with company in town and these runs on the schedule:

  • Tempo run – 5 mi
  • Track workout – 12 x 800s
  • Long run – 15 mi

I wanted to knock out the 15-miler early to free up our weekend and was fortunate to have a few brave souls who were willing to join me for a mid-week sunrise run (shout out to Dan, Kelly and Kevin!).

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Dan and Kelly completed their first trail marathon a few months back, and Kevin’s in the process of training for the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, so I wasn’t surprised when we took off at a fast clip through the Marina and through Fisherman’s Wharf.

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We continued along the waterfront to the Embarcadero before looping back to Kelly’s and Dan’s ‘hoods to drop them off after the first five miles.

Unfortunately, between the faster-than-usual pace, a few hills and not having fully recovered from last week’s 22.5-miler, my legs were beat.

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Poor Kevin had to help hold the pieces together while I slowly unraveled over the next 10 or so miles, which I attributed to a few factors:

  • First, was the fact that I didn’t give myself a full week between long runs; now I know to space ’em out, especially anything over 20 miles
  • Next was the gradual buildup of lactic acid in my legs from the fast pace and early hills; I originally had a flatter route planned, but we changed it up at the last minute
  • Finally, a tendon in my right foot started to act up again; all small items, but the sum of which made the final few miles of the run a real mental battle

I forged on, but was feeling discouraged and starting to spiral into negative self-talk (How can I do 26.2 miles if I can’t handle 15 with a few hills?!), but thankfully Kevin pulled me out of it and kept me focused on the finish line…which included our new post-run ritual of chocolate milk and bananas.

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Fortunately this week’s track workout went a lot better. It’s taken me a few times (duh), but the message has finally sunk in: Pace yourself!

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That’s what training’s all about – trial and error. You experiment a bit, push the limits, get your butt kicked, and zero in on that sweet spot where you can perform at your best without going off the rails (i.e. “hitting the wall” or “bonking,” which totally sucks and can break a race experience).

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially after reading this article by running legend Amby Burfoot, which talks about relying more on your Brain-Body feedback than other pace-based mechanisms during a race.

Type-A runners tend to pick a goal and gut it out, no matter what. I’ve done this before. Sometimes it works (i.e. my half marathon PR), sometimes it results in epic fails (been there, done that…never want to go there again), but it’s very tough to maintain that push for 26.2 miles.

Burfoot proposes that we instead run the race at a perceived effort of 98 percent, versus “redlining” at a tough-to-maintain 100 percent. He says that the seconds lost are few, and that it’s actually a bargain—a value proposition, that sweet spot I mentioned above. And something I’m definitely considering when setting race-day goals.

So after running the first 800 to get a feel for pacing (1:53) on the track that day, I reined it in over the next 11 laps and kept the timing in a cluster of 1:46-1:53. Sure the goal was to keep it even tighter, in the range of 1:50-1:52, but you gotta start somewhere, and this is progress in the right direction.

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The final run of the week was a five-miler, which was supposed to be a tempo run, but I used it as more of fun run to flush my legs out so I could start with a clean slate for lucky week 13 of training.

Instead of a morning run, I chose late afternoon on a gorgeous first day of fall, complete with 70-degree weather, clear skies and that perfect edge of crispness in the air.

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My destination was the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, whose white building stands in stark contrast to the technicolor blooms that surround it.

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My favorite spot was the Dahlia Dell, tucked in behind some trees. I stumbled upon it only while jogging around the building to take a closer look at the grounds.

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It was the perfect way to round out the weekend, get focused for the home stretch of training and take a moment to appreciate the past season while we kick off a new one.

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Speaking of reflection, have you ever played the game “High/Low” about the peaks and valleys of your day, week, etc.?

Well, this week’s low was that my right foot is still sore, so I’m walking the fine line between finishing out training and keeping it from getting worse. Of course, full rest is what’s required to heal it, which I’ll do if it gets any worse. But for now, I’m alternating ice, Epsom salt soaks (like this one) and Advil, plus I researched and am testing a new way to tie laces that’s supposed to help (Lydiard Lacing; check it out).

But this week’s high overshadowed that with some delicious meals, great conversations and reconnecting over fond memories with some beloved out-of-town visitors. A great way to fill up the mental, emotional and physical “tanks” that can all start to dwindle at this point in training.

I do have to say, though, my “dessert tank” is at max capacity after facing this mouthwatering Ghirardelli gauntlet…

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The final score? Sea Cliff Sundae: 0, Jennifer: 1.

Stay tuned for next week’s update; less than one month until race day, and only one long run between now and the taper!

Nike Women’s Marathon SF: Week 11 training recap

This week’s lesson? Sometimes inspiration can come when you least expect it.

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Not only was I prepping both mentally and physically to peak in mileage this week, but the schedule also included a distance that I’ve been anticipating (er, dreading) for quite some time:

  • Tempo run – 8 mi
  • Track workout – 4 x 1600s
  • Long run – 20 mi (!)

But then I saw this post from Pavement Runner and got totally fired up about pushing limits for two reasons: First, he ran a 38-miler in honor of a friend’s birthday the previous weekend; second, fellow runner/blogger EMZ was taking on her second 24-hour treadmill run (this one in SF to raise funds for education in India).

Source: IkunaApparel.com

Source: IkunaApparel.com

Pretty amazing, huh? So I stopped by the kickoff party at Rallypad on Thursday evening to watch her embark on the 100-mile adventure around 8 p.m.

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It was quite the shindig, complete with drinks, dancing, a DJ and fun with fellow SF runners, @PavementRunner and @runeverafter.

Rally.org’s CEO Tom Serres even got in on the action by pledging in honor of employees, who could then get on an adjoining ‘mill and knock out a few miles next to EMZ.

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And so she went for the next 24 hours, with some fantastic final results, not to mention raising awareness – and funds – for a great cause. Seriously (to use an ‘EMZ-ism’), she “freaking rocked it!”

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As for my own running this week? Well, I cut Tuesday’s tempo down by a mile to seven for a quick loop before work. Heavy legs made for a slower pace, though, so it’s only fitting to include a shot of this little guy that I ran in to on my route.

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The summer weather we had last week seemed like a distant memory as I ran through the morning fog and mist.

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Thursday’s track workout reminded me (again) that I need to cool it on the pace right out of the gate. My target was 7:45-7:48 for each 1600, but after pushing for a 7:13 and 7:10 in the first two, I slowed significantly in the second two to 7:24 and 7:27.

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And remember my quest for the best headbands? Well, I tested out a new brand this week, Bondi Band, starting with their sparkly, reversible Skinnyband ($9).

Pro: It stayed in place really well, despite the early evening wind, so it’s perfect for high-impact days. Con: The metallic fabric was a tad scratchy, so I’d recommend it for shorter workouts.

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I also tried their Single Braided Skinnyband ($10), which comes in a bunch of great colors. This one was super comfortable, but didn’t have as tight of a hold, so I’d recommend it for those low-impact days – i.e. boot-camp (and, as you can see, it’s also Brydan- and Brian-approved!).

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Here’s a close-up shot that shows both in better detail.

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Oh, and another highlight of the week? Super Duper Burger. I’ve been craving cheeseburgers like crazy during training, and this is a new spot that’s been on the must-try list. I can now attest that they do, indeed, live up to the name.

Homemade pickles? Yes, please.

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Needless to say, I was well fueled up going into the weekend’s 20-miler, which I decided to break into three parts. The first leg was eight miles on my own around the Marina before meeting up with with the Saturday morning run crew.

(Speaking of fuel, I ran right by one of my favorite dessert spots, Ghirardelli…can you tell I have food on the mind pretty much, non-stop, now?)

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From there, I met up with the group to knock out the next eight miles. We covered a lot of ground, both literally and metaphorically, chatting about a range of topics over the course of the run. Of course (surprise, surprise), the conversation did turn to food about halfway through (as most long runs seem to do at some point).

For the third leg, I met up with hubby and Kevin, and we decided on a route through Golden Gate Park. I was 16 miles in, and they had just finished a swim in the bay, so we settled into an easy pace for a while before splitting; they went ahead to make a loop, while I doubled back.

Before I knew it, I hit 20 and kept going…partly because it was cold and windy (and I didn’t want to walk back in it to the car), and partly because I felt like I could keep going!!! But I didn’t want to push it too far…

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The final tally: 22.5 miles. Aside from being completely soaked through with sweat (I drank two liters of water during the course of the run, yikes) and getting chilled and chafed as a result, I felt really good.

I do have to find some better sweat-wicking gear for the race, however, because this week’s shorts just didn’t cut it (see below). Anyone have suggestions?

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My “reward” for this week’s milestone run: An ice-cold bath. Not fun at first, but you do get used to it.

A few tips for making it more bearable, based on my experience: Bundle up on top, get in the bath before you add ice to keep it from being such a shock, and don’t forget reading material to help pass the time.

Oh, and a bring burrito, too…can’t forget the food!

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Stay tuned; next week marks the one-month countdown to race day!

Thanks to the folks at Bondi Band for providing samples for review; all opinions are my own.