My life has endless blank pages…

#RnRSF Race recap

OK, so I think it’s time for my 2013 race recap.  After taking a few day pause after the Boston Marathon to absorb all the information, cry a little bit, sleep a little less than normal, and tell my family how much they mean to me, I was able to wrap my brain around writing race recaps.

I was lucky enough to win a free race entry to the Inaugural Rock n Roll San Francisco 1/2 marathon on April 7th.  I had about 2 months notice, so had to quickly prepare, since I hadn’t run much since my 10k at the end of October in Virginia.  I knew it wasn’t much time to prepare, so I probably wouldn’t get proper training in, but how could I turn down a free entry to race in a city that I love, and it was their first RnR event in the city?! There was definitely no question that I had to accept!

header-san-francisco

I made a paper training plan (I love it. Graph paper and school supplies and color-coordinating things … all things I love! Ridiculous, I know).  I got about a month into training and was feeling really great and then I went down to San Diego for a week to visit family, and run along my old stomping grounds (the beach!).  I got 2 runs in and then I started noticing that my shins were starting to feel tender. Oh no, I know that feeling wall (unfortunately).  I started to ice my shins in the hopes that it would go away. After a couple days of icing, it was still feeling the same (I could feel the tender spots when I walked, so I knew running at that time was completely out of the question), and then my calves started to tighten up.  When I say tighten up, I mean they were basically locking up. They were so tight that I was walking funny because I couldn’t straighten my legs when I walked. They felt extremely tight and painful and bruised – like someone had taken a baseball bat to them.  It was something I had never felt before and honestly, I was getting scared.  I continued to ice my shins, and would try to stretch out my calves as much as I could, which basically amounted to dropping my calves off of the curb until it was painful, which didn’t take much.

I couldn’t do anything but wait and hope that it improved. At that point I was 3 weeks from the 1/2 marathon. I had to make the decision to make this a fun race; enjoy the scenery, run if I could, walk if i needed, stop and take pictures and just have fun. No anticipated finish time and no goal other than to finish and run the entire race with a smile on my face.  Up until race day, the longest run I had prior to that was on March 6th and it was 5 miles. I hadn’t run in an entire month and the longest run I had under my belt wasn’t even half the course. I was in trouble!

But being in trouble in a beautiful city was totally worth it 🙂

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5

I started the race in Corral 22 of 25. Who was I kidding; I wasn’t about to win this thing! I had no business being in a corral earlier than 22. I saw the 2:45 pacer and thought how amazing that would be if I could just do 2:45 (far from a PR, but at least it was a goal), and then quickly just decided to run what felt good. To listen to my body and respond accordingly. I was wearing my Garmin, and used it for a few minutes in the first mile to see what pace felt comfortable.  I quickly realized I was going faster than the 2:45 pacer, and instead of hanging back with them, I decided to just keep going at the pace I was at, since my legs felt good and my lungs were functioning properly.

Crazy elite runners in the front. A girl can dream, right?

Crazy elite runners in the front. A girl can dream, right?

This is the furthest back I've ever started a race - 3 corrals from the back.

This is the furthest back I’ve ever started a race – 3 corrals from the back.

If you’ve never run in San Francisco, you’re truly missing out. It is an absolutely beautiful city with scenery all around. You look one way and you’ve got the Bay Bridge; you look another direction and you’ve got Alcatraz and Angel Island.  Then turn a little to your left and you have the Piers, boats, the seals and the Golden Gate Bridge that stretches into the Marin headlands.  And it doesn’t stop there folks! We’ve got something to please everyone!

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I purposefully set this as my first song so that I'd start the race off pumped up.

I purposefully set this as my first song so that I’d start the race off pumped up.

This race started and finished in North Point, near Ghiradelli Square  (not great for cheap, long term parking but fabulous for clean indoor bathrooms!), and even though you start in a semi-residential area, you quickly run through the Marina, by Crissy Field, with distant views of the GG Bridge, and then start winding uphill near Fort Mason just before the 5k mark.  At that point, the first hill, I slowed down a bit to save my energy and tried to lengthen my stride (short legs), and you can see people that started earlier than you/are faster than you already coming downhill. Oh man, I had some time to make up!

When I ran Nike Womens 1/2 in SF in 2011, I loved the fact that people living along the marina (you know, in my dream houses) would stand in their pj’s with a hot cup of coffee (or tea… or a hot toddy more likely) in front of their homes, or on their balconies, or stand in their front windows waving to everyone.  I know that’s a huge race for SF, and there wasn’t any of that during this race, so I’m hoping once this race gains some notoriety over the next couple years, people will be just as supportive.

It's always nice to see a familiar face at races :)

It’s always nice to see a familiar face at races 🙂

Also, speaking of Nike Womens, can I get an Amen for #RnRSF not being ridiculously crowded?! When I ran Nike, I had to literally fight my way through crowds for the better majority of the first 9 miles of the 1/2 marathon. No bueno. While I would really love to see race etiquette become more widespread, it’s just not happening. I know I wasn’t planning on running this race for time, but it was REALLY nice to not have to forcefully slow myself down, as to not run into people walking 6 across, or stopping in the middle of the lane to take pictures, or not move at all when you politely say “on your left,” or have to turn your body sideways to squeeze through people.  Since RnR just took this race over, registration was capped and it sold out lightning fast.  It was a refreshing change from the crowded course of the RnR San Diego that I’ve run a couple times.

By the time I got to mile 3-4, I was still feeling pretty good, and was enjoying the scenery and people watching 🙂   I would randomly look at my watch every once in awhile, more out of curiosity that anything, and found that I was keeping a decent pace.  I kept running at whatever felt comfortable, and every once in awhile would send a little mental message to my IT band to hang in there.  This is where the hills started to make their entrance.

So close, yet so far!

So close, yet so far!

This is about mile 5. I stopped to take a picture of myself... let me just say selfies during a race, and trying to get yourself and the background in, is not easy. Thankfully there were lots of us struggling, so we all took turns taking pictures of each other.

This is about mile 5. I stopped to take a picture of myself… let me just say selfies during a race, and trying to get yourself and the background in, is not easy. Thankfully there were lots of us struggling, so we all took turns taking pictures of each other.

Also, at this point just before the bridge, just after I finished having the above photo taken, I heard someone yell my name, and turned around to see one of my old Team in Training SD teammates, Captain Jenn, walking up for a photo op, too! It’s always awesome to see friends along the course, especially those you didn’t even know were there!  I hung back for a minute or 2 to take a few pictures for them, said my goodbyes and headed off to the beginning of the bridge.

7I ran behind/with the girl right in front of me in this photo for most of the bridge.  The photo on the back of her tank top was a memorial for her father, who passed away a week before the race. Naturally, I got all emotional, thinking back to why I started running, why I joined Team in Training, and had a mini conversation with my nephew.  The picture button on my fuel belt is of him, and he’s been with me for every single race I’ve run since the beginning of 2010.  For me, running is an emotional journey.  I get teary eyed at random points throughout the race, thinking of people, thinking of my life, thinking of those I miss, and thinking about the journey I’m on.

I passed her with a nod of understanding and solidarity for those of us who run in memory of a loved one, and continued on to finish up that part of the bridge and begin my journey into the second half of the race… but not before stopping for another photo op with the SF skyline in the background!

8By the time I hit the 10k mark, I was so far off my current 10k PR time, and when I hit the halfway point, I was about 15 minutes behind my 1/2 marathon PR time, so I knew I wasn’t even going to be close to normal in terms of time, but I was feeling good and strong and every other positive emotion possible, so I kept going, and picked up my pace when my legs and lungs felt good enough. Finish strong, that’s my new goal.  At this point in the race, we turn around and head back on the other side of the bridge, back into San Francisco. That’s when people started honking at us from the bridge (always an amazing feeling).

When I looked at my watch at mile 9.5, I had somehow made up quite a bit of time and was close to my normal 1/2 time at that point/gave myself a few mental high fives.  I was still feeling good, so I was confident I could at least squeak by around/just under 2:30, especially since I had passed the 2:30 pacer at mile 2 and hadn’t seen her since.

Less than 4 miles to go!

Less than 4 miles to go!

I saw this guy at about mile 10ish and he totally made my day. I had to stop for a few seconds to get a picture of this. Inspirational signs are the BEST during a long race. Fart, poop, shart, sweat and Chuck Norris jokes are my personal favorites 🙂

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When I got mile 11 and looked at my watch, I was really surprised to see that I was really close to my PR time that I set back in October at Crawlin Crab 1/2 marathon in Virginia. Super stoked! I just had to keep up that same pace to be close, but as you know, the wall is fast approaching. I usually hit it around mile 10, and it stayed away for an extra mile, but right as I was passing the mile 11 marker, it was like my legs wanted to give up.  My lungs were burning a little more than normal and I was getting tired.  I picked a person in front of me and just told myself to keep stride with them.  I didn’t need to pass them, but I couldn’t let them get any further ahead of me.  Little things like this really get you through a race.

I had to take one more walk break to calm my lungs just before mile 12.  30 seconds of walking can really rejuvenate your legs… and your mind. Just after mile 12, we approached our last hill, and I heard sirens behind me, which is never a good sign.  I kept looking back because I couldn’t tell where they were coming from and wanted to make sure I wasn’t in their path.  When I looked ahead, I saw 2 ambulances in the grassy area, and knew the sirens behind me were headed to that spot, so I pulled to the left to give them room on the grass/walking path.  As I got closer to the 2 ambulances, I saw the EMT’s on the ground, and hoped it was just someone short of breath, or a gnarly cramp.  But as I got right next to them, I saw a woman on the ground, shirt and sports bra cut off, with the defib patches on her chest and they were trying to resuscitate her.  This is never ever something you want to see, and after sending her all the positive thoughts I could muster at that point, I continued on, but that sight shook me mentally and emotionally and I couldn’t concentrate after that. It’s a mental image you just don’t want sticking around in your head.

I looked down at my watch one more time at mile 12.5 and realized I could really close to my PR time as long as I didn’t do anything wrong.  I turned off my music (I usually do at that point, so I can hear everyone cheering while you are finishing).  I took a deep breath and tried to kick it into whatever my high gear was at that point.  I still felt good at that point, but exhausted.

Triumphant exhaustion

Triumphant exhaustion

I looked at the clock as I was crossing the finish line, but had no idea how much later I had started from the 1st corral, so that wasn’t very helpful.  I stopped my Garmin right after crossing and looked at the time as I got my water bottle and tried to catch my breath.  “Holy crap, you may have just PR’d…”  But I didn’t want to get my hopes up until the official times were out because my Garmin hasn’t been exactly reliable in past races.

I grabbed a half banana, a little bag of pretzels and started to drink the supplied water while waiting for my medal and Finish Line photo opp…

BOOM SHAKA LAKA! 1/2 marathon #8: rocked it!

BOOM SHAKA LAKA!
1/2 marathon #8: rocked it!

After that it was time to walk around, let my legs cool down (and not lock up), stretch EVERYTHING out, and see if I could find any familiar faces.

Finish area GLORY.

Finish area GLORY.

After stretching for a little while and stalking looking on Twitter, I knew Pavement Runner was still in the area, so we coordinated a meet up.

SONY DSC

After this photo, Brian and I decided to walk over to the stage area, where the Finish Line band was playing.  Because of the layout of Ghiradelli Square, everything was a bit spread out, and the stage was tucked into a back corner. If he wouldn’t have reminded me about the band, I would have never known they were there. So glad he mentioned it!  The Mowgli’s were chosen as the Finish Line headliner and they did not disappoint! I had never heard of them before RnRSF announced them, but quickly fell in love with their lyrics, their music, their energy.

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Since I still felt pretty decent, I decided to forgo the taxi and just walk to where I had parked my car that morning, just over a mile away. It was a nice cool down walk, but I could feel my left knee getting just a smidge stiff about halfway through, so I knew I had to foamroll my IT band that night… and my bladder was about to explode by the time I got to my car, which is never a good feeling (but one I have quite often).

All in all, this was a fabulous race, one I would proud to do again and again.  I know they plan on changing the course next year, but still incorporate the bridge.  Due to the fact that they only recently took over the race,  there was no time for band permitting, so there was only a band at the beginning and end of the race.  If it were any other race, I wouldn’t have even given it a second thought, but since it’s a Rock n Roll event, it was a little disheartening that there was no rockin or rollin.  I completely understand why, though, and don’t fault them at all for it.   Don’t worry Competitor, I’ll be back!

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Comments on: "#RnRSF Race recap" (7)

  1. Wow, impressive that you had a good race when you hadn’t been able to run, great job! I love running in SF and I share your dream of marina houses. 🙂 Good to hear it wasn’t crowded like NWM, that one is awful for crowds!

  2. Great job, looks like a beautiful course!

  3. Love all the photos. Have yet to visit SF….gotta make it happen!

  4. Awesome job on the PR!! It was definitely a fun race!

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