The One and Only Boston Marathon

I haven’t been the best blogger lately. I have had things to post about (a new half PR at the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January, two new PRs in the 10k – first in February at the Super Bowl 10k and then at She.Is.Beautiful in March – maybe I’ll post about those some day). But my focus has been with other things – namely trying get work done on the dissertation. But I HAVE to post about Boston. Yesterday felt like a dream and I can’t stop thinking about it. (PS lots of photos and long post today… I think that’s ok!)

My parents were nice enough to come up Wednesday evening and stay through Monday to watch our pups for us (our friend and SCE teammate, Selena, is helping out the rest of the trip) – thanks!!! Thursday we got to spend a little time with them and then finish up packing. That evening I was participating in a Civil War forum, which was awesome! But made for little sleep because Friday morning, Kevin and I left the house at 3:30am(!) to catch our 6:50am flight out of SFO. One of the nice things about getting to the airport that early is that there are no lines – not to check baggage, not security, not at the one place open at 5:30am in Jet Blue’s terminal. The flights were easy, we had a short lay over at JFK (hi for a hot second New York!). But my stomach was all twisted from gross airport food and I think the air pressure of the planes just gets to me.

IMG_7310

After a bit of confusion trying to get an Uber at the Logan Airport – you can’t – we were on our way to our Air B&B, just steps away from the Bunker Hill Monument – so cool! It was nice to stay in Charlestown rather than downtown because I tend to get caught up with all the stuff, and that can have a negative impact on my race. So instead we were in our little world and it didn’t feel like the most amazing race was happening in just a few days. Our host gave us some tips for dinner, we got some delicious food at Figs, and then were fast asleep after a long day.

Bunker Hill Monument

Bunker Hill Monument

Our home street while in Boston

Our home street while in Boston

Saturday I had planned to hit up the expo but we just didn’t get moving early enough. I did a quick run-seeing tour of the neighborhood we’re staying in and then Kevin and I met up with Chris at Cask n Flagon for a beer, a few steps from Fenway. We had to see a Red Sox game while we were in town! It was beautiful weather (I couldn’t believe the forecast was calling for showers just two days later) and the game was fun, even though the Sox lost. After the game, we met back up with Chris, as well Susan, and a couple other friends. We walked to Cambridge, across the Charles River, for some local beer and dinner at Meadhall. Then we headed back to our little place.

Fenway!

Fenway!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!

Charles River

Charles River

Sunday morning I did my shakeout run and felt really good. I couldn’t believe how good my legs were still feeling after training and traveling. Many times before a marathon I can feel myself starting to get tired, so this was good news! After the run, Kevin and I headed out to the expo. The are so efficient at getting out the bibs, kudos! We quickly went through the expo (Kevin wanted some new Nike Frees… I forgot that Niketown was across the street and after realizing when we got back, said we could go after the race… yeah that didn’t happen). Then we walked down Boylston for some coffee and to see the finish line. We didn’t stay too long as we both wanted to get some work done and I wanted to lay low before the race. One of the nice things about staying at a place with a kitchen is that I could make dinner instead of eating out and not knowing if I would find what I wanted.

It's official - I got my bib!

It’s official – I got my bib!

The Continental Army wanted to wish me luck at my marathon! ;)

The Continental Army wanted to wish me luck at my marathon! 😉

Monday! Race Day! I woke up a little after 6am to make breakfast and get all my stuff situated. It wasn’t raining but was a little chilly. No problem. After eating my oatmeal, I got an Uber to take me to Boston Common. He was a funny guy and when the traffic got real bad and he knew that he couldn’t get me any closer, he asked “you’re running the marathon, you can walk 4 blocks, right?” Yep. So I followed the crowd to the Common where I didn’t wait to long before boarding a school bus on the long drive to Hopkinton. I dozed off here and there on the ride, ate a Picky bar, and watched the scenery. It rained a little on our way but didn’t seem too bad. And it wasn’t raining when we stopped. We got to Athlete’s Village and it was cold, wet, muddy, and amazing. So many runners! I had layered well, so didn’t mind the cold too much. I grabbed half a bagel, some water, and a coffee and just wondered around a bit to keep warm. I jogged a little warm up, about a mile, around in Athlete’s Village. Then I packed up my pockets with my gels, phone, and inhaler. I brought more gels with me than I usually do in a marathon, so it looked pretty silly. But I’m glad I did because I used all but one during the race. Finally, they called Wave 3 to start moving toward the corrals.

It was a bit rainy - thanks Bob & Jaime for the radar screenshot :)

It was a bit rainy – thanks Bob & Jaime for the radar screenshot 🙂

Many of my friends had told me about Athlete’s Village and the walk to the start. That’s how I knew to bring clothes that I was ok with tossing but would keep me warm while I waited, which wasn’t super long. But I didn’t realize how cool the walk from Athlete’s Village to the start would be. Families cheer for you like you’re a celebrity. You feel like you’re in a parade. It was rad. Before going to my corral, I made a final stop at the Port-o-potty. I kept my warm clothes for as long as possible. I ditched the pants on the way to the start because as I thought it might be a pain to take them off there – I think I was right. But I kept my two extra long sleeves on until minutes before we started. I chatted with some other runners, a couple first timers like me. It started to sprinkle but who cares at that point! And then we were off!

Hopkinton from Runner's World

Hopkinton from Runner’s World

I had a goal in mind for my race. I had a great training cycle and knew I could pull off a PR at Boston. But I also knew it was a hard course and I wanted to enjoy the marathon as much as possible. So I balanced those two things, mostly for the first 16 miles or so. After that it was less of a choice. I knew that the first mile was downhill and it is easy to go too fast and that can destroy a race. But I didn’t have to worry, it was so crowded that I couldn’t have gone faster than my 8:19 first mile if I had wanted to. After that I got into a grove, hanging around a 7:45 pace for the first 13 miles – just what I wanted to do.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

It was a little cold and rainy, but not terrible. Once you’re in the rain, it’s not bad and I was just happy it wasn’t hot! Apparently there were not quite as many spectators because of the weather but they were still awesome! Great signs – too many to remember. But I love that Boston accent – with crowds telling me to “Run Fastah!” and “Go hahd!” The guy singing the old lounge music was awesome and the group playing some New Kids of the Block made me smile. The course was good for me, as it rolls through its negative downhill first 16 miles. I loved seeing the mile markers with the town names and the miles painted onto the road. I didn’t know what the 6 Mile Moment was but I loved the signs anyway. I loved seeing the kids on the porches cheering for us, the Boston Strong signs and flags, the genuine excitement from the runners and spectators. So cool! We got to Wellesley and I knew we were near half way. Those college girls do not disappoint they were the best part so far! Everything was going so perfect.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 5.45.26 PM

The next three miles flew by and then we were entering the Newton Hills. But I had this. I was good. I kept reminding myself of all the Wilder runs, the hill we pounded up in Los Gatos, that I had this. I passed some people heading up the first hill. Still I slowed down here more than I had planned. The winds had kicked in at this point. I tried to tuck behind people to get out of the wind but it was hard. Either I was too far from someone and I wasn’t going to sprint to save energy… that seems counter productive or I tucked behind someone but it didn’t make much of a difference. It was also the coldest to me during miles 16-21. My hands were cold and it took a lot of work to get the gel out of my pocket, zip the pocket back up, and open the packet. They just weren’t cooperating in the cold. I had an idea where Heartbreak Hill was but didn’t realize I was finally on it until some guy yelled “You conquered Heartbreak Hill!” I had? Then why was I still running up it? A few minutes later I saw the official end of the hill. I knew I could do this! 5 miles left! I thought of my 5am 5 mile runs with Kim and told myself that’s all this was. Miles 16-21 were my slowest, all in the 8 minute range with Heartbreak Hill at 8:34.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 7.51.23 AM

Once we were in the 20s, there were huge crowds. Brookline crowds kept me moving and helped me get to the 7:50ish pace that I maintained for the rest of the race. I heard several spectators yell and cheer. They would pick a runner, myself included, and point to someone ahead of you “You can get him! You’re fastah than him! Go get him!” It made me laugh and I’m sure it also made me run faster.

Kevin's view before I came into the finish

Kevin’s view before I came into the finish

Then I saw the Citgo sign… away in the distance but I knew once I got to it, I only had a mile left. Some miles flew by, others dragged on. Mile 22-23, slow – I felt like I was there forever. But 25 and 26, whizzed by.

1 mile to go!

1 mile to go!

As I got close to the finish I worried I wouldn’t see Kevin in the crowds. We had talked about where he might be and we knew I might not see him because of all the people. But just as I turned on to Boylston I heard him yell for me. I was so happy to see him! I was so happy to be on Boylston. I picked it up and fought hard to run the last .2 at a 7 minute pace. I was happy but also almost felt like I would cry .. coming across that finish line that I had dreamed about, that I had seen in smoke on tv just two years ago, it was emotional and amazing. And I knew I had a PR and another BQ. I thought it was 3:28:XX but was stoked to find out it was a little quicker – 3:27:45! A 6 minute PR! At Boston!

Looking for Kevin

Looking for Kevin

Kevin got a couple photos as I passed him!

Kevin got a couple photos as I passed him!

IMG_3374

Grimace/smile coming up to the finish

Grimace/smile coming up to the finish

I went into the shoot and very quickly realized how cold I was. I took off the arm warmers, which were now wet and cold and doing me no favors. I texted my mom and dad to let them know I finished. And glanced at the text messages from friends – thanks! I wanted my medal and my space blanket. The volunteers were amazing. They knew we were all cold. They opened our water bottles and our protein shakes, I downed mine immediately, they helped up put on the blankets. As I got toward the end of the finisher’s area, there was a med tent with heating buses. I was really cold, shaking, and my right hand was so cold it felt hot – weird I know. I clearly looked as cold as I felt as one of the volunteers asked how I was. I told her my hand was cold and she directed me toward a heating bus. But it was full. So one of the other medical volunteers took me and a few others to a restaurant on the corner to get warm. He asked the people waiting for a table if we could have their seats, which they graciously gave us. Seriously, the Boston Marathon volunteers are the BEST! I texted Kevin to let him know I had to warm up a bit first before finding him. Finally I ventured back out and it took us a little while to connect. We were basically at opposite ends of the spectator/runners area. But yay we found each other! Kevin gave me his jacket and we headed back to our place.

All bundled up!

All bundled up!

IMG_7370We’re here for a few more days and will be doing some historical sight seeing. But I have to end with this: Boston was a dream… it almost feels like it didn’t happen! It was the most amazing, magical, unicorn-filled race of my life. Thanks to all who supported me and cheered me on! 😀

Thanks Boston!

Thanks Boston!

A Little Trail Race for the End of Summer

A couple months back, a grad friend of mine, Dustin, asked me about local trail races. I recommended a couple that I had run, including Race Thru the Redwoods. About a month ago, he asked if I was going to run it and I said, maybe, depends on how I feel post marathon. Well, about a week or so after the marathon, I was thinking about the race and decided it would be fun to run it. I knew it had a good climb in the middle and I am not comfortable running terribly fast on trails, so I knew I would not go out and do something dumb like try to race super fast three weeks after SFM. So along with my teammate and good friend, Leslie, decided to join my grad buddy and just fun run the Redwoods race. (Plus it was only $30 and goes toward the local community in Felton.)

The sign is more intimidating than the race

The sign is more intimidating than the race

Saturday, the day before the race, we joined Elise and Sejin for a speedy long run and then, Leslie and I headed up to UCSC to cheer for the SCE men who were racing in the kick off race for the cross country season. We had thought about running it too, but after seeing the speedy guys we were glad to have decided on the Redwoods instead!

SCE Men Represent

SCE Men Represent

Sunday morning, we all met at my house and headed up to the entrance to Henry Cowell State Park. I’ve had some parking problems at this race before but this year it was really easy: close to the start and free. We grabbed our bibs and ran into Bob and Jaime, who were cheering, and Jose and Dan, fellow SCE teammates who were also running. After a easy warm up mile, with some cheering for the kids race, we hopped into the pack to start the race. Race Thru the Redwoods (yes they use “thru” rather than “through” and yes, it drives me bonkers) is pretty small, capped at 700 runners, and is a self-seeded start. The start came quickly (no countdown or anything) and we were off.

Low key start

Low key start

Chasing Leslie

Chasing Leslie

The first mile is all on road through the parking area and entrance to the park; I’m pretty sure it is just to add a mile and get the course to the full 10k distance. Then we are on to the trails, some of which is pretty loose sand, and with our drought, very dusty. It was fun running with Leslie for the first mile or so, but then we settled into our comfortable paces and made our way through the trails and up the big climb that begins about half way through mile 2 and into mile 3. It’s pretty steep and even though I feel good on hills, I had to hike a portion on it (partially due to forgetting to my inhaler before the race). As I was coming to the top of the climb, a couple of the volunteers told me I was the 2nd or 3rd woman. I knew there was a woman ahead of Leslie, so I knew that would mean I was the 3rd woman. Pretty cool! (But not accurate…)

10603858_10152665186925948_2336812149695091381_o

Where are the rest of the runners?

Where are the rest of the runners?

After the turn around, I saw there was one woman not that far behind me. Even though I was really running this as a fun run, I liked the idea of finishing 3rd, so I did my best to keep ahead of her. About three-quarters of a mile from the finish (give or take), I saw Jaime, Bob, and Miriam cheering. I gave them a smile and kept on pushing through the trails. Just as I came up to the finish, the woman behind me had caught up. I tried to give it a good kick at the end but she had more left than I did and scooted past me. But I quickly learned that Leslie had finished third, meaning I finished fifth. And as Leslie reminded me, I did just run a marathon, so I was pretty happy with a 5th place. My finish time was 48:14, about 4 minutes faster than when I ran the race last in 2012

2nd place AG

2nd place AG

We hung around for some of the raffle and the age group awards, where we all did really well. Leslie placed 1st, Dan placed 2nd, Dustin placed 3rd, and I took 2nd in our respective age groups. It ended up being a great morning and our only complaint was a lack of race day registration and no coffee at the finish! 

Do you trail run? What’s your favorite trail race?

Catching that Unicorn in San Francisco

Something amazing happened this weekend…and I don’t even know how to start this blog post. And I know it’s going to be crazy long…so you’ve been warned!

After I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon last summer, I knew I needed a break from marathons. And I was pretty sure I would wait until the SF Marathon before taking on 26.2. I had considered running Eugene (which unfortunately was moved to the same day as SF) or SLO, but just wasn’t feeling it when I would have needed to start training. I was pretty happy to be running more trails and hills, and focusing less on speed … until I had a great race at the Super Bowl 10k, which started my streak of PRing in every distance this year. The only downside of choosing SFM was that I would not be able to run Wharf to Wharf. (But you can read all about my friend Leslie’s race experience at her blog.) My goals for SF (my 5th marathon) remained the same from the moment I decided to run it until race day: run a smart, strong race regardless of what that might mean in time. And I can say I did just that – but it also resulted in a great time that I never expected!

Saturday

Ok introductions for the post are over and now its time to get through the weekend. I packed up a ton of snacks (lots o’ carbs as taught to me by Hillary) and the hubs and I headed up to SF. Like last year, I again had the privilege of serving as a SFM ambassador. Unlike last year, I decided to commit less time to volunteering so I could save my energy for the race. This meant that I only volunteered for a few hours at the expo. Props to the hubs who hung out at the expo, not the most exciting place if you’re not running the race. The expo was held at Fort Mason and had amazing views. I helped to register runners for 2015 and if I looked to my left, I had a stunning view of the bay. I got to work with Paulette, who I always have a fun time with, and Bonnie, who I just met but was full of excitement for the weekend! SFM hooked up its ambassador volunteers with some nice goodies (lots of GU and a sweet water bottle). In addition to picking up my bib and shirt, I also got my 52 Club sweatshirt. As I was heading out of the expo, I saw Erin G. and got a big awesome bear hug from this awesome gal. Then the hubs and I got some awesome grub at one of the food trucks outside the expo: Doc’s of they Bay. They had the best veggie burger I’ve ever had!

Goodies for SFM Ambassador volunteers

Goodies for SFM Ambassador volunteers

Black Bean Burger, photo courtesy of Doc's website.

Black Bean Burger, photo courtesy of Doc’s website.

After eating, the hubs and I headed to the Hotel Triton, our home for the race weekend. It took FOREVER to get the hotel because of a pro Palestine protest weaving its way through the city. Once we finally checked in, we got to our funky little room (I loved the character of this hotel! Only downside was that our mini fridge wasn’t working). After relaxing a bit, we decided to head out for a beer at Golden Gate Tap Room. We had been trying to organize dinner plans with Chris and finally decided on the Cheesecake Factory because it would a wide selection and was convenient (I also thought it would be kid friendly for Chris’s son, but even though we told them we had a child with us they didn’t bring a child’s menu or even a chair for him… boo!). Even though it’s a chain and I like to eat more locally, it’s a nice pick because of its location looking down on Union Square. The wait was long but it ended up being almost perfect as it took a while for us all to connect. Fellow ambassador, Wes, also came by to say hello. It was fun to have dinner with the hubs and Chris’s fam; it was also pretty low-key and not far from our hotels. Then, after heading back to get my forgotten water bottle, it was time to get to bed for an early morning wake up.

Protestors in SF

Protestors in SF

Fun hotel room

Fun hotel room

Sunday, Race Day!

I was scheduled to run in Wave 3, which started at 5:42am (yep you read that right). So my alarm was set for 2:45 to eat breakfast. I got up, ate my Picky Bars and banana. And then back to bed. I didn’t need 3 hours to get ready, so I set my alarm for 4am and tried to sleep. I didn’t really, but it was nice to relax a little more anyway. Once it was really time to get up, I quickly got dressed and headed out. When I got to the street there was a car that appeared to have been crushed by a ton of concrete. I was so confused… how did I sleep through this?! Turns out they were filming a movie about an earthquake outside our hotel (according to the internet The Rock will be in it). It looked pretty legit. Then I jogged down to the start (yep I had a warm up mile before my marathon). By the time I found the ambassador tent, I was pretty warm. I only brought a few things in my gear check (asthma inhaler, Immodium, hotel key, long sleeve… wish I would have brought some sweatpants and flip-flops but I never really plan well for post race). I met up with old friends, including Alisyn who I missed at the expo, and met some of the ambassadors. I also caught up with Erin S. and Sarah. Erin S. and I had talked over Strava about starting the race together since we had similar goals. I was glad to find her as we hadn’t really made any real meet up plans. Then it was time for the Wave 2 runners to hop into their corral. A few minutes later, Erin S., Sarah, and I decided to look for the 3:35 pacers as that was where we all wanted to start. We found them quickly but didn’t realize that they were in Wave 2 (Wave 3 was for 3:35-4 hour marathoners). We asked them about it and said they would start with Wave 3. Well, then the race started and we were off at 5:30. I was happy to get going earlier, no time for race nerves to undermine me… but it also meant that I was starting 12 minutes earlier than I told the hubs and I worried he would miss me at the finish. I had no phone and no way of telling him.

The first few miles were easy, breezy. We stuck with the pacers, told some jokes and had a good time. I was glad to start off with some friendly faces as I typically run with others and I knew it would make it feel more like a long run than a race, and it kept me from getting in my head too much. I also paid no attention to my watch, I never once looked at the overall time in the entire race, I trusted the pacers to do the math and let myself just run by feel. As we headed into our first climb, we joked “it’s getting a little boring, what do you say we climb a hill?” This was the way we approached the first couple of climbs… until we hit mile 11, which has several good hills, we started to call them speed bumps to keep ourselves relaxed. When we were climbing a Presidio hill, we looked to our right and saw the sun rising over Alactraz – so beautiful!  And soon we at the beginning of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Miles 1-6 (from Strava’s miles as I missed a ton of mile markers and didn’t get all the splits): 8:11, 8:09, 8:20, 8:00, 8:07, 9:02 (hill climb much?)

Photo from fellow SFM ambassador Stan's FB

Photo from fellow SFM ambassador Stan’s FB

We all knew that the Bridge is a false flat… meaning it looks flat but you’re climbing that sucker. But the Bridge is my favorite part and not just because it’s beautiful. I love this part because we get to see so many of the other runners. We cheered on the winners who looked strong and fast. We saw Chris and Erin G. rocking their races and Albert doing a great job of pacing. On our way back over the bridge, I saw so many friends running, it was awesome! I just missing cheering for Jordan (but girl, know that I totally screamed for you!), so I’m not sure if she heard me, but definitely had a cheer fest with Alisyn, Paulette, and Wes. Then we were over the bridge and heading toward mile 10. I remembered from last year’s half marathon that I trashed my quads by screaming down hill only to push through the punishing hills of mile 11. I told the girls, I was going to be conservative and take it easy downhill, and they agreed. And while the following hills were hard, they didn’t feel nearly as difficult as they did last year. So my plan worked and I survived what I think is really the most difficult climbing in the race. We then headed into Golden Gate Park. I knew fellow SCE team member and friend Sam would be somewhere around my mile 13 or 14 as she was running the Second Half. When I saw her, I was stoked. I knew I felt good still and strong. I totally waved like a crazy person at her and she, with her friend Jill, cheered for me. I love that feeling. Sam also sent a video of my craziness to the hubs and some friends. Now we just had to get through the park.
Miles 7-14: 8:11, 8:03, 8:16, 8:04, 8:00, 8:21, 8:25, 7:48

Coming off the bridge

Coming off the bridge

6514781_race_0.8699969048722813.display

Golden Gate Park is deceiving because you’re in it for 6 miles and it’s full of rolling hills. I have only run in there a handful of times, but Erin S. and Sarah run it often and knew the hardest hills. For a while we had been about 30 seconds to a minute ahead of the 3:35 pacers, but in the park they caught back up with us. At this point we had some goals: we had gotten Sarah through miles 11-12, that she had dreaded and now we focused on pushing Erin S. through mile 15 (a spot that had been hard for her at Boston this year). We encouraged each other, Sarah and Erin S. sang some songs that my running brain could not recognize, and Erin S. told jokes when we climbed. Soon enough we were through mile 15 and our next goal was to get through the park. Unfortunately, Sarah fell behind here (but don’t worry she still scored a PR at the race, which was only her 2nd marathon – rock star!). We got out of the park and headed toward Haight, and some nice downhills. We ran through some awesome bubbles in that stretch and didn’t let Erin S. go home (she lives near the 20 mile mark). I also had my fastest mile in this stretch.

Miles 15-21: 8:12, 7:49, 8:21, 7:32, 7:45, 7:54, 7:42.

In the park (I think?)

In the park – all smiles

Final stretch! I told Erin S. that mile 22 was my beast to overcome. It’s where I really felt apart at Santa Rosa and started walking. She and one of the pacers both said we’d get through it, and I told the pacer that he better even if he had to tie a rope to me and pull me. Even though there are a few little climbs beginning in mile 22, I actually felt ok. I started mentally telling myself things like “only 36 minutes left, you can do this” (assuming I was running way slower than I was). We were quieter in these final miles, but still encouraged each other. Around mile 24, a police tried to stop us to get an emergency vehicle through. We stopped, briefly, it wasn’t ready to go so we decided to sprint through the intersection. Not a fun forced stop but I hope they reached the emergency safely. I had never dreamed I would be at this point in a marathon. I really thought I would slow down and end up closer to my previous marathon PR (3:42). (Despite how many times Leslie told me I was going to BQ this weekend! She knew better than I did!) Erin S. said something about how we were about to qualify for Boston but I didn’t believe her. It seemed so unreal. We cruised up to AT&T Park and I told myself it was only about 10 minutes left, I could do anything for 10 minutes. At some point we eeked a little ahead of the pacers (who BTW did a great job! They reminded us to keep our shoulders down and run by effort on the hills). I never really felt terrible in the race but in that last mile, I REALLY wanted to see that finish line. I started scanning the crowds around mile 25 for the hubs, but I feared that since I started early and was ending close to my unrealistic earliest finish time, he was going to miss me at the end (he was probably walking just by the finish as I crossed). And then there was the finish, I had been dragging a little but told Erin S. “let’s do this” and forced a little sprint to the end. Official finish time: 3:33:49 (age group: 13, gender: 63, overall: 560). This is a 9 minute PR. And a Boston Qualifier. On a course with nearly 1000 feet of climbing. What!?! And by the way, running a full marathon and BQing is a fast way to secure a bond with someone, so a special awesome thanks and high-five to my BQ BFF, Erin S.!
Miles 22-26.2: 7:52, 8:03, 8:13, 7:55, 7:51 (last .2, or .5 if you’re my Garmin, was a 7:13 pace).

So close to the finish!

So close to the finish!

Done!!

Done!!

Post race excitement with amazing runners: Erin S. my BQ BFF, me, Erin G. (speedy and 3rd in her age group), Taryn who ran her 35th marathon by 35, and Sarah with a sweet new PR.

Post race excitement with amazing runners: Erin S. my BQ BFF, me, Erin G. speedy and 3rd in her age group, Taryn who ran her 35th marathon by 35, and Sarah with a sweet new PR. (photo cred: Erin G.)

1911679_10154320285765478_7608846119533727816_n

After the finish, I borrowed Erin S.’s phone to text the hubs and tell him I had finished… yep he just missed me. He was bummed he had missed me and I was too, but he had been there to support me and even if he didn’t see me at the end, that was still awesome. I didn’t hang out for long, I was smelly and sweaty and wanted a shower and a Coke. The hubs and I headed back to the hotel, with a stop for that Coke. They were still filming the movie but we were able to easily get to the hotel and I hopped in the shower. Soon we were heading home with a long pit stop for my traditional post-race In N Out feast (this time with 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, fries, and a strawberry shake). I was exhausted but soo happy! I spent the rest of the day responding to congrats texts (thanks friends!), checking in with the coach who totally provided the perfect training for this race, and hanging out in the compression boots.

Sweet celebratory gift from Leslie :)

Sweet celebratory gift from Leslie 🙂

Erin G. loves to call running goals unicorns (like, you know, the mascot for the Boston Marathon) and I had been chasing this unicorn since December 2012. It was one I that started to feel was unattainable and to have it happen in SF, with such amazing people around me (and virtually supporting me in Santa Cruz and my parents in So Cal), was the best way I could have ever caught this unicorn!

Revisiting the Run in the Name of Love 5k

A little over a week ago, I was thinking about what a fun time I had at the Run in the Name Love 5k when I ran it with Elise in 2012. I realized it was happening again this year on June 15 and when I emailed my running coach my recap of my week’s running, I asked him what he thought of me throwing it into my schedule. He said he thought I was in good shape (could possibly even PR) but I would have to finish up my week’s long run after the race (I was used to that … yep, this training cycle has now included 3 long runs that have had a race thrown in the middle of them). Awesome! I hit up my friend Hillary to see if she might want to come down and run the 5k too, she’s not been training for races but I thought it would be fun to go to Carmel together and I knew she’d be game to add 8 miles after the race (she’s crazy like that). Yep, she was in – so I hopped online and paid the measly $35 registration fee.

Sunday morning, Hillary and I headed down to Carmel. I picked up my bib (and long sleeve tech tee) while Hillary registered. We then hung out in the car for 15 minutes or so since it was a little chilly and we didn’t want to warm up too soon before the race. We also saw John H. (fellow SCE runner and running cartoonist). Then we ran 2 miles for a warm up, I ran a few strides, we hopped in the port-a-potties, and had about 2 minutes before the race started – perfect!

Long sleeve (and medal)

Long sleeve (and medal)

For the race, I turned off the auto lap (and since there were no mile markers, I don’t have true splits – just what Strava marked as my miles). My only real concern with this race was that I would take the first mile way too fast as it is a steady downhill (in 2012 I ran a 6:11 mile here and then lost all steam, slowing to an 8+ min/mile in the end). And yep, I was flying in the first mile. I saw lots of women (and men) pass me, but when I glanced at my watch I knew I shouldn’t go any faster. My first mile was 6:08! I knew I should stay around 6:45 for the rest of the race, but I didn’t look at my pace ever (a few times I glanced at my watch in the second half of the race but only looked at mileage).

After the first 1.5 mile, there is a little climb. It’s very small, maybe only 20-30 feet. But after cruising downhill it feels like more. I passed a few women up this little climb. There was one woman who had been glancing back at me trying to keep ahead. I told myself to hold back and pass her later but I ended up passing her on this speed bump. There was a handful of women directly ahead of me and I passed most of them except a speedy girl who looked about 12 or 13 (she rocked the race and ended up taking 3rd woman!). My second mile was a much more reasonable pace: 6:49. The rest of the course has some little rollers but I held on to my pace, slowing down just a few seconds: 6:55. My final tenth of a mile was at a 6:07 pace. As I came up the finish I knew I was finishing under 21 minutes(!) but wasn’t sure of my exact time because just like at Carlsbad I didn’t actually stop my watch right away.

photo 4

Close up of medal

I took my medal and food bag. While I didn’t think my results would be posted yet, I was surprised to find they were (nice work SVE Timing!). I saw my official time was 20:56 (a few second faster than I thought!), that I had finished 1st in my age group, and 4th woman overall. I had no idea that I was going to finish in the top 10 women let alone the top 5! This was also a 9 second PR, only 2 1/2 months after my last 5k PR. I was STOKED! I then met up with Hillary. We decided to start our 8 mile “cool down” by jogging back to the car and dropping off the goody bags/medals and getting a long sleeve.

Hillary & I on the podium (and a 2nd place runner who we didn't know - but congrats to her too!)

Hillary & I on the podium (and a 2nd place runner who we didn’t know – but congrats to her too!) Photo credit: John H.

We then ran part of the course back to make it back just as they were starting the awards. We also found out that Hillary placed 3rd in our age group and we both got the cool beer mugs as prizes. Because it was misty and cold, we took off right after our awards to continue our run before cooling down but later I learned that John H. also placed 3rd in his age group! Nice work Team SCE! We finished the run off by going back to the car to drop off the mugs and then running some of 17 mile drive and exploring part of a new trail. This meant we ended up running 794 feet in elevation after the race (thankfully we ran pretty slow!). We finished up our morning with some coffee and quiche at Carmel Coffee Roasters. Pretty sweet race morning.

This is definitely a race I recommend running if you live in the Central Coast. The race is a tribute race and co-organized by Big Sur. It is extremely well-organized. For $35, it included a closed course, a long sleeve tech tee, a timing chip, a medal, and a food bag with a bagel and cream cheese, cookie, and fruit cup (I’ve paid more for longer races and not received that). The tech tee was a bit large (but they acknowledged that and it sounds like it won’t be a problem in the future). Additionally, the timing is well done and its relatively small, capped at 1000 runners. They had plenty of port-a-potties and I never saw a line for them. They even had a potty around 2ish miles in the race – rare for a 5k! The event also includes a 2k walk/run, and participants of the 2k are invited to bring their pups (they even get a free dog bandana, how cute!). And the beer glass is a great prize, I used it later that day!

Cheers to a fun race prize!

Cheers to a fun race prize!

Do you run 5ks? What is your favorite one?

 

 

 

My First Ragnar Relay: Team AfterNUUNRun

I honestly have no idea how to recap the Ragnar Relay. I have thought about how to sum up my Ragnar experience in one blog post for the past 2 days. And I’m still not sure how to do it, but here goes (and yep… it’s long).

This was my first relay race (well the kind of relay that needs vans and lasts more than a day). As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, this was sponsored by Nuun (race entry), The SF Marathon (vans), Skechers Pro (shoes), Gametiime (shirts), FitSok (socks), and Zensah (compression sleeves). And it was all organized by Chris (thanks so much!). He put together an awesome group of SFM Ambassadors (you can read all about our team members here). I had known about the race for a while and looked forward to it, but other than reading one of Paulette‘s posts on a previous relay experience, I didn’t do any real research. In other words, I had no idea what to expect.

I had been in SoCal for a week when relay Friday finally arrived. After being dropped off at the hotel, I connected with the other members of van 2. I had met all of them before (Alisyn, Paulette, Bruce, and Matt) except Miriam. I knew it would be a great group. We decorated the van and then headed to exchange 6 where we did our safety training and picked up our gear. Then lunch. Then waiting…

10153775_10152197530241492_1014632070_n

Around 6ish (our wave started at 12:45) we were ready to begin. And we got to see the other half of team (minus Chris who was racing his leg). I had met Keith, Wes, and Erin before and got to meet Jordan and Kristina for the first time IRL. After Alisyn and I rocked out to Bohemian Rhapsody (and the rest of our team slowly backed away from us), Chris came back in and our first runner was out. Insanity began.

AfterNUUNRun ladies (minus Jordan) at Exchange 6

AfterNUUNRun ladies (minus Jordan) at Exchange 6

Pretty much the whole team is waiting for Chris :)

Pretty much the whole team waiting for Chris 🙂

Goofin' off at Exchange 6

Goofin’ off at Exchange 6

We darted to each exchange, which were a bit haphazard and poorly organized. But soon enough, it was my turn to race. I had gotten a little nervous about my first night leg. I wasn’t scared to run in the dark since I do that often, but my course included a long section on a “horse and walking trail,” which I took to mean as unpaved (read tripping hazard). Alisyn volunteered Matt (her fiance) to run with me since he’s training for Western states. I was really glad I had him with me. Even through it ended up being a paved trail, I only saw 4 other runners the entire time, one of which ended up running with us for a couple miles. But there was also a random guy on a bridge and we were off the streets for most of the run. There was also one spot where I was half convinced we missed the route (we didn’t)! Save for a couple of street lights, it was a fast leg. I ended up running a 7:18 pace (my fastest on all the legs) and felt good enough to chat with Matt for most of the run. Since there few other runners, I only had 3 roadkills on this leg. Before I knew it, I was handing off to our next runner (although in the dark I could barely pick out Bruce from all the rest of the runners).

Waiting for Paulette's first leg

Waiting for Paulette’s first leg

Bruce’s leg was a short two miles, so we raced to the next exchange. This time, I joined Alisyn in her night run. She hasn’t run much in the dark and was nervous about night blindness. I was happy to join her on her leg since she had found me a buddy for mine. Her leg was the same distance as my first one (6.7 miles) but had a lot more climbing (823 feet!). But she did great and man, she rocks the downhills (I had to work hard to keep up!). Her leg led us into the Dana Point Harbor (would have been gorgeous if it was light out). Then our van got a break. Paulette and I were starving and there was a Carl’s Jr. I had a Diet Coke and a big order of fries (carbs & salt? yes please!). My stomach had been hurting, this didn’t really help but it tasted great at the time. Then we drove down to Oceanside for the next big exchange.

With lights & vests before Alisyn's leg.

With lights & vests before Alisyn’s leg.

Exchange 12 was at the Oceanside Pier and what apparently is now known as the Junior Seau Amphitheater. I had forgotten my sleeping bag, so I slept in the car with the ladies while the guys camped out on the beach. I got about 2, 2 1/2 hours of sleep. Eh. When I checked my phone I saw that Van 1 was making up massive time on their legs and would be at the exchange faster than expected. So we rushed to get ready and Matt at the handoff from Chris. When Chris came in we had to tell him we hadn’t seen Van 1 yet, but we figured they were parking. (nope). We headed off to inland Oceanside and when we got there, we saw Van 1. We were shocked … and then we realized (at apparently about the same time they did) that they had gone to wrong exchange. We waved as they piled into the van to go back and get Chris!

O'side

O’side

My next leg was the one I was looking forward to the most. It was only 2.1 miles, so I had hoped to be really speedy (and I knew there was a good downhill) and it ended at my high school (go Longhorns!). Well, the course was more hilly than I remembered (nearly 300 feet, a decent amount for just 2 miles) and I caught 2 red lights (boo!). I ended up being about a minute slower than expected. Despite this, I still had 10 roadkills (pretty good for 2 miles). I barely got to realize I was at my high school before we were off to the next stop.

993083_10104250740813255_5060443005203574156_n

After Alisyn’s 2nd leg, exchange 18

The next major exchange was at TaylorMade in Carlsbad, less than a mile from where the hubs and I used to live. We didn’t spend much time there, we were hungry. We decided to head down south a bit and catch breakfast at Denny’s in Encinitas (yes, I know there are SOOO many good breakfast places in Encinitas but time and cheap breakfast were the priorities). I was excited about a real bathroom and for the first time actually changed all of my clothes (as opposed to just a shirt) and brushed my teeth! That was the best. I ordered a bunch of eggs and toast to calm my upset stomach (it seemed to work but took some time) and had a nice cup of black coffee. We saw two other teams there before we left for the next big exchange at Torrey Pines Hang Gliding park.

Catching up with fellow SFM ambassador Heather

Catching up with fellow SFM ambassador Heather

10173705_10104250740808265_1226779218269342946_n

I hung in the van for a bit when we got there because I was tired and my stomach still hurt. But eventually I found my way to the rest of my group, who were enjoying the amazing views (and not noticing how close we were to Blacks Beach…) At this exchange, we ran into fellow SFM Ambassador Heather and my fellow Fleet Feet team member, Erica. And then it was off for morning running on a beautiful, sunny day. My leg went around Mission Bay. (It wasn’t great to be able to see the exchange way on the other side at mile 3!) I am glad I got to run this in the day as it was so pretty. The leg was described as “very hard” but save for a couple flights of stairs, it was really flat. The hardest part was the final mile, which was straight into a pretty strong headwind. I ended up with 31 roadkills and a strong need to change into non-sweaty clothes (thankfully I changed quickly and was able to do so before we moved to the next exchange). It took me an hour to run my final 7.5 miles but I had completed just about 23 miles at this point, so I was ok with it.

1558474_race_0.2109730084369148.display

Last handoff to Bruce at Mission Bay

Last handoff to Bruce at Mission Bay

The final legs weaved through the nicest parts of San Diego and the race ended at the harbor behind the San Diego Convention Center. I can see why they picked this location: stunning view and lots of parking. But it is also one of the busiest parts of SD on a sunny, spring day during rolling spring break, with tons of Ragnar runners. So basically a big ol’ mess of traffic. After sitting in it for a while, most of our van’s runners jumped out to meet the rest of the team and run in with our final runner, Alisyn. But I was exhausted so I hung with Matt who was driving. We met up with the rest of the group and posed for a finish line photo 🙂 We ended up finishing 8th of the 510 mixed regular teams and 24th overall (720 teams). Not too shabby! Then it was time for beers!

Finish!

Finish!

This was a crazy experience and there were things I loved and didn’t love about it all.

Loves: I loved running through the area. The course wove through places where I had lived in college, where the hubs grew up, where I grew up, and where we had lived together. I had a story for each community for my van (whether they wanted to hear it or not). I also loved being a part of a team and running as a group. I loved my team, even those in van 1 I didn’t spend nearly as much time with. And we had a pretty chill van and that was nice. And I liked racking up all those miles so quickly!

Not So Great: I didn’t like that I didn’t get to spend much time with the other van. It’s kind of unavoidable but it almost felt like 2 teams instead of one. I was also really confused about how they described each legs of the race. My hilliest run was rated the easiest and my most flat run the hardest. I’d like it if Ragnar provided an explanation of how they determined course difficulty to better prepare for the runs. I also thought in the “trail” sections they should have put up some floodlights and I’d think more signage would be awesome. I also really like sleep, so not having much of it was not fun for me.

I’m not sure if I’ll run a relay race again. But then again, the Calistoga to Santa Cruz Relay seems pretty tempting…

My favorite part!

My favorite part!

(thanks to all the team members for the photos 🙂 )