Tuesday, July 28, 2009

San Francisco Marathon

Wha?! It's 3:00 AM?! What's going on? Is it Christmas?!

My alarm went off at 3:00 am (followed shortly by three other alarms I had set) which is just a little too early for a race. Mario seemed a little confused as to what all the commotion was about at such an unusual hour. See his cute little pricked ears above?

I have to give a shout-out to Boyfriend who woke up at 3:40 am after going to sleep past 1 am (he was at a concert). He was originally really happy my original start time was 6:30 am so he could have an hour's more sleep. At the expo I bumped up a few corrals which also bumped up my start time. He woke up and drove me to the start so I wouldn't have to catch a cab. Thank you!!

Everyone has been saying what wonderful running weather we had. I have to admit I fully expected it to be much cooler. I thought I would be freezing until mile 9. I was working up a sweat by mile 2. There was a lot of fog in the air (and having come from the Golden Gate Park area I knew it would thicken as we ran into that area of the course) which made things fairly humid. But I will take cool foggy humidity over a blazing sunny dry heat any day!

I turned Garmin on about 10 minutes before the race start to give him a chance to get satellite reception. I knew it may be a problem with the tall buildings after my run home from Union Square a few weeks ago. A woman next to me was holding her Garmin up above her head so I knew I wasn't the only person who was having problems. Usually when the satellite reception is poor and I start running the distance turns out pretty wonky but it does start ticking away. When I crossed the start line I hit my Garmin and it read a big fat ZERO. The distance wasn't ticking at all.

I switched screens and the time was running. But still no distance reading. I totally panicked. I was a little confused for a few minutes. Should I stop running and attend to this? No, I'm trying to PR. Should I turn if off and reset it? No, then the overall time would be off. At least now I know my time. Why didn't I wear that pace band? I was fiddling with it so intently I am really lucky I didn't run into a pole or face plant in a pothole. I decided to keep going. At about 4 minutes into the race the distance started recording. So I knew my overall pace would be a little off as well as the overall distance.

I knew exactly what to expect the first 19 miles of the course. At some point in training (and often many points) I had run these miles. In my head I knew I had to get to mile 16.5 feeling good (the worse of the hills and inclines were over at this point). My hope was to keep as close to a 10:18 pace as possible until mile 22 and then dig deep and go for it.

The first couple of miles along the Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf were flat and went by quickly. The smell of sourdough bread was heavenly. The first hill came after Aquatic Park. It is not too long but fairly steep. I knew there was a descent after on which I could recover and I chugged up the hill without much problem. Crissy Field was also flat and I started mentally preparing for the long incline up to the bridge and the hills to follow.

We started our ascent up to the bridge. I am very happy I made it a point to run this hill a few times in training. I knew just how far I had to go and on what areas I could recover before starting to climb again. Before I knew it I was up on the bridge running on the actual roadbed! Of course the fog was so thick you could barely appreciate being up there, but I loved the fog horn that would blow beneath us. As I previously mentioned I love the incline of the bridge. Not too hard going up, not too hard coming back down.

After the bridge there was another long sloggy uphill before a screaming downhill. Then we started the run down the avenues towards Golden Gate Park. At this point in the race there is the first of three areas on which they have alternate routes for the course. They alternate between sending runners down Path A or Path B in order to let traffic flow. On my course preview a few weeks ago I chose to run down 27th Avenue. Well on race day I got sent down 26th Avenue. I can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that 26th Avenue is more hilly than 27th. Bleh.

Then we hit the park and I was on what I consider to be my home turf. The first half marathoners split off from us at this point. I knew there was about 1.5 miles of gentle downhill before the long gradual uphill heading back west began. This was the part of the course I was looking forward to the least. But I also knew once I made it up to Stow Lake the worse of the inclines were over. At about mile 16 Boyfriend appeared just as we had planned. I knew I was starting to feel the effects of the fast pace because I didn't have as many smiles or waves in me as usual.

Before I knew it we were headed down Haight Street and fast approaching mile 20. This still wasn't so bad! I was hanging on to a PR pace. I was amazed at how fast the race seemed to be going. I saw a bunch of the ROHO's and Chic Runner which lifted my spirits.

In my mind mile 22 was the turning point. From the elevation profile it seemed to be relatively flat after this point. We approached another area of the course with a bunch of the alternate routes. There were lots of turns. To me it felt like: Turn, incline, turn, incline. The uphills weren't so physically taxing as they were mentally taxing. I found myself getting angry at the uphill segments. Isn't it supposed to be flat?

I was also thinking about the 26th vs. 27th Avenue elevation and couldn't help but think I was probably always getting the short end of the stick and getting sent down the paths with more hills. I could not wait to see the water which meant we were almost home. But it felt like a lot of the turns were taking me away from the water (I have a horrible sense of direction, but still). I told myself to hang on until mile 24.

I am going to say that around this point the entire race became a mental game. I knew I had a PR. Even if I blew up and ran 11:00+ miles I was going to get an awesome PR. But I had to finish the race to truly make it mine. I had wanted to be able to speed up at this point and finish strong but my body was failing. I had pushed it hard and the course had been difficult and it was starting to say, "No more." I started thinking about how it wasn't as fun to race marathons. CIM in December. Uh, maybe not. Let's just do Disney and stop and take a lot of pictures again. Big Sur was SO much fun when I stopped to take a lot of photos.

I gave myself permission to rein in the effort a bit. I already had a PR. I didn't have to kill myself or throw up for a bigger improvement. I told myself I could slow down but to just keep running. My splits at this point, while they show I slowed down, also show I was still running very close to my overall goal pace of 10:18 which surprises me now.

Miles 24-26 were some of the longest miles of my life. I've always thought that mile 24 was the longest of any marathon. Usually when you hit 25 you tell yourself just ONE MORE and can find some solace in that. Not this day. My legs didn't feel so bad as my overall well being. My right arm was starting to get tingly. My head was getting dizzy. I felt like I might throw up. When I was getting close to mile 26 I wanted to run as fast as I could. But I also pictured myself puking my way down the finisher's chute so had to hold it back. So the last mile was more an exercise in not 1) fainting (total PR killer!) or 2) puking (total dignity killer!). I saw Chic Runner and Maritza again as I made the final push. Their energy kept me going a few more steps. Closer to the finish Boyfriend was cheering. I looked at him, but had no energy to wave.

And then it was over. No elation. Just relief. I was very, very proud and amazed at what I had done but was just so thankful it was over. I felt a little dazed.

I don't want it to sound like this was a horrible, tortuous run. The last two miles weren't fun, but are they ever really fun? I felt good about the way I was running practically the entire time and that felt very nice. Not the same kind of rah-rah niceness that come from marathons not done for time, but still satisfying. I really think it is important to mix it up with races for time and races for fun.

After the race we went to celebrate Tara's 27th birthday (and marathon PR!) with a bunch of other blogger/tweeters. My stomach was still feeling really funny and it was a few more hours before I got my appetite back.

When I wrote the day before the race that I thought a 4:30 race was a long shot, I really meant that. My previous PR was on a net downhill course with a 20 mph tailwind. I think I sort of felt like it was a bit of a fluke. But I was able to better that by over 8 minutes on a hilly course at San Francisco. The amazing thing was the effort didn't feel any harder than when I pushed at Napa. I guess speed work really does a pace good! Audrey also pointed out at lunch that I had done a few other things differently: Homer soaks, PT exercises, 3 days of rest. I think the 2 week taper I used this training cycle works much better for me than the traditional 3 week taper.

I am totally 100% happy with my finishing time. What I am not happy about was the way I felt the last 2 miles of the race. I really wanted to push hard at the very end and was not able to do so. I know that all of the uphills and downhills beat you up and I shouldn't be disappointed about that, but I am a little down on myself for just hanging on at the end.

I once said I would die a happy marathoner if I ever ran a 10:00 pace race. My official pace ended up being a 10:12. When I look at my splits (which takes into account I ran farther than 26.2 total) I think I can say that a 10:00 race is definitely within the realm of possibility. I may or may not have promised my legs at around mile 25 that if they just kept going I wouldn't subject them to racing another marathon in December. For a couple of hours after the race ended I was thinking I would skip CIM this year. But now I'm back on the CIM train.

I will probably never run the San Francisco Marathon again. It is not a PR course. I doubt I would ever try or care to try to run a PR on it again. The last half was really dull. I have heard people say the last half is the faster half. That's true. But I don't consider it to be a fast half in and of itself. I would never run it as a standalone half marathon. I think in the future I will run the first half marathon, though. Even though it is hilly there is something fun about running on the bridge. I also don't like races that have simultaneous half and full marathons going on at once. Especially when I'm running the full. It is so disheartening to hear people cheering for the almost done half-ers when you're still not even halfway there.

I was running by two men and heard this conversation:
Man 1: How you holding up?
Man 2: Well, things are starting to hurt a little.
RoadBunner inner monologue: Don't worry! You can do it!
Man 1: Yeah, me, too.
Man 2: Well, we're almost to the park.
RoadBunner inner monologue: Yes, at the park there is a nice downhill segment!
Man 1: I know! Only another mile or so, then we're done. Thank god.
RoadBunner inner monologue: &$&% you.

Big kudos to SFM for having women's XS shirts! But I have to say, MAJOR FAIL: They didn't use Headsweats hats this year. When I went to the expo and saw they used another brand I was so sad :( So no SFM hat for me.

For numbers people, here are my splits (Garmin does 0.5 mi splits for me); the distances are a little off because of the error in the beginning
0.5 14:40 (includes the time, but not the distance of the first 4 minutes of running)
1 10:01
1.5 10:06
2 10:20
2.5 10:26 (Aquatic Park incline)
3 9:44
3.5 10:14
4 10:00
4.5 10:20
5 10:26
5.5 10:32 (incline up to bridge)
6 10:14
6.5 10:03
7 9:47
7.5 9:57
8 10:07
8.5 10:06
9 9:57
9.5 9:43
10 11:07 (uphill after the bridge, stopped to fill water bottle)
10.5 8:57 (screaming downhill, upset at myself for going so fast here)
11 9:57
11.5 10:13
12 1015
12.5 10:19
13 9:26
13.5 9:44
14 10:17
14.5 10:12
15 10:16
15.5 10:05
16 10:12
16.5 9:53
17 9:57
17.5 10:00
18 9:36
18.5 10:07 (stopped to fill water bottle again)
19 10:00
19.5 10:01
20 9:51
20.5 9:36 (another screaming downhill)
21 9:50
21.5 9:39
22 9:51
22.5 9:59
23 9:37
23.5 10:19
24 9:59
24.5 10:00
25 10:12
25.5 10:22
26 10:17
26.2 10:02

Garmin officially says I ran 26.4 miles. Not counting the lost distance from the beginning, I'm guesstimating I ran about 26.7 miles total. Bummer. Need to find me a straight race! I tried to consciously run tangents, too! I am pretty proud that I ran a fairly even-paced race. According to the race results my pace at 7.5 miles was 10:10, at the half 10:11 and at 20 miles 10:14 for the 10:12 total. That is probably the most even pace I've ever run in a marathon.

Sorry I don't have picture or videos. For a great pictorial recount of the race, go visit Aron or Danica's blogs. They ran the first half for fun and took a lot of photos.

So all in all a huge success for me! Yesterday I was really sore. I took about 30 seconds to strategize how I was going to kneel down on the floor to give Mario his dinner. Today, still sore, but getting better. I hope to go for a 2 or 3 mile run in the next day or two.


audgepodge said...

LOL - I love your inner monologue! And yay, I got a shoutout :)

bunnygirl said...

Great job and nice shirt! I bet you really can do that 10 min/mi marathon, but savor this one for awhile, first. :)


Mica said...

Awesome race report! Congratulations on the PR, you seasoned marathon-runner, you! 10:00 pace is coming! Maybe we should find a flat, cool marathon and run it together. (Um, after I scrape myself off the pavement of Chicago, I guess.)

Marlene said...

Excellent race report! You were running so strong on that tough course. Congratulations again!

Hef's Mom said...

Congrats, while I come here mostly for the bunny stuff and don't understand all the technical racing stuff I am impressed. I walk two miles with the dog and sometimes that summer heat kills me!

ShirleyPerly said...

Coulda, shoulda, woulda -- doesn't matter because YOU DID IT!!!

But you are a runner and I think we always wonder whether we might have done better. I had to laugh about those 26th vs 27th Ave thought as I had a very similar thought when the Nike 26.2 course had an option to go down 2 different parallel roads going towards GG Park. Fortunately, I didn't know any better.

CONGRATS on your PR. I enjoyed your race report!!

Meg Runs said...

I loved your race report! Congrats on your PR!

Runner Leana said...

Great job on your race! To PR on such a tough course is absolutely amazing. Don't beat yourself up too much about those last two miles. They really are a slog and I know I felt the same way at Disney this year. That whole segment through the Boardwalk? Blech.

Nicely done, and I love the shirt!

PunkRockRunner said...

Congrats on a GREAT race!! I was a pleasure meeting you at the Expo.

All the best,


Alisa said...

GREAT job and way to PR!

I loved this post. You've trained hard and it paid off.

We'll meet up again someday! I need to meet Mario!!!!!!!!!

Bask in your marathon PR for at least a week, you have EARNED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EndorphinBuzz said...

Congrats and thanks for the beautiful emotional race report.

Chic Runner said...

I loved reading this post! i'm so happy that I met you during the race.. ha ha! :) Glad we could help cheer you along.

You totally pushed hard and earned your PR! Congrats again and can't wait to run another race with you!

Tom said...

Pretty funny.

I thought this was pretty funny as well. www.itsarunner.com.

You can create your very own baby runner and then fool your friends and post it up on facebook.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Three cheers, well done, hope you are moving better by now! Nice shirt design you got too.

aron said...

seriously PRing at SFM is no joke and you totally owned this race!! CONGRATS again on such a great training cycle and marathon!!! so glad i could be there to celebrate after :)

Marathon Maritza said...

Congratulations!!! You put in the hard work and you deserve this PR...and on a TOUGH course no less!!!

So happy I got to cheer for you, even for just a bit, and to celebrate your success with you!

Will you send me these speedy vibes for CIM? Your PR at SFM would be major PR for me!