Top 10 Reasons Why YOU Should Run the SF Marathon (or First or Second Half)

            While running, and especially after, The San Francisco Marathon, it occurred to me that this race is really a race for everyone. I quickly compiled a ten-point list. Sure, not every one of these points will apply to you, but I think at least one will. Have a look, and see why July 26, 2015 should be spent on the road in the greatest city in the nation (don’t even argue):

10. The Weather

This is easy. Where else are you going to find a race that guarantees to be temperate—in July? Nowhere except SF. It was “hot” this year, meaning it was a solid 60 at the start line. It’s worth the money to travel. Bid goodbye to the humidity and run in San Francisco.

9. The Vacation Potential

            Why not stay awhile after your race? You ran through many neighborhoods, now go back and explore them. San Francisco is a city of distinct neighborhoods. I’ve lived the last two years in Berkeley, and even still, I haven’t visited all of the cool places in SF. Find your happy place. It might be Dolores Park or the corner of Haight and Ashbury. It could be Outer or Inner Sunset. Hang out at one of the beaches. Climb Lombard Street. Ride a cable car. Make best friends with a sea lion. Have some chowder, some Mexican (best burrito in the country is supposedly in the Mission [as a Southern Californian I’m skeptical]), a sushirrito, the best dim sum you’ve ever had, Thai food, ALL FOOD. Seriously, though, you won’t be bored and the temperature will be comfortable (bring a jacket).

8. The Organization

            I’m biased as an Ambassador, since I had a minute bit to do with the organization, but I can’t help but be wowed by the incredible job the race team did. From spectator buses to FREE shuttles back to the start line to an enormous expo to well marked, relatively well supported stations, I was so pleased to see the organization. It’s not easy to orchestrate a point-to-point race through a busy city. How about two point-to-point races and a looping marathon? In the aftermath of the race, the team is also very responsive to complaints/criticism. This is awesome and likely means the race will be even better next year.

7. The Spectacle

Part of the reason why I love living in the Bay Area is because it’s a bizarre and hilarious place. While I reside a few miles east of San Francisco in Berkeley (the crazy capital of the world), The San Francisco Marathon doesn’t fail to disappoint. From the transient population cheering you on as you run down by Fisherman’s Wharf to the man who ran past me in a Ghostbusters suit (no seriously), to the person blasting “The Final Countdown” from his or her window, you won’t be bored. Come see why San Francisco will always be the weirdest place on the planet.

6. The Medals and Challenges

            I don’t run for the medals, I run because I love to run, but when a volunteer (thank you!) drapes that medal around my neck, I feel a certain sense of pride. A really neat thing about The San Francisco Marathon is the challenges they’ve established. As a serial distance runner, it’s nice to receive a second medal recognizing that I ran the San Francisco/Berkeley Challenge for completing both events (run the Berkeley Half, too, I could go on for hours about how much I love that city and race). The San Francisco Marathon has numerous other partnerships and challenges with other races, as well as incentives for repeat offending their own races. Do it. I promise that getting that second medal will feel pretty cool, or at the very least, in the case of the (super awesome looking) California Dreamin’ medal, will be useful. It’s got a bottle opener on it; nothing like a functional reminder of your badassery!

5. The Demographic (or lack thereof)

            There is no “San Francisco Marathon Runner” archetype. Instead, there is a group of people with the common goal of finishing this race. Their motivations, though, are varied. In all seriousness, every color, size, age, speed, and gender is represented at this race. Heck, we even had a local 54-year-old, homeless artist raise thousands of dollars and run a smoking 1:43 half marathon. Don’t be afraid of being too slow. There’s no way you can be too fast. Don’t worry that others are judging you. They are—positively. They are there with you, supporting you, and reminding you that you made the right decision to do this race before most people are even conscious. Don’t make excuses: get out there and do this race!

4. The Scenery

This is obvious and the easiest sell of The SF Marathon. From starting at the foot of the Bay Bridge (new and improved!), to running the streets of Fisherman’s Wharf, past Ghirardelli with amazing views of Alcatraz, to crossing the Golden Gate, to winding through Golden Gate Park and the iconic neighborhoods of San Francisco, you get a grand tour of the city on your own two legs, with no car traffic and a bunch of people cheering you on. Even describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. Do it and see what I mean. I promise you won’t regret it.

3. The Inspiration

            This point goes hand in hand with point five. I’ve never been quite as inspired during a run as I was during The First Half of the SF Marathon. From the woman with spina bifida valiantly completing the race with her walking sticks to the man in full fireman garb to the 52.4 ultra runners raising thousand and thousands of dollars for extremely important causes to the mother of three smoking the competition and winning the whole race in a time that beat my mom and my half marathon times, no matter where you turn, you will be inspired to keep going. When your knee gets twangy or you get thirsty, or those hills seem never-ending, all you have to do is look around and see those around you making the impossible look easy. I can’t say I’ve felt truly inspired by running a race until this one.

2. The Hills

Yep, I said the “h-word” and yep, those dreaded hills are the second reason why YOU should run The San Francisco (first half, second half, full, ultra) Marathon. Sure, they might leave you breathless, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. No, seriously, the hills make you a stronger runner. Plus, the uphill makes those flats and downhills all the more pleasant. You’ve already signed up to wake up at an ungodly hour and run ungodly amounts of miles, why not make the accomplishment that much sweeter with some altitude gain? Plus, San Francisco is known for its hills. Don’t you want to inspire awe within your coworkers, friends, and family? Yea, I thought so. As we used to say on my high school cross country team: it’s a hill, get over it.

1. This race is the next Boston/NYC Marathon

            Soon the races are going to be impossibly difficult to get in to. The San Francisco Marathon is now the only 26.2 that runs through the city and it is AWESOME. This awesomeness means that people get really excited about it. This excitement means people enter the race. When people enter, it fills up. Soon, that filling will happen fast. Get in on this race now. Seriously. It’s already big. It sold out weeks before race day. Imagine what five years from now will look like.

 

As a disclaimer, this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, and everyone who has run The San Francisco Marathon will likely cite something different about what made it such a great experience for him or her. The best way to figure out your favorite aspect of the race is, well, to do it. So go, register, it’s open. July 26, 2015 is race day. I’ll be there to Half-It-All in the 2nd Half Marathon. Join me!

Vineman Race Recap!!!

            When I was able to secure a spot in Vineman 70.3 in November I was beyond excited. I posted to Facebook and called my mom in excitement. Come the week before July 13th, though, and all that excitement had given way to dread, fear, and regret. Could I do it? Would I do it? Would I keep dropping out of races? Do I even like doing triathlon anymore? All of these were questions I was internally battling. Spoiler: I actually really enjoyed myself, and less than 24 hours after finishing, I had found and registered for a 70.3 to do in the fall with more in consideration.

I left Santa Barbara on Friday, immediately after taking a final in Italian 1. My trusty travel partner, moral supporter, and general hero, Kent, took the first half of the journey. I took the helm around Soledad. We elected to stay Friday in Berkeley. It’s free(ish), and there’s nothing quite like your own bed for the ever important “two days before race” sleep. Plus, our house is full of friends. I conked out extremely early and woke up feeling quite good, but apprehensive. I had to write up a midterm then head up to Windsor to get my packet.

Until this day, I was going to sleep in my car the night before the race at Johnson’s Beach campground. Of course, roundabout 8am the day before the race I decided that this was, indeed, a horrific idea and booked a hotel. It was no Shangri La, but Extended Stay America South Santa Rosa, you certainly aren’t a bad place. Around 12:30 I headed up to Windsor. The drive was fraught with traffic, but I had my tunes and nowhere else to be. Parking at Windsor High School was basically the 7th Circle of Hell. I got lucky and found a place right across the street, but I easily could have missed the 2:30 mandatory meeting. I didn’t though.

 I sat at the top of the bleachers and watched the video. I was dreading actually doing the race still. It was here, though, that the problematic portion of the day began. As the video was finishing, they made it clear that no bikes would be allowed on the shuttle back to Guerneville. This foiled all of my plans. I was already looking at a late departure time, but this would make it such that we wouldn’t arrive in Santa Barbara til the wee hours of the morning. I immediately called Kent, and the blessed man begrudgingly agreed to be picked up in Berkeley, stay with me in Santa Rosa and even drive me to the race at 5:45am. Seriously, this one is a keeper. I told him I’d be down there by 6ish, after I finished unloading the car and got a bit to eat.

The real panic ensued when I pulled my Cervelo P2 out of the car and the back wheel wouldn’t roll. It was literally stuck. To be honest, I took it up to the hotel room and sobbed on the ground. Already I was doing a terribly long race I was terrified to do, and now the bike that I bought for it back in October is gravely injured. After a minute or two though, I bucked up and realized I was probably near someone who could fix a bike. I googled the nearest bike shop and discovered a Performance Bicycle about a quarter mile away. I threw the rocket ship back in the car and zoomed over.

If there’s one recommendation I can give, it is go to Performance Bicycles in Santa Rosa. The people who helped me were fantastic. They fixed it in about 5 minutes, for free! Really: awesome, fun guys that were joking around with me while I was there—go! After it occurred to me that it was 4:30 pm and I had had popcorn to eat that day. Not ideal for loading the stores the day before a race. In another gift from god, I was able to stop at a Trader Joe’s and pick up some post race yummies along with a wrap before flying back down to Berkeley.

I got dinner with Kent and his family and then we headed back up to Santa Rosa. Troubles ended here. I set up and organized everything, and got into bed.

 At 5:37am my alarm reminded me of my looming doom. I sprung up, got dressed, had coffee and some yogurt and jumped in the car. My heavenly boyfriend drove me to within a mile of the start, but given the traffic and the fact that I wanted to make sure my bike really was fine, I rode the last mile into town. It made for a good way to get my body moving.

When I saw Johnson’s Beach, I got my first bit of excitement. At the very least, 12 hours from then, I’d have completed my first 70.3. Everyone else was nervously excited as well, so feeding off their energy was good for me. I was pretty early, but I like it that way. After setting everything up and going to the bathroom I still had about half an hour before my wave start, so I sat in front of the announcer’s booth and watched the other starts. In, perhaps, the coolest moment of the day, the legendary Julie Moss happened to be right there. If you don’t know who she is, google her name and watch her absolutely incredible Ironman finish from 1982. I wasn’t able to talk to her, as she was talking to Heather Jackson’s mom (Heather won Wildflower this year), which also was really neat. The Women 55+ wave were right before me, so it was really cool to see that even 50 years from now I could still be competing in these events. A lot of these women are extremely badass too. Once they corralled my Women 29/under wave, I was ready. The water was a lovely temperature, and I had only a few things on my mind.

First and foremost, I did the race for my friend Nick Johnson who passed away in March. We grew up competing with and against each other and won awards like the 110% Award at Junior Guards for always putting in such effort. Along with that, he was really one of my better friends in high school. I made a pact with myself that no matter what happened, I would cross the finish line at Windsor High School and dedicate the race to him. Considering the start was at Johnson’s Beach, I thought it too great a coincidence to overlook. Throughout the race, even, I would think about him, asking for even an iota of his physical and mental strength. I miss you Nick, but you’re forever in my heart and mind!

After my last race at Cal Poly (where I DNFed), I realized I needed to go back to my old habit of starting on the extreme wings for swims. Though I’m fast enough to get out of the pack, I don’t like starting long races at full sprint, and I quit water polo 3 years ago, so I’d prefer not to be clobbered and held underwater. The Vineman start went smoothly, both because I think most of the girls in my wave were way less concerned with throttling it and overall they seemed much more courteous than in collegiate races. We were all laughing together and wishing each other good luck before the start.

 Once the horn blew, I started off. My chief worry was my shoulder. I injured it about a month ago and had been having trouble with my entire arm and hand going numb. Fortunately, that didn’t happen at all during the race, meaning that I get to declare myself free from that injury (though I might have developed a different one later in the race). The swim was frustrating. I haven’t been swimming at all in the last about two or three months, so I’m severely out of shape. It wasn’t until I looked at my rank and time after the race that I realized, considering the wall of 50 year old men I swam into and the portions of extremely shallow water that required dolphin diving or walking, I actually did pretty well, especially within my age group.

Transition was smooth, a little slow, but I mean, I was about to take off for 56 miles, I needed to be ready.

 Once on the bike I felt decent. I passed a lot of people right out of the gate. The only other tri I had done on the TT bike was a sprint, so I was excited to spend more time on the little beauty. I went out conservatively. I had never actually ridden more than 50 miles (and that was once in January) so I was somewhat… frightened. Somewhere around mile 14, though, I really felt good. I started pushing a bit more and trying to hold the drafts (5 lengths behind, of course) of people a little faster than me. This tended not to work, as the people I chose either died out or were just too fast for me. I am really strong on the uphills and really flew by people there; however, I definitely need to continue overcoming my fear of descents. I know I lost some precious time by gripping the (somewhat perilously faulty) brakes. To explain my last sentence, my bike is happier with going than stopping and the brakes are somewhat squirrely and very squeaky. It’s definitely time to take the bike to Hazard’s… The course was beautiful both scenery and temperature wise. A lot of the bike is shaded, meaning that even when the sun came out, it didn’t affect me too much.  I knew about Chalk Hill. I was dreading Chalk Hill. I got to Chalk Hill, and really, it wasn’t bad at all. I think even Claremont and Euclid (the two choices of hills to begin a ride in Berkeley with) are far, far worse. Granted, it was around the 43rd mile and I was decently fatigued already. Being that my longest ride ever was 51 miles and I only was able to train to about 40 mile rides before hurting my shoulder, neck, and back pretty severely, the last haul into Windsor was one of the more difficult portions of the race. My pace slowed and I lost a lot of time at this point. Had I needed to go even ten more miles, I’m pretty confident I would’ve been booking a ticket on the bonky express. Fortunately, I was able to dismount and transition to running.

By this point in the day it was decidedly warm. I took my time in transition. I put on socks, sunscreen, a visor, had some water, and generally just tried to relax. I said before the race that if I made it to the run, I would make it through the race. Unfortunately, I guess I hadn’t really factored in that heat made running well, hard.

The first two miles were good. I was conservative and held perfect 8:40s. The third mile got hilly and I got walky. This was the theme of the run: run some, walk some. Not a problem. I didn’t want to hurt myself or pass out from heat. The run really was uneventful because I wasn’t pushing at all, just maintaining, well, consciousness. Aid stations were spaced well. By that I mean there were a ton of aid stations. There was a lot of direct sunlight, which means that I’ve been peeling my sunburn off the last week, but overall it was as pleasant as running the last 13.1 of a 70.3 could be. There were two highlights of the run. First, running through La Crema Winery. Not only was it a dirt trail, meaning that my poor screaming knee got a reprieve from cement, but it was also shaded and beautiful, as evidenced by the fiery 9:00 sixth mile. To me this indicates that I definitely am able to run a sub-2:00 in my next 70.3, as I wasn’t necessarily lacking for energy or strength. The second highlight was seeing my lovely Cal Tri team along the race route. Their cheers were so necessary. In tandem with that, right as I entered the Windsor High School grounds, Kent came running up and cheered for me. Apparently he had just gotten there, so he saw me right as I finished. I was so happy!

After, I grabbed my chicken breast and some fruit, sat against a tree and basked in fiery 70.3 glory.

My final time was 6:04:57, very very close to my original goal of a sub-6:00. Next time!

Looking forward, I’m excited to do the San Francisco First Half Marathon next weekend, then (possible, depending on the status of my knee/exhaustion) I’ll do the Lompoc Sprint and try and beat my time from last year. Following that, I’ll take a much-needed vacation to Costa Rica before heading back to the Bay Area. I’m doing the inaugural Oakland Sprint Tri on August 31st (really excited by this). My plan, thereafter, is to do some Century rides around the Bay, both to work on riding long haul distances and to explore the beautiful place I live. On November 2nd I’ll be competing at the Surf City Challenge, a new half-iron distance in Santa Cruz. I look forward to getting another crack at the distance with a cooler run portion. I really want to see what I can do when I’m not worried about keeling over from heat.

 Overall, all the dread and worried metamorphosed beautifully in a renewed joy for multisport. I had really drifted from it in the past months, and I’m happy to be back in the saddle again. I feel like I really accomplished something at Vineman both physically and mentally and moving forward, I hope to retain this really positive mindset.  From the beginning, my goals for triathlon centered on health and fun. Though I am naturally extremely competitive, that isn’t why I do the sport. I do it because I enjoy the outdoors and being active. I think Vineman and my enjoyment of it really extended from this. I wasn’t racing, I was doing. I didn’t cross the line throwing up, I crossed it smiling. I don’t need to win races to be happy anymore. The happiness comes from summiting Chalk Hill, from running through La Crema Vineyard and from swimming under beautiful bridges while thinking about a lost but never forgotten friend.

In closing, I want to thank every person that volunteered for this race in any capacity. Seriously, it was one of the most well run races I’ve ever seen and all the volunteers seemed genuinely happy. That positive energy was indispensible. I also really need to (yet again) thank Kent. I seriously could not have done it without you. All the training, all the money spent would’ve been useless if you weren’t there. I think, Kent, that you had just as much to do with finishing as I did. I want to thank all the rest of my family and friends, too, for all the well wishes and thoughts. Lastly, I want to thank the fabulous support of the Santa Barbara Tri Club and resident IronStalker Michael Simpson. I was thinking about all of you watching me (well, my splits) during the race, and I did my best to do you proud! Here’s to Vineman 2015!

Anxiety, Nerves, and Tension

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve had a birthday and a lot has changed in my life. My desire to train has waned, but since it’s race season, I can’t quite give up completely. 

Right now I’m really nervous. I have to drive down to San Diego (from Berkeley) and then race two days later. The worst part? I then have to drive back. I think at this point, that’s what’s causing me this really terrible anxiety I’m feeling. I’m to the point of being slightly panicy, and I really just don’t like it at all. 

I’m trying really hard to stay motivated and keep my eyes on what I’ve been training for all year, but it’s hard. I’m still in college and making new friends. I want to hang out with them. I just turned 21. I want to have fun. Right now, though, I’m trapped with going to SD. It’s weird, I’ve spent the last seven or eight months feverishly training, and now that it’s time to actually race, I’m basically chickening out and self-sabotaging.

Last night in an effort to, kind of, quell my fears, I agreed to cut my season short. After nationals I won’t race again until June. It seems like the best way to effectively study for the lsat and have enough time to hang out with my new friends.

I don’t want regret in life. I don’t want something I feel “passionate” about to ruin memories. I did that already in high school. I’m cognizant of my mistakes and shortcomings. Of course, I’m torn by the fact that I set these goals. I want to achieve them and I’m so close to doing just that. Maybe now isn’t the time though. Something feels weird about the season. I’m only $50 deep right now. Maybe I won’t do Collegiate Nationals. I don’t know. I just, don’t know. I think this weekend will be really telling.

New Year’s Resolution Day Race

I don’t do “resolutions.” Never have, never will. I don’t like setting boundaries for my self. Sometimes I’ll set goals, but I’m more about intentions. Even before I got into yoga I would set blanket intentions for the year. Generally it’s something along the lines of “this year I’m going to be fast” or “this year I’m going to appreciate everything I have.” This year, I want to be healthy and strong in mind and body. As I’ve been working harder, I understand I have to be careful and respect my body, but I also have to realize my strength and that sometimes my mind limits me.

While I don’t keep resolutions, I did a resolution run race way back on the first. I was going to do both the 5k and 10k, but I chickened out of the 10k. The 5k, however, proved to be a new PR for little old me, despite feeling kind of sluggish, and even slow. (In hindsight, it’s because I was falling really sick—sick enough to keep me from working out for the next week.)

The race began like any other. I pushed the pace a bit hard for the first mile, but I was really hoping to break 20:00, so it wasn’t unreasonable. I believe my first mile was right around the pace for a 19:59, but about half a mile later, I knew that goal was completely out of the question. I was tired, and I was cramping (too much fun the night before?). I still managed to push it for the second half and come out in a respectable 21:06. (My watch reads a 21:02 for 3.12 miles, though, so… I’m pretty proud to start the new year off at this speed, as last year I was at a 24:41. I can’t imagine what I’ll run over the summer at Nite Moves if I keep honest with my training. I’m really quite excited for what 2014 will hold for me, athletically.

"You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way."

Elizabeth Taylor (via quotestuff)