Monday, October 17, 2011

Nike Women's Marathon Recap

Sunday marked my 13th full marathon. I wasn't sure if 13 would be lucky or unlucky in this case. Turned out to be a bit of both.

Sunday started off well. Alarm went off at 4:20am. Got up, felt rested and alert. Showered, ate 1/2 a bagel with peanut butter on it. Walked the dog and I was off into the dark morning. The one good thing about early Sunday marathons is, no traffic!

Pre-race picture with Leonard

I made my way into San Francisco and easily found parking near the start line; Union Square. I made a pit stop in the Sir Frances Drake Hotel (which was clearly a host hotel for TNT runners) and was treated to a real bathroom, with toilet paper AND a flushing toilet. Rare find on marathon mornings.

The start area of most marathons is always an experience in and of itself. There is so much electricity and excitement in the air. I always find myself looking around and watching the faces of other runners and wondering what their story is. Is it their first marathon? Are they coming back after some set-back (illness, injury)? Are they going to have a PR today? This race however was slightly different for a few reasons.

  1. It was mainly women. I would hazard a guess that less than 5% of the runners were male.
  2. It was a sea of TNT runners (team in training). Lot's of purple jerseys.
  3. There were many running abilities present

I made my way over to the school buses that were acting as the bag drop, said goodbye to my phone and all contact with the outside world and headed to the start line. No more pit stops for me. Just the infamous; stand and wait. I was lined up by 6:30am, but the next 30 minutes went by quickly. I scanned the crowds looking for any familiar faces, as I knew a lot of the people I had met recently while running would be tackling this course. I was unable to find anyone and was slightly disappointed. I wanted to offer up my "good luck" and just seeing a familiar face race morning always calms the nerves. At the last minute, I did spot Alisyn in the crowd and we spent a few minutes together before the gun went off (then we lost each other in the masses).

I had heard before hand that the Nike Women's Marathon course was not an easy one and the full marathon wasn't that well received. I was nervous and filled with anticipation to see how these two facts panned out. They pretty much were spot on.

I've run some challenging courses, but for me, this was the most challenging. I could tell by mile 1, that my legs didn't feel right. Apparently, I felt rested, but they did not. Then the hills came. It seemed like one hill after another. I recall at one point turning a corner and saying out-loud "You have got to be kidding me, another hill?". I admired all those runners around me who just powered up those hills. I kept trudging up the hills, all the while wondering if I would be able to finish this marathon. Around mile 6, I did something I rarely do, I pondered stopping right there and getting a DNF (did not finish). I just felt like I did not have it in me, which was very disappointing as 2 weeks earlier, I had a great 1/2 marathon and felt fantastic the entire time. This thought plagued me for miles. Then came mile 8. I looked left and saw them. I yelled, I jumped in the air, I waved frantically. It was Katie, Page, Dennis and Jessica. Honestly, seeing any familiar face on the sidelines is like getting a second wind. I don't quite think spectators realize the importance they play for those running the race.

Katie, Page, Dennis & Jessica's sign at mile 8

I got my second wind and I kept running. But the sails died out quickly. By mile 10 I began to second guess myself again. For the next mile I argued with myself if I should just turn off at mile 11 and finish the 1/2 marathon and be done with it. Mile 11 came and went. I continued trudging along. My mile splits were a range of times. I was not consistent to say the least. By mile 12:55, I said to myself; "just drop out. Today is not your day". I have never been closer to quitting a race than at that moment. All I kept thinking was "You have 13.5 more miles of this". I don't know how, but I just kept going. One foot in front of the other.

I began walking through the aid stations to ensure I was taking in enough fluids. I felt so thirsty the entire race. Others told me this was due to the humidity. I had taken in a gel at miles 6 and 13 and had planned my 3rd one around mile 18.

Around mile 15.5, we emerged from Golden Gate Park onto the Great Pacific Highway. I loved this portion. Not only did the weather feel cooler, but it was a nice downhill for a mile or so. I personally love the downhills and loved them even more on this day. My lungs felt like they had been working in overdrive, the downhills felt like a place for them to rest.

At mile 17, I got another treat, my friend/coworker, Jose and his son came out to cheer me on. They drove all the way from Antioch. It really meant a lot to me. I would see them again around mile 24.

Me surrounded by my posse waving at Jose

Then the clouds parted (figuratively speaking) and something wondrous happened. I had 8 miles to go. I felt drained. My mental energy was gone. And then they appeared. Katie, Page, Dennis & Jessica. I knew Katie and Jessica had planned to meet me around mile 18 to run with me the last few miles, but I had no clue Page & Dennis would be there too. I have never felt so worthy and touched. I know that sounds corny, but to have 4 people jump in (2 of them strangers) and run with me, cheer for me, pep me up, do anything they could to ensure I stayed in a straight line and got to the finish, it literally was a great moment.

By mile 19, all I could think about was an iced-cold Diet Coke. I maybe drink 1-2 per month, so no clue why that drink popped into my head, but I would have likely given $100 bucks for it had someone been holding one.

Me and the posse headed around Lake Merced. This is a 4-mile stretch with few spectators and not much scenery. The fab-4 did whatever they could to keep my spirits up. I got cheers. I got tips. I got energy from them. They also helped cheer on other runners and I witnessed a few who were walking, pick up their pace and run off into the sunset due to the encouragement of the fab-4.

I continued with my walking through aid stations. I was digging deep just to make it to that finish line. I recall asking Katie "Will we make a 4hrs 15 min? I would be extremely thrilled with that time." and she responded "No. We will not see 4hrs 15 minutes. I won't let you. You have a sub-4 in you. Let's go.". Going into this race, knowing the difficulty of the course and the not-so-great comments I had heard about the latter portion of the course, I had told myself first goal was to finish, second anything under 4:30 and your dream goal would be 4 hours.

Walk break time! (Photographer: Page)

Katie and gang were tracking my pace closely and doing the math to see how close to 4 hours I could get. It would be VERY close. At mile 26, the fab-4 bid me adieu and I was left to run the .2 miles alone. I knew they had given me a gift by running with me and I knew I had to give them something back, I kicked it into high gear and found the energy I felt missing that past 13 miles. While I didn't hit 4 hours, I came so dang close. 4 hours, 1 minute, 57 seconds. I was thrilled. I had just completed a race that only hours before I thought for certain I wouldn't finish.

I received my finishers medal, t shirt, Tiffany's necklace, got my water and headed to get my bag from the bag check.

In the end, #13 turned out to be lucky, with some unlucky challenges along the way. I was glad I overcame them, glad I finished and glad I got to do so with familiar faces. That was likely the best part of the day, sharing it with others. So many wonderful and talented women ran this race, I consider myself lucky to know a few of them.

The infamous blue Tiffany's box

I think the thing I learned the most during #13 was, I am stronger than I think I am; I just need to dig deeper. And, listen to those around you. If they say it isn't a great course, listen to them and don't run the full!

In the end, I got my iced cold Diet Coke. I was happy.

Garmin time: 4:01:55 (official time 4:01:57)
Garmin miles: 26.48 miles
58/638 (age group)
399/6121 (all marathoners)
Mile splits:
#1: 7:37
#2: 8:00
#3: 8:08
#4: 8:34
#5: 8:07
#6: 8:23
#7: 10:14 (the dreaded hills)
#8: 8:09
#9: 9:32
#10: 9:09
#11: 8:35
#12: 9:13
#13: 10:32
#14: 9:44
#15: 8:56
#16: 8:45
#17: 8:52
#18: 9:19
#19: 10:15
#20: 9:35
#21: 10:00
#22: 9:08
#23: 10:21
#24: 9:46
#25: 9:33
#26: 9:22
#26.2: 8:36

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Faves

(disclaimer: totally stealing the idea of Friday Faves from Aron & Page :-P )

This post is to honor one of my faves this week - friendly faces. Two great gals I have met this year (Aron & Page) do a regular "Friday Favs" post, so this post is hommage to them and the others I have met along the way.

Working from home has its pluses and minuses. I miss seeing familiar faces each day. Collaborating with great co-workers in person. Having lunch dates. However, I love that I get to see this little guy day in & day out. He typically comes in a few times a day to my office wanting to sit on my lap and stare out the window. He is my zen in this crazy world.


For those that know me well, know that I am the "Frappologist". My day isn't complete without a trip to Starbucks for a "tall-coffee lite frapp-3 pumps sugar free cinnamon dolce - sprinkle of cinnamon on top". I love that my local Sbux calls out "Hey Carter" as I walk in. A great little 90 calorie drink to perk me up each morning.

My week isn't complete without a trip to my favorite Thai restaurant in Oakland, of which, I am the Duchess on Yelp! Chai Thai Noodle is by far, the best Thai in town. Same order every time: yellow curry w/tofu + pumpkin.

I thought I was in fairly good shape. I work out 5 days a week, throw in a few races each year...then I met soccer. Soccer meet Jana's legs & lungs, Jana meet what it feels like to want to collapse after 80 minutes of running around. I am playing on a league in Brentwood with my good pal (and coworker), Jose.

Lastly, the reason for my post. My favorite part of this week (and turning into one of my favorites for the year), new faces, new running routes, new friends. Tuesday night met with a great run along the Embarcadero with fabulous faces. Thanks ladies for being my favorite of the week!

Happy weekend. Stay safe. Have fun. Be. For those running the Nike Women's Marathon or 1/2 Marathon Sunday - ROCK IT!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Romantic Run in SF

Romance doesn't come easy these days, unless you are a Bay Area Runner :-)

Aron (runnersrambles) organized a great opportunity to get out on a nice Tuesday night for a group run. I never get to the big city on weeknights, so any excuse to cross "the Bay pond" I grab on to. I said "Jana, put your big girl pants on and get on over to that big city". OK, maybe not (or maybe I did).

I picked Aron up at her great new job (Clif!) and we headed over to meet the others at the Ferry Building. I never tire of seeing these faces:

 (Katie, Alyssa, Amanda, Karin - not pictured Aron)

We headed out along Fisherman's Warf and was witness to one of the more beautiful nights I have experienced in the city. We were met with view after view after view. Very romantic :-)

(Golden Gate Bridge amongst the fog)

 With the Nike Women's Marathon fast approaching (5 days...EEK!), I took it easy and logged 6.19 miles with just over a 9:30 pace. It was so relaxing and enjoyable to run a slower pace. We chatted, we dodged tourists, we took pictures like tourists, laughed, strategized about upcoming races and all around had a great time. Taking the thought from Aron, it is amazing how you can meet people from all over the country on Twitter, but throw them together in a run and it is like magic. A sense of familiarity comes over us. We bond instantly and any moments of "awkward" don't make an appearance. Runners are special breeds I tell ya.

After our fabulous run, we grabbed a bite to eat at Gott's. Having never eaten there, it was a yummy spot to finish the night. What was on my menu? My go to comfort food to remind me of home (and my Grammie); grilled cheese and tomato soup. YUM!

We were sure to raise our glasses to the amazing Katie for her mind-blowing finish at last weekends Portland Marathon (can you say 3 hours people?).

A wonderful night. A wonderful group. Wonderful food. Thanks ladies for giving this gal a great night out :-)

Next up for me? This...

See you all at the finish line!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bay Area Blogger Meet-up

Courtney, of Pancakes & Postcards, organized a meet-up for San Francisco Bay Area bloggers this past weekend. Most of the bloggers consisted of either running focused blogs or eating; both things I love to do (one more than the other :-P).

Saturday early afternoon, we all gathered at the Sports Basement in the Presidio. Sports Basement was awesome, they provided a great NYC loft style gathering area, food, beer and a 10% discount for shopping; which I took advantage of.

I met a few faces I had stalked on Twitter for some time and a few brand new people. There is such an energy I get from meeting inspiring people.

Saturday also happened to be Fleet Week. During our swapping of stories, we could hear and see the planes in the airshow from our vantage spot in Sports Basement. The urge finally overcame us and we took our meet-up outside to Crissy Field to watch the spectacle. It was a gorgeous day in the city.

The airshow was fantastic. With the boats in the background, the Golden Gate Bridge standing gaurd; just breathtaking. A crazy United/Continetal jumbo jet was even partaking. It flew so low to the bridge. Soon the Blue Angels took the stage and amazed us with their insane manuevers.

I never tire of the city, or my friends, or meeting new friends. San Francisco is really a cornocopia of awesomeness.

Monday, October 3, 2011

San Jose Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 Marathon Recap

I am not a 1/2 marathon runner, and by that I mean, I have only run two in my running career. I always have this mentality of "If I am going to be out there running 13.1, heck, I might as well keep going and hit 26.2". It's called cruel punishment. However, that is not possible when a race only offers a 1/2 marathon.

Earlier this summer I signed up for the San Jose Rock & Roll 1/2 Marathon. A coworker and a bunch of running buddies were going to run, so I thought it a perfect time to break the mold and admit that 13.1 miles is a great distance for a race. I didn't realize how unprepared I would be.

The week leading up to the race, I was at a work conference in Dallas, which equated to zero time for training. Upon my return that Thursday, I picked up the cold and maybe the flu as well. Needless to say, by Saturday night, I was hurting pretty bad. Lastly, my wonderful grandmother passed away the day before the race. I briefly considered not running due to this trifecta of events, but realized I needed to go out and see what I was made of.

Race day brought with it beautiful weather. The sky was a gentle blue with white fluffy clouds and the sun greeted us partway through the race. I had eaten half a bagel with peanut butter on my 1 hour drive down to San Jose. I felt as ready as I could be.

I met my coworker, his son (who was also running) and his great family before hand. We did our usual, fluids, potty breaks, nip guards (well, Jose did) and pre-race chatter.

The start line was fairly easy to navigate. I would say overall the start area gets 4 out of 5 stars. I did not use the bag check or porta-potties, but I didn't hear complaints about them either. The corrals were nicely laid out and easy to find. They did have corral marshals ensuring people were lined up according to their predicted finish time. I lined up in corral #2 with Jose's son, JT. Jose, due to a knee injury, lined up in a later corral with a friend of his.

JT and I spent the next 10 minutes immersed in nervous chatter. JT is in highschool and typically does cross country distances. I believe this was only his 2nd half marathon. I really enjoyed my chats with him, a great kid.

The gun goes off and so do we. It only took 39 seconds for JT and myself to cross the start line. It wasn't until 4 minutes in that I realized I forgot to start my Garmin (stop watch). OOPS!

The course itself was fantastic. It really is a flat, fast course. The streets were all fairly large, allowing plenty of space for the nearly 15K runners. Here is my pros list for this race:
  1. Course was flat and fast
  2. Mile markers were well marked, with electronic boards showing the elapsed time (except mile 8, I either missed the mile marker or it didn't exist)
  3. The aid stations were well staffed. Each water/Cytomax station was long. I mean, they must have had volunteers handing out water for a good 50 yards at each station. That was great. It reduced the bottleneck of runners all trying to vie for the same cup.
  4. I loved the 8am start
  5. Course was well marked. Never a doubt of where I needed to turn next.
I went out, as I always do, too fast. I figured with my illness the past few days, I need to use my energy when I had it. I thought going in I might not finish the course, so I wanted to have a few good miles. Not once during the race did I look at my watch. Primarily because I was being naughty and not following my rce plan. I knew I was going to fast and superstitiously didn't want to see if I was slowing down or how fast I really was going. With each mile I kept saying to myself  "Just keep up the pace for one more mile, then you can slow down". And with each passing mile, I kept saying that to myself  "Just one more".

I thought about my grandmother a lot during this race. She was a great inspiration to me during the times I wanted to slow down or stop altogether. I also summoned up Gretchen Rubin's advice. I finished her book, The Happiness Project, last week and one of her mantras is "Act the way you want to feel". So, when I was tired, I mentally said to myself  "You feel great" and forced a smiled. It honestly worked. I also looked around at the kids spectating and pretending to run with us, the owners and their dogs sitting on their porches waving and summoned up smiles for each of them and focused on how lucky I was to be out there.

I could feel myself tiring, but I knew I could push myself harder. I didn't want the mental part of the race to win. Around mile 6.5, I had a ray of sunshine hit me. I saw one of my running friends on the sidelines and I screamed to her and I did a little jumping up and down as I was thrilled to see a familiar face. She took this picture of me (thanks Alisyn!):

I recall around mile 6, seeing the 12 mile marker on the other side of the road. I mouthed out loud "I will see you soon mile 12" and when I hit mile 12, I said "I told you I would see you". Just part of the mental game I played during this race. Probably around mile 8, I knew I could likely keep up my too-fast pace. I wasn't sure what that pace was, but had a guess it was in the mid-8 minute per mile range.

At mile 11, I saw my friend Jose (who had to pull up lame duck due to his knee) and waved madly at him. I couldn't slow down at all and mouthed/gestured that I had to keep going. I could hear him saying "Go, go".

In the final mile, I played the "Jose game". During a previous race with him, he kept telling me to "pick off a runner" (i.e. get ahead of them), so, in the final mile, I kept picking off runners. I likely shouldn't admit that some of those runners I picked off were walking or completely stopped, but hey, that counts!

I was very glad to see the finish line and Jose's family on the sidelines. I was even more glad to see my final time was 1:47:19. My fastest race ever. I guess I had more in me than I imagined.

Final time: 1:47.19 (PR by 10 minutes)
1203/9831 runners
220/5416 females
49/949 age group

I give this race an A+. After the race, I was lucky enough to finally meet a fellow Twunner (new word, Twitter + runner) @pavementrunner. Always great to put faces to Tweets. I then met up with some fellow runners for a birthday celebration (not mine).

I couldn't stay the entire breakfast and eventually had to leave. But not before I stopped and got myself a post-race treat. Yes, my coffee lite frapp, with 3 pumps sugar free cinnamon, double blended. They don't call me the Frappologist for nothing :-)

I was all smiles the rest of the day. I really was shocked by my finish time. I still cannot believe it. This girl still has a little something left in her :-) Thank you San Jose for a great race!

Until next year San Jose...

In the words of my late grandmother, "I didn't pick you, you picked us, we were the lucky ones". I feel the same about this race. It didn't pick me, I chose it, but I hope I added something unique to the experience.

Next up...Nike Women's Full Marathon in 2 weeks. EEK!