I always say that if you can learn lessons on race day, it is a successful one no matter what the time on the clock says. Today many lessons were learned.
To name a few:
- I don’t like running marathons as “training runs.” It just doesn’t work for me mentally.
- There is a reason I always rest the day before a marathon and am super conscious not to wear myself out.
- Even if I am running a marathon as a “training run”, it is still a marathon! Take it seriously. Be organized and be prepared like any other race.
- Sometimes knowing a course too well can be a bad thing.
I have a lot of history with this race, running the marathon as my first full, then running the first half the year later and the second half last year. This year I decided to return to the full marathon and use it as a “training run” for my A race at the Portland Marathon.
I ran the Boston to Big Sur challenge in April and ramped up my training pretty quick after that, but had a rough time bouncing back. A month+ back into training things finally started clicking again and I was running well and feeling great. I had a solid, conservative race plan for this race that based on my training as of late I thought was very feasible. But we all know things hardly ever go according to plan.
After a very long and tiring week (I actually had a post partially written last week on what NOT to do during race week, which I didn’t have time to finish), and then a very long and tiring marathon eve (lesson #2), I finally made it to sleep around 10pm with the alarm set for 3am. Gah.
I slept ok and woke up with my alarm and started to get ready. Since I had been so busy last week, I hadn’t had time to think much about logistics and didn’t have what I have been eating for breakfast before long runs (Clif bar), so I kind of winged it and texted Kristin to see what she had. This is so unlike me and an obvious sign I did not have my head in the game when it came to this race (lesson #3). Jessica and I got ready and were at Kristin’s by 4:15 where we were chauffeured into San Francisco.
After some trips around the block, we parked, walked over to the start area, used the bathrooms and were ready to go! Kristin and I were planning on running together, so we went to our wave and patiently waited. 26 miles seemed very daunting at that point, but I knew I had my running buddy by my side and we would be ok.
Before we knew it, it was our turn to go and we were off running into the dark morning along the Embarcadero! Our first mile was slowish from all the traffic, but it was good to get us started off slow and into a groove. Our next couple miles we kept having to dial it back because we wanted to make sure and start conservatively between 8:50 and 9:00 miles. We were pretty successful for the most part.
Mile 1 – 9:15, Mile 2 – 8:48
A few miles later the sun was up, we had conquered our first hill, were running along Crissy field and were making our way up to the bridge! I took my first Gu right on schedule (mile 4, I typically Gu every 4 miles in a marathon) and was feeling pretty good. The air was a little warmer than I liked, so the breeze felt good and we were actually looking forward to being up on the windy bridge.
Mile 3 – 9:03, Mile 4 – 8:48, Mile 5 – 8:51
We climbed the hill to the bridge pretty conservatively and had a blast on the bridge spotting all our friends! We saw so many people and it was a fun way to pass the time.
Mile 6 – 9:29, Mile 7 – 8:48
Pretty soon we were on our way back over the bridge and enjoyed the downhill mile before the big hill came. I forgot to Gu at mile 8, so I took one at mile 9 instead and made a mental note to take one at 13.
Mile 8 – 8:48, Mile 9 – 8:48
We got up the big hill after the bridge which wasn’t as bad as the last time I ran it in training and enjoyed the long downhill on Lincoln looking around. The next couple miles were kind of rough for me, I think I knew this course a little too well (lesson #4) and knew the areas I didn’t like and didn’t feel good on training runs and this got the best of me. The miles up the Avenues getting into Golden Gate Park are not my favorite on the course and I struggled with them on training runs. At this point we have been running hills non stop, I knew the park was up ahead and I just wasn’t feeling it. I kept my thoughts to myself and just kept on running with Kristin. Pretty soon we were heading into Golden Gate Park where I knew we would see a bunch of friends and get a nice chunk of downhill before more hills.
Mile 10 – 8:58, Mile 11 – 8:35, Mile 12 – 9:08
We entered the park and saw Cate which was awesome and made our way to the right, while the 1st half went to the left. We crossed the half marathon in 1:58:XX which is exactly where we wanted to be per our race plan. I took another Gu and we just kept on cruising along, not feeling terrible, but not feeling super great either. We passed the start for the 2nd half marathon and got to see Kerry which was a great boost.
Mile 13 – 8:59, Mile 14 – 8:50
After that things started getting a little tough for me. I kept getting side cramps (!?) and just generally was not feeling great. I was burping a lot and just feeling fatigued. We kept a pretty good pace though through the hills and saw a group of our friends (Roadbunner, Audrey, and Layla) spectating right around mile 16! Then we turned left to another hill and I just didn’t want to see that.
Mile 15 – 9:04, Mile 16 – 8:59
We rounded near the 1st half marathon finish and saw Stephen, Page and Jessica all cheering loud for us! It was great to see them because at this point we were both struggling. I really would have loved to stop at the half, but I really wanted the big medal today… not kidding that thought pulled me along many times.
Right when we went around the corner from seeing them, we stopped and regrouped ourselves. Kristin said ok time for music and we cranked up the tunes and got back into the game. I felt a burst of energy then and we started running faster for a bit, but it didn’t last long. Just as we were finally going to exit the park in Mile 18 I just had to stop and walk. I knew I needed to take another Gu but could NOT get it down without walking, my stomach was just not happy.
Mile 17 – 9:57, Mile 18 – 8:42, Mile 19 – 8:50
I caught up to Kristin again and we decided to take walk breaks over the next few miles and made it past mile 20 together. Eventually I just told her to go ahead, that I wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t going to push it. My legs felt good at this point and every time I was running, I was going around an 8:45-8:55 pace, but not long after that my stomach would warn me I couldn’t keep it up for long. I really thought I was going to have to pull over and puke.
Mile 20 – 9:45, Mile 21 – 9:37
I was on my own at this point and didn’t care enough to really push it too hard during these tough miles. I don’t know if that is the right attitude to have (faster recovery for a “training run”) or a bad attitude (easier to give in next time it gets tough at that mile), but whether it was the right choice or not, I made it today and went with it. I ended up walking quite a bit during the last few miles, which definitely shows in my splits, but would end up running a decent pace when I was running. Pretty soon Mile 22 became 23, then I was at 24 and knew I was going to finish.
Mile 22 – 11:46, Mile 23 – 11:04, Mile 24 – 11:04
I finally could see the Bay Bridge in the distance and knew I was getting close, but it also seemed so far away. The spectators and entertainment out here were much better than I remembered in the past, and I was enjoying this section and trying to smile. Pretty soon I was at AT&T ball park and I told myself no more walking. Then I was running down the Embarcadero with the finish line ahead.
Mile 25 – 9:30, Mile 26 – 9:11
I pushed the last bit and hoped my stomach wouldn’t revolt and finally I was across the finish line with marathon #11 in the books!
Last .52 (per garmin) 4:12 (8:04 avg)
Garmin: 26.52/4:06:57/9:18 avg pace
Official: 26.2 miles/4:06:57/9:25 avg pace
7.4 mile @ 9:04
13.1 mile @ 9:05
20 mile @9:09
I found Chris and my friends right away and hung out for a bit recapping all of our races. My legs felt pretty good and I my stomach calmed down.
We made our way to the car to change and then headed to the massive brunch I coordinated! It was so fun to have a meeting place and to get to see so many friends after the race. I am seriously so so so lucky to have such a huge group of amazing runners as my friends. I love them all!
We recapped our races, shoved our faces with nachos and celebrated with beer. It was a great end to a tough morning.
Post Race Thoughts
I am not sure why I felt so bad in this race, but I really just think I had too much going on and didn’t have enough mental capacity this week to devote to this race that it deserved. That said, I am glad I did it and just would change a few things logistically if I ever decide to do something like that again. I learned a lot, which is always a positive, and although it was the slowest marathon I have ran for myself, I still finished with a respectable time. The good news is my legs and body feel great, besides an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. July has been an insane month and I am looking forward to some less busy months ahead so I can focus my eyes on the prize: Portland Marathon!
I was so honored to be a part of the race this year as an Ambassador and also so proud! The SFM staff truly puts on an amazing event that I highly recommend for all runners. Sure it’s a tough course, but it’s most definitely worth the hurt.
Weekly recap, July recap and tons more pics to come!