Thursday, June 27, 2013

Marathon Bucket List

If money wasn't a factor, my "full time job" would be running!  Well, it would actually be operating a Boston Terrier sanctuary and spending all my time outside of that running!  I would also adopt a Rhodesian Ridgeback to be my running partner :)  I would spend my days training, stretching, icing, and planning out where the next race would be.  See how easily I get off track with this?  Hey, we all have dreams right?  Anyways....

I have been so incredibly blessed to get to travel to a few destination races.  Traveling to a new place to run brings a whole new level of excitement to the sport!  When you spend hours and hours, day after day, of training in the same location it can get mind numbingly boring!  I'm a Texas girl 100%, but is so nice to see some new sites while out on a run.  "Oh, hey look, mountains!"  It's the little things that excite me.  Destination races also add a new level of stress to the mix!  Packing for a race pretty much takes up an entire suitcase and not to mention the entire flight there you are praying that they don't lose your luggage.  "Did I pack the right sports bra and the shorts that don't make me look like a whale?"  "I sure hope my GU doesn't explode in my luggage."  I'm a worry wart by nature, which is also why I gladly pay $8 for a cocktail on an airplane. 

I decided to put together a list of the races that I want to run.  I've kept a mental note of races over the years but I decided to write it down.  A goal that isn't written down is just a wish, right?  They are in no particular order and I fully expect this list to grow over time.  In my opinion, there is no better way to explore a city than on foot.  You get to see the sights, smell the smells (which can be interesting...), and remember details about each corner that you wouldn't get to experience any other way.  For some cities I have a specific race that I want to run, while others I know I want to run there just not sure which one yet!  If you have any that you think I should check out, send them my way!    

Official Bucket List
  • San Francisco Marathon
  • Texas Hill Country Marathon
  • New York City Marathon
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Portland, OR
  • Boston Marathon
  • Maui Marathon
  • Negril, Jamaica - The Reggae Marathon
  • Australia Outback Marathon
  • New Orleans
  • Run to The Pub Half Marathon - Bozeman, Montana
  • Bahamas Marathon
  • Dallas Marathon (I don't know why but I feel obligated to run a full in my own backyard)
  • Napa Valley
  • Big Sur Marathon
  • Las Vegas
  • Seattle, WA
  • Mount Desert Island Marathon - Maine 
  • Walt Disney World Marathon
  • Athens Greece Marathon

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Race Report: San Francisco Marathon - June 16, 2013

Several months ago when I decided I wanted to run this marathon, I knew what I was getting into but I don't think I fully understood at the time what I would get out of it.  After realizing that the marathon of choice, San Francisco, also fell on Father's Day I wanted to tie the two together.  I firmly believe in "making miles matter" so I teamed up with the Racing For a Cure team that raises awareness and funds for the Arthritis National Research Foundation.  (Here's the full story)  The organization was so incredibly wonderful to work with.  Unlike many charities that run similar programs, they do not require that you raise "x" amount of dollars in order to participate.  Instead, they just ask that you do what you can to raise awareness about a disease that impacts so many but doesn't get the attention it deserves.  Every little bit counts!  Over the course of the last few months I am proud to report that through the donations of friends of family, I raised $1,350 on behalf of my Dad and the ANRF!  My goal was $1,000 but you guys blew that out of the water in less than a week, and the donations kept coming.  I am so incredibly humbled and blessed! A sincere thank you to all of those who donated!  I don't think my Dad expected this level of attention either.  Through this journey I've been able to raise awareness for Rheumatoid Arthritis and reach a new crowd who may not a) know there was a research foundation dedicated to this disease or b) given two flips about some girl running a marathon.  Win-win!

Back to the race!  We arrived in San Francisco on Friday which gave us enough time to hit up the expo, grab our goodies, and a get good nights rest.  Saturday was spent doing nothing.  Literally.  One mistake I made before the NYC Marathon was walking around the city way too much the day before the race.  So this time all I did for about 8 hours was sit in the hotel room with the balcony doors open, read books, drink water, and eat a dose of carbs every hour on the hour.  When your hotel room has a view like this, I can't really complain too much.

Carb loading really started on Friday, but on Saturday I consumed 2600 calories, 500g of carbs, and 160 oz of water. Needless to say, I'm glad I had my stretchy pants on because I was ready to vomit.  I've never actually documented my carb and calorie intake this closely before a race (I know, I know....) so I was hoping that all of this would actually pay off.  For the record, I'm boycotting bagels, couscous, and rice for at least 6 months.  Saturday night our group headed out for dinner at Barbacco (which was fantastic!) and we were in bed by 8pm.   We were still internally on Dallas time so that actually worked in our favor.  Much to my surprise, I actually got a good nights sleep.

Sunday morning the alarm went off at 3:50am.  Yawn.  We rolled out of bed, ate our bagels and began the get ready process.  I managed to snap a couple of pictures.

I had a Racing For A Cure jersey that the group sent me.  I tried it out during a couple of training runs and I was so incredibly sad that it just didn't fit well enough to make it through 26 miles.  I was so upset over it.  You can ask Brandon that I debated up until the last minute (I brought it to San Fran) but I decided that I couldn't risk it.  In lieu of the jersey I sported my awareness wrist band and had a custom bib made:
We mixed up our Arginine and headed down to the start line.  Another thing I learned in NYC is to stay at a hotel next to the start/finish line.  Best.  Decision.  Ever.

I'm so glad we stopped for this picture, it is one of my favorites!
 The heightened security was definitely a wake up call:

but we patiently waited and got through to make our way to stand in that familiar ol' port-o-potty line.  30 minutes later (it's a good thing I didn't have an emergency potty situation or anything) we got done with that and it was time to jump in our corrals!  While it was a bit rushed, it was nice to not really have to wait around for long.  I always use my time in the corral to mellow out, pray, and just think about how blessed I am to even be standing there.  Running has been such a gift to me over the years and I'm always happy to give a big 'thank you' to the man upstairs for allowing me the gift of running and being surrounded with like-minded folks on race day.  After only a few minutes, the trolley bell rang and our wave was off!
As we were taking off the sun was just starting to peek out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  The temperature hovered around 55-60 degrees with a light really could not have dreamed up more perfect weather for race day!

Miles 1-4
The first couple of miles take you down Embarcadero and past Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and all of the main attractions down by the water.  I knew these first few miles were flat, so I fully enjoyed it because I knew that was all about to come to a screeching halt.  There was one small climb around 2.5 miles in, but that was nothing compared to what was up ahead.  

Miles 5-9
After enjoying those first few miles it was time to see what San Francisco was really made of!  Coming up on mile 5 and all I could think of was the Price Is Right game Cliffhangers.....going up!  Garmin clocked it at a 408 foot climb.  While the climb was a doozy, once you reached the top you got your first glimpse of the Golden Gate.  We made our way around and it was time to tackle the bridge!  The bridge makes up about 3.5 miles of the course.  The clear blue skies and breeze made for one of the most picturesque scenes I've ever gotten to run through.  I made sure to look around, take it all in, and as bet I sang the Full House theme song while running across.

"You miss your old familiar friends, waiting just around the bend...everywhere you look..."

I actually got to pass Brandon on the bridge!  We exchanged a smile and a high-five and kept on going.  My little speed demon was after a PR.  Once you make your first trip over the bridge you get to the turn around point just off the bridge.  This was the point in the race I wish I had my camera.  The view from this point overlooking the water, the bridge, and the city was literally breathtaking.  After doing a little loop it was back over the bridge we go.  The journey over the bridge consists of a gradual incline followed by a decline, so it really went by pretty quickly.  Once we came off the bridge I knew that one of the biggest hills was ahead of us (thanks to doing my research with previous race reports).  Before coming off the bridge I took another shot of GU and I am so glad I did.  The hill going from miles 9-10 clocked in on the Garmin at 946 feet gain.  Ouch and ouch.  I shortened my stride, focused on the top of the hill and up we went!  At the top of this mammoth was a view overlooking the city, incredible!  If there's one thing I can say about this course, you are rewarded for the torturous hills with incredible views of the city. 

Miles 10-13
After you complete that massive uphill you are also rewarded with an extra long downhill! Weeeeeee was that a fun and a welcomed site!  I cruised down the hill and entered the Presidio and then we started making our way into Golden Gate park.  This was the part of the race where the first half marathoners were going to break off and head to the finish.  It was honestly the part of the race that I was a little scared of.  It's always a bit disheartening as a full marathoner to have to run past the finish line for those just running the half.  They are celebrating with their Irish Coffee and scones and you just wave, and keep on truckin'.  I don't like coffee anyways, psshhhh.  Mile 13 came and went and it was time to settle in for the long haul.

Miles 14-18
I was still keeping pace at this point and really wasn't feeling fatigued.  One of my initial goals when I started training for this race was that I wanted to run the first 18 miles, on pace, without stopping for a walk break.  This stretch of the course was all through the park.  It was very pretty with the greenery and such, but it was also a little boring.  No crowd support and after awhile, I think we can all admit that trees just get a little boring to look at.  Mile 14 came and went....mile 15 came and went....mile 16 came and went....mile 17 came and I really still not feeling tired?  This was the part of the race where I started to get excited!  Not only was I about to accomplish this goal, but I started to see a new PR in my future.  Anytime that thought enters my head my motivation starts to kick it into high gear.  I saw the mile 18 marker and the biggest smile came across my face!  I ran past it until about 18.5 miles in and stopped for a walk/water break.  I actually did something in this race that I never do - I turned off my iPod.  For the next few miles I just enjoyed the run and decided to leave it turned off the rest of the way.

Miles 19-23
Coming up on mile 19 you finally get to exit Golden Gate park and start to head down historic Haight Street.  Nothing like the fresh aroma of a little "greenery" to wake you up on your run.  Someone was definitely having more fun than we were at that point!  Haight Street is a steady incline the entire way up but then you are given a couple of really steep downhills. At this point in the race, downhills aren't exciting.  Instead they are quad killers that you approach saying "Oh dear Lord, please do not fall down this hill".  I leaned back and took my time getting down these but didn't walk it.  This part of the race can be a little confusing because there are a couple of points where they actually split the runners into two different directions.  This helps keep traffic light and eventually you meet back up.  Honestly, I didn't think it was that crowded or necessary.  Luckily I had read those handy dandy race reports from years past and knew this was coming, so I just kept on truckin'.    

Miles 24-26.58 (yep...)
The home stretch!  With less than a 5K left to go, I knew I was going to hit my time goal so I just kept moving.  The last few miles give you nothing spectacular to look at really.  There was a spectator around mile 24 who made up a song about electrolytes and water and played along on his guitar.  It gave me a good laugh so thank you to whoever you are!  At mile 26 you pass by AT&T Park and come back up upon the Bay Bridge which means the finish line was close!  At mile 26.4 (yep....) Brandon, Fonzie, and Jer-el were waiting cheering me on to the finish.  I knew I had crushed my time and couldn't stop smiling!

MARATHON #2 = DONE!!!  4:52:48    

Happy Father's Day Dad!!!!
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing months of hard work pay off!  I put a lot of extra efforts into this race.  I was running it for my Dad, I HAD to do well!  All of the additional hill sessions, calorie tracking, carb loading, multiple visits with the doctor, and all of the extra time spent away from the family paid off.  One huge indicator of having fueled properly was that after the race, I felt great!  Sure I was a little tired and stiff, but I had energy and didn't even take a nap.  I know I said before on a few a occasions that I wasn't going for time.  Ultimately I wasn't, but I had a time in my head all along that I really wanted to beat.  I wouldn't even tell Brandon what it was.  A time that TO ME, would validate my efforts for not only this race but as a runner in general.  (I am my own worst critic)  I wanted to beat the 5 hour mark....which I did!  4:52:58 is a long shot from professional speed, but for me it was awesome and something to be proud of. 

A few weeks ago I set some "non time related goals" for this race, here's an update on those:

  1. Have FUN!  - DONE!
  2. You're running through one of the most beautiful and historic places, enjoy the damn scenery! - LOVED every second of it!
  3. Sing the Full House theme song while running across the Golden Gate Bridge...everywhere you look.... - DONE!
  4. Finish strong.  No matter what time I cross the finish line, I better run through it. DONE!
  5. Find the course photographers (instead of avoiding them) and get some fun pictures taken! DONE - I made sure to smile because I was indeed having fun!
  6. Don't poop your pants.  - DONE!  
  7. Say a prayer of thanks for each mile marker you cross. - DONE! 
  8. Inspire others. - Before and after the race I received so many messages, texts, email, etc. from so many different people and I am so grateful for those!   Your goals and aspirations inspire me more than you know.  I know a few who are about to race their first 5K/10K/half marathon and I've enjoyed watching you go through the process.  It is full of ups and downs but it is ALWAYS worth it!   
Thank you San Francisco for allowing me to cross another race off my bucket list.  The hills were a beast but the incredible views more than made up for it time and time again!  The newest member of the collection:   

 The stats:
Official Race Results


Monday, June 10, 2013

Race week game plan!

It's here it's here!  Race week is FINALLY here!  Did I mention I'm running a marathon this weekend?  Not sure if I have or not...

Training is pretty much done minus a few easy runs this week.  I only have two runs planned for the week but I may throw in a third Friday morning to help shake out the race jitters.  The best feeling approaching race week is just accepting the mindset of what's done is done.  Time to plan for the fun part!  My anxiety is already through the roof just thinking about the massive list of things that have to get done before we go.  I am 100% my mother's child when it comes to traveling.  I have to prepare my "travel folder" that contains every single order/confirmation/reservation etc. for our trip.  You would think someone who works in the land of technology would just simply utilize my smart phone for such would think wrong.  People can't argue with paper, and they for darn sure don't want to argue with me.  Just ask Brandon about what happened when we arrived in Vegas for our honeymoon and were trying to check in to the hotel....that's a fun story :)   Don't argue with my travel folder, it will take you down to China town!

I shipped all of my fuel ahead of time to the hotel!  I also trust airline baggage handlers as much as I trust technology.  I put the Arginine in Ziploc baggies to avoid shipping the entire canister.  Arginine has a striking resemblance to cocaine, so I was not taking that chance.  I'm sure that's a fun conversation to have with airport security.

Packing for destination races is stressful.  I usually make my race wardrobe decisions the morning of the race.  So trying to pack multiple options for multiple possible climates is draining.  Rule #1 of destination races:  do NOT pack your race day shoes!  You wear them on the plane.  Every other piece of the wardrobe could be replaced on the fly if necessary, but not your shoes.  I thought about shipping them with the above supplies but my shoes would require the Large shipping box.  >insert abnormally large feet jokes here<

The rest of this week will be spent resting up and trying to get my body feeling 100%.  My neck is on the mend.  Thank you Lord for the healing!  (a good doctor helps too) My sinus infection is still lingering and driving me insane.  I'm convinced the only way I'll ever rid myself of sinus/allergy issues is to just move.  I'm allergic to Texas.  I spent last night hovered over a steaming pot trying to get some action in those sinus cavities.  Thank you to my husband for capturing me in all my glory:

My biggest concern with traveling is making sure I eat enough and drink enough water.  I know what my calorie and carb intake needs to be at and the thought of it already makes me want to vomit.  I'm tired of eating.  Bleh.  I'll be keeping a journal handy to make sure I get enough!  The sinus issue is already going to cause me enough grief on race day, I don't need improper fueling contributing.  Ain't nobody got time for all that.

One issue that I don't have to worry about is our "child care" while we're gone.  A HUGE THANK YOU to our families who are chipping in to house sit and watch the dogs.  You guys have no idea what a huge help it is to us.  As well as peace of mind knowing they are all being spoiled and loved on during their time of despair.

The race day forecast looks about as good as it could possibly be....eeeeeek!  I can't wait to see you San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Taper Time Is Always Disappointing

I know some of you who read this blog may not fully understand what taper time is, and why it is so important.  Everyone treats their taper time a little differently based on the needs of their training, what their goals are for the race, or downright just how much they care.  It's a time to let your body recover from the months of training/running/beat down that it has taken.  The ultimate goal is to show up to the start line refreshed with rested legs and an eager heart.  Since I started marathon training 22 weeks ago, I knew that the last three weeks of training would be for taper.  Three weeks is pretty standard for your everyday average runner like myself.  There are two main goals that I set for marathon training:
  1. Survive until you hit taper time, no matter how much it hurts.
  2. Show up to the start line of the race injury free.
When I finished my last long run I had a small victory celebration!  All I could think about was how happy I was that the "hard" part was over with and now I could relax.  I use the word "relax" very loosely because during taper you are still working, you're still're not sitting on the couch eating pizza and drinking beer every night.  Mmmmm, beer.  At first I was so excited that the long runs were behind me and it was all downhill from there.  It wasn't two days into my taper period before I already had the itch to go run something over 13 miles.  Given that I'm a little injury prone (working to correct that) it's especially important for me to take this time to REST.  I need to run the miles I have allotted and no matter how much it irks me, do not run any further! >sigh<

So here we are, in the midst of beloved taper time and what do you know?  I get a sinus infection.  Ok ok, I can deal with that.  10 days of antibiotics, no drinking (which coincides with taper nicely) blah blah blah.  Three days after sinus infection diagnosis what do you know?  I wake up Sunday morning unable to move my neck or sit up.  Can you say scared the absolute crap out of me?!  After 30 minutes of trying to get up without passing out, I finally made my way into the living room where Brandon found me.  Me and our big comfy couch became BFF's for the next 48 hours.  Due to the fact that I'm incredibly stubborn (big shocker, I know...) I waited until today to call the doctor.  After almost two hours of being tortured worked on, I got to lay down on what had to be the most comforting ice packs I have ever felt.  The pain is still there but I guess I can say that it feels a little itty bit better?  As I described it to my doctor in very sophisticated terms, "It feels like there is a golf ball trying to break through the bottom of my skull".  (Pretty sure he thinks I'm fresh off the crazy train.)  I do know that I was told "no running" tomorrow which is always scary to hear.  He's having me come back tomorrow for round two...woooooo.  Sense the excitement?  In the grand scheme of things all I can do is be thankful that this is happening NOW and I still have 11 days before the marathon to get better.  I have 100% faith that I'll be ready to go by then!

Taper time often tends to be more of a mental battle for me.  This time is definitely no different.  For weeks and weeks I look forward to when I don't have to focus on all of the miles and I can finally put all of my focus into the last minute/fun details of our race and vacation.  The last week of taper you just have to approach with the "what's done is done" attitude.  An extra hill session or 15 mile run isn't going to help you at this point.  In fact, it might actually hurt you.  So, this taper time was disappointing but I'm taking it in stride.....with ice packs, antibiotics, and lots of puppy snuggles on the couch.