Golden Gate Bridge

2016 San Francisco Marathon

Yesterday, I finished the 2016 San Francisco Marathon. This was the first time I completed the entire course and it was the most difficult race I’ve ever run. All week, I was stressed out over my IT band. Would it bother me? Would it keep me from finishing?

SF Marathon

Pre-race

Let me start from the beginning….the race start time was 5:30am, but because I’m a slow runner, my corral start time was 6:22am. I woke up at 2:45am, groggy, blurry-eyed; it took me a while to have my sense about me. I’m really glad I woke early though. I had gone to bed at nine Saturday night, so I got plenty of rest. I had everything ready to go, but of course, I had to check everything two and three times, to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

I’ve never understood those non-elite runners who don’t carry anything with them when they run. I have to take so many things with me that I at least have to take a running belt with me.

After waiting and waiting for the MUNI Bus #38 that never showed up when it was supposed to, I walked to the starting line. It’s only about a mile and a half away, so it was actually a nice warm up and probably helped get me ready.

There weren’t enough porto-bathrooms, so I spent a long time waiting for one.

Marathon stop

Water stop at Chrissy Field

As I started running, I felt good. In fact, the whole first half went very well. I would have done great if I had just signed up for a half. It was after 15 miles when my right IT band and hamstring started giving me problems. I had to stop and walk a few times. I was very happy I brought my hand roller and used that a couple times. I also made two visits to Medical tables and iced the area. That helped a lot!

But as I got nearer to the end of the race, I wound up walking for about two miles. I couldn’t help it. The pain on my side was bad and there was NO WAY I was going to stop, but I just couldn’t run the entire way to the finish.

marathon GGB.jpg

Packed race on the Golden Gate Bridge

I managed to push myself to run the last half mile and I was even smiling finishing. My time was awful, but I don’t care. I finished and that’s good enough for me.

There were others who finished after me, but not many. By the time I ended the race, most of the cool goodies were gone and the sponsors were folding up their tables. I treated myself to a scoop of Nutella-Banana ice cream from Shoot the Moon in Embarcardero Center. It was delicious!

Since I’m not doing full marathons for a while, I probably won’t do this full course again, at least not for another year anyway. I may do the second half again, but I really don’t want to run on the Golden Gate Bridge anymore. Listen to me: RUNNING ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE IS OVERRATED. I hear people have this on their bucket list all the time. There are far, far better places to run than that bridge around here, trust me.

First, if the weather was like it was yesterday, it’s freezing, windy, wet and VERY cold. Second, there are metal grates in the street to keep the cars slowed down but are hellish for runners. It’s very easy to slip, trip or fall. I saw it happen. It wasn’t pretty. Third and worst of all, there were two lanes, the right going north and the left coming back south. Since I was towards the back of the pack, there were more runners in the South lane and they kept jumping into our lane to get ahead of the runners in their own lane. Because I had to deal with walkers and run/walkers, I tried to stay to the left of them, those lane hoppers were nearly running into me. It was like a video game! It was making me a little cranky. I was very happy to be off the bridge.

I do have a question for race directors. Why are aid/water/food stations always set up at the bottom of hills? The last place I want to take in nourishment is before I tackle a tough hill. I have never understood this. Since I wear a hydration vest I was able to pass up most of these until towards the end, when, unfortunately, many of these were folding up, just my luck.

I do want to give a big THANK YOU to the volunteers and workers. All the station workers, the police officers and the bikers who helped out with traffic and just making us runners smile, even when it hurt to smile. I love all of you!

The Expo the day before was nice. I was able to meet Lupe from one of the Facebook running groups I belong to and my friend Steve, so that was cool.

And, even though it was so difficult to finish, I DID finish. I made it and got my medal. I also had time to think about my future training goals and I will let you know once I get these more cemented.

Cheers!

Medal

My medal with Buster, my running mascot

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FREEDOM

This was my low mileage Sunday in between two long run Sundays, so I figured to switch it up and get a nice trail run in today. I went up to the Marin Headlands, amidst wind, fog and cold July weather.

Foggy Hill 7-3-16

Foggy Downhill

When I got off the Golden Gate Transit bus at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, I almost turned around and walked over the bridge back to San Francisco. The Headlands looked so cold and foggy, especially at the top, I wondered if it was worth even trying to get a run in.

San Francisco weather in the summer is so schizophrenic it’s hard to tell if it’s going to be warm or cold from day to day. This is especially true the nearer to the Pacific Ocean one gets. Inland, it’s mostly hot all summer long. But up where I was going it was blustery cold. The Headlands are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a national open space land that is indeed glorious and has acres and acres to explore. One can hike, bike, run, horseback ride or just drive to various spots and enjoy the views. It’s such a large area that it includes areas in San Francisco as well as the large part just north of SF I was at today.

One good thing about not-so-great weather; it certainly kept the crowds down. I didn’t see a whole lot of others out there on my run.

This was one of the most difficult runs I can remember. I charted out a circular route to take me back to the start, which I figured would be about 10 miles, and at 10.5 miles, I got it just about right. I just forgot how steep some of those hills are! Let’s just say that for about four of those 10.5 miles I wasn’t running at all, but hiking up VERY steep hills, huffing and puffing all the while.

During trail runs I never listen to music. I much prefer the sounds of the hills, the singing birds, the rustling of bunnies scattering into the brush, the hum of the wind through the trees and the laughing of crows. It feels like I am not alone and keeps me company. It also makes me think.

View of the Bay 7-3-16

View of the SF Bay

Today, I thought about Freedom. I thought about how running makes me feel. Running sometimes makes me feel strong, sometimes tired, other times absolutely exhausted, but how it really makes me feel is FREE. I choose to run, I run because I have chosen to work at running. Sure, maybe I can’t at this moment run up every one of those steep hills, but I can train, I can get stronger, get faster, get leaner, that is my choice. That is my FREEDOM.

Our forefathers wanted their freedom from a tyrannical government. They gave up nearly everything to get it. Because one’s own choice in one’s life decisions is that important. I thank and honor them this 4th as I always do. I probably will never know if I have the same courage or strength that they did, but finishing tough runs like today make me feel a teeny bit stronger.

Have a great Fourth of July!

Cheers!

Marin Headlands

Marin Headlands 4-3-16

The best view!

Trail running is near the top of my Running Loves List. I don’t get to go out as much as I would like, without a car it takes a bit more planning and a lot more time. But I managed to get a wonderful day of trail runs in this past Sunday.

As the calendar moves into spring, there is something always going on in San Francisco. That means traffic isn’t going to be easy. The San Francisco Rock & Roll Half Marathon happened on Sunday morning, so there were lots of street closures. I’ve ran that race before and I’m not sure if I’ll do it again. The first four miles are nearly all uphill; it’s one of the most punishing halfs I’ve ever run, so thinking about a second go-through has me wondering if I want to put myself through it again.

It’s not that easy getting to the Marin Headlands on a Sunday via bus. The earliest one doesn’t leave SF until 8am, and the one I wanted, not until 9:30am, so at least I didn’t have to cut my sleep short. The line doesn’t run often either, so when it does it’s usually packed with hikers, nature lovers and out of town visitors. And, the MUNI #76 Marin Headlands line that goes all the way to Roade Beach only runs on Sundays, so it’s not there is a choice of which day to go.

Headlands 4-3-16

The Headlands hills are steep but pay off!

As we departed for north of SF, the bus got stuck waiting for runners to pass on Larkin Street. It was towards the tail end of the race and knowing how demanding this race is, I felt for their tired faces.

It wasn’t the warmest day. In fact, later on it became completely overcast and a little windy. But as I took to the trail off Cozelman Rd, the sun was peeking out and helped warm me going up that steep first mile.

Those first two miles are harsh!!! Straight up, up, UP!!!! I ran as much as I could, walking lots, finding myself out of breath even. It’s hard to believe that I can still get out of breath so fast over a silly hill!

But once at the top, few things are as spectacular as that view!

When trail running, it’s the one time it’s guaranteed I won’t be listening to music. The natural sounds around me are so stunning and loud! The birds never stopped singing the entire time I was out there. I forgot how much I love natural sounds. They’ve become so distant to me since living in the city and I miss them terribly.

Marin Headlands Flowers 4-3-16

Wild Flowers!

It took me longer to maneuver through the trails than I thought. Many of them had become a little overgrown with the recent rains. There was lots of poison oak and I do mean TONS of it. I had to be careful moving through it because new branches stuck out everywhere, looking for places to grow and I am highly susceptible to it.

I made it to Rodeo Beach about 1.5 miles short of my goal, but the #76 was due any moment. I decided to catch it back across the Golden Gate Bridge and finish up my distance in the Presidio where I could easily take another bus back home.

I won’t make it such a long time between runs here again, even with the hassle of getting there and back, it’s well worth it.

And even if it means spending a little money, I vow to go on some good trail runs a little farther away from home this year. It really is a blast and worth the money spent.

Cheers!

MARIN HEADLANDS

Vew of SF 12-29-15

View of San Francisco from the top of the trail

I stepped off the bus into the chilly morning air at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was early enough that few tourists had weaved their way across the Visitors Map to this farthest end. I thanked myself for taking these three days in between Christmas and New Year’s off; it was the perfect time to decompress and get some nice weekday runs in while the was sun up.

The first mile of the Coastal Trail in the Marin Headlands is nearly straight up, so I spent a lot of it running when I could and hiking up as quickly as I could. My time was abysmal, but I’m not used to trail running, especially uphill, so I’ll give myself a pass.

I passed a few people, but not too many. I put my Yurbuds away as I got higher and farther away from the constant hum of 101. Now the music I was enjoying were the sounds of birds, the breeze and my shoes stepping on the dirt and gravel.

Marin headlands 12-29-15

Looking west towards the Pacific Ocean

The trail wasn’t easy; the rains had done a superb job of loosening the small rocks and creating tiny riverlets within the path. I passed a woman who nearly lost her footing going down a steep part of the trail. When the way got extra steep I took my time, even I was running downhill, it was far too easy to lose my footing.

Away from the trees near the start of the path the sun shone warm and it felt great to be on top of the hill. I’ve always loved this area. As I ran, I vowed to visit here at least a couple times a month, even for short runs like today. I need to get to know these trails better.

Dolphin 12-29-15

A dolphin

I ran around 5 miles in total on trails, which was enough for today. The next time I’ll run more. I walked back to San Francisco via the Golden Gate and looked over at the water, and got to see sea lions swimming without a care in the world. That was a familiar sight, but then I spotted the pod of dolphins! That was a first for me. In all my years I’ve never seen dolphins in the Bay. There must have been a school of fish in the area because there were hundreds of sea gulls around them. It brought a smile to my face that I still have. What a wonderful world. My picture of a dolphin isn’t the greatest, but I only had my phone and it’s all I could get.

I’ll write my goals for 2016 in my next post!

Cheers!

LONG RUN ADVENTURE

Long runs are my adventures. Preparing for them is like packing for vacations. It takes so long….first, I have to remember to eat right the day before, make sure I get the right amount of carbs and not go overboard on the protein, skip the red meat and spicy foods, prepare my electrolyte mix and first and foremost (!!) have clean running clothes. Gack! How many times have I wanted to run and not had anything clean??!?

The morning of the run I’m up at least two hours before I leave to give me enough time to eat and have coffee. Ah, the elixir of the gods! Blessed coffee! I always hear of people who don’t need coffee, well, I couldn’t, no I would NOT get out of bed if I didn’t have an awaiting cup of hot, delicious coffee. It is my one vice, as I don’t partake in alcohol. And I’m particular in my coffee beans. So I enjoy as good of a coffee as I my budget allows me.

Once I’m on the road, I head out of my quiet neighborhood, yes even Downtown San Francisco is quiet early on a Sunday morning, what direction I go depends entirely on my mood. Sunday’s run took me to Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge.

The morning weather was cool; perfect for a run. My body felt great; everything was clicking. I ran down Union Street that would be jammed with brunch goers in a couple hours. But now only a few dog owners and scattered runners are out. I turn into the familiar gates of the Presidio.

The Presidio of San Francisco used to be an Army base for over a hundred years. Now, it’s part of a national recreation area and it’s magnificent. It has hundreds of miles of trails for bikes, hikers and runners. Maybe the park is a little too built up, too many hotels, restaurants and businesses, but it’s still quite nice, especially in the early morning.

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View running up to the Golden Gate Bridge

And early morning is the only time to run across the Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, I arrived there after eight, and there were already packs of tourists. Somehow, some folks think that being a tourist means not having to think. I yelled at a tourist with a selfie who blocked the entire pathway and nearly decapitated me as I ran past. Those things are dangerous! Haha!

I’ve said it plenty of times and I’ll say it a few more….running on the Golden Gate Bridge is overrated. There are far too many tourists crowding it and it’s always windy and cold. Do it once, maybe twice, but if you must do it, continue running to get way past it into Marin County. The bridge stressed me out, but after I got off it and run downhill on Conzelman Rd towards Fort Baker any stress that still existed melted away. The views of the bridge from below, of SF Bay and the vista beyond and of Horseshoe Bay in front of me were stunning. It was worth the trouble of running on the bridge. Had I just run the two miles on the bridge, turned around and run two miles back and continued my run in San Francisco over the same, familiar courses I had done a hundred times, I don’t think I would have had the same satisfaction that this new discovery gave me. This was special.

The last time I had explored Fort Baker was during a hike I had taken about a year and a half ago. I spent most of the day hiking around south Marin County. I had a great day, as I remember, so this was just another terrific memory of the area.

Under the Bridge

Under the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin

Now I faced a long, incline out of Horseshoe Bay. It wasn’t too steep, but it seemed endless. That hill took me a while. And just as it ended, I was in Sausalito and nearing the end of my run. I ran the last mile along the water and enjoyed some nice views.

Angel Island

Angel Island from the ferry

I took the Golden Gate Ferry back to SF and with coffee in hand, sat back, taking in the views. It’s been a great morning.

Cheers!

Are Too Many Races Nothing But Hype?

San Francisco Sunrise

San Francisco Sunrise

I ran 15 miles this morning. It was the longest run I’ve ever completed in 28 years. It was great and hard and punishing and rewarding and tiring, all at once and I’m quite proud of pushing myself to reach my goal. In a couple weeks, I’ll run 18 miles; my marathon isn’t that far away.

This morning was also the SF Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I thought I’d watch a little of it since it started at the same time as my run and the course at the 1-mile mark ran past the corner of my street. There’s so much build up for this race. It costs a whopping $200. The only other Half I can think of in that price range are any of the Disney “runs”, again, with massive hype. I’m not a Disney person, so those have no appeal to me, and I’m equally not a Nike fan, so I’ve never understood the big draw for this “race”. And this morning made me like it even less.

The front part of the race included runners that were pacing nicely, but they petered out quickly and even at the 1 mile mark, the walkers started. In fact, most of the “racers” were walkers, and they weren’t walking fast at all. I shrugged it off and ran off to continue my route.

I ran into the Slow Walkers again at my 13-mile mark. Their race was around the 10-mile mark, so they still had a little to go. I was hoping that they would be completed with this portion of the race by now. We were on the bottom, level portion of Lincoln Blvd in the Presidio and several thousand Slow Walkers hadn’t started the ascent up the hill towards the Golden Gate Bridge. They were in no hurry to do so. They were strolling as if in a suburban shopping mall, taking selfies, dancing around, doing everything but working up a sweat.

How about just going to brunch and letting someone who really wants to run and do their best take your spot?

These hyped-up “Fun Runs” regardless of whether they are 5Ks or Halfs, give runners a bad name. We runners work hard to be the best we can. Sure, the vast majority of us will never win a race or even place, but we don’t treat it like it’s just a “thing to do” or a place to party.

I place the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on par with Color “Runs” and all the other silly money makers. If all you want to do is stroll along, never break a sweat, never train at all and just go do something different than Eggs Benedict at the local spot on the corner, they’re for you. If you want to really go out and run and do something good for your body, skip it and find a decent race.

Cheers!

Manning the Bananas at the SF Rock and Roll Half

City Hall pre-race at dawn

City Hall pre-race at dawn

I wanted to run the San Francisco Rock & Roll Half, but it wasn’t happening this year. I decided to volunteer instead. Since the race ends at SF City Hall, about 4 blocks or so from my apartment building, I signed up for there.

Call time was 5:30am. We were served cold Noah’s breakfast sandwiches and warm coffee. They placed me and a couple other people at the bananas and bagels station. The race crew had bags and bags of small plain bagels and many boxes of bananas for the runners.

It was fun to smile at each runner and hand out bananas. They are the perfect food for runners. Carbs, potassium, it all helps a runner either before or after a hard race. I have never, ever seen so many bananas in my life!

So. Many. Bananas.

So. Many. Bananas.

So many people go into putting a large event like this together. The paid race crew was running around, talking on radios, making sure everything was in shape for the runners.

I remember the course last year. It’s really hard, especially at the beginning. It starts at Ocean Beach and goes about 4 miles straight uphill until it gets to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then it’s uphill over the bridge to the other side and back uphill over the bridge to SF. The course cruises down through the Presidio, along the water and then flat through the Marina, then a little uphill on Polk Street and just when you think you got it made, the course planners threw a wrench in and give you a little left turn back up a steep hill. Welcome to San Francisco! But that’s the last one and you’re nearly home free now.

It was warm too today, so with the warmer weather, the many uphill miles and the distance, the medical crew was very busy. I talked to a couple of the team and they said they had their hands full. Unfortunately, so many think they can just wing it, but not on this course.

Afterwards, I went home and after a bit of food and rest, got a decent 4-mile run in. My leg felt good, so I think all the work I’m doing strengthening is helping. I will do this race next year.

Cheers!

Setting up before the race.

Setting up before the race.

Fort Point Run

Ah…..

Today was my return to longer runs. I can say, for the first time that my 6-mile run this morning was the first without knee or IT band pain or tightness. And it was a magnificent run!

I left the apartment around 8:30am and ran up Van Ness through Fort Mason down the Marina into the Presidio. I turned around at Fort Point (not before taking a couple pictures first) and ran back past Sports Basement towards the Marina.

Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge

Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge

My total distance was 6.4 miles and though there were some stops for traffic lights and a couple walks for water and Clif Shot Bloks, it was a good, smooth run with no mechanical problems whatsoever!

The very coolest thing this morning was during the 5th mile….I was running along in the Presidio and saw a big red tailed hawk. He swooped down and caught what looked like a gopher in his talons and took it away to a rooftop across the service road. I’ve never seen that before!

Red Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk

The morning was cool, overcast at first and a bit breezy. I did see some clear skies on my way back home. I felt so good afterwards, I could help but smile.

My next race is the Turkey Trail Trot 5-miler on Thanksgiving and then the Hot Chocolate 15k in January. There are plenty of other races I could do, but I’ll probably skip them; races aren’t cheap and I must save money for my New York City vacation next February.

This week will be busy. I’m hoping someone signs up for my beginning running class (go to http://www.joinvint.com for more info). But even if they don’t, I still need to get to the YMCA at least twice and keep my running going.

Oh, and the 49ers won today! Cheers!

11-16-14