half marathon

WELCOME FALL AND GEAR REVIEW

If you ask me when the best time to visit San Francisco is, I would say early October. The weather is warm and there’s less chance of high layered fog and wind. The city always gets late summer here and I wait anxiously for it.

img_20161012_062102

Sun Setting Earlier Over the Bay Bridge

In my older years I’ve grown to not like the cold much. In fact, I plan to move to a warmer climate in a few years. Until I can afford to do this, I’ll enjoy these warmer days we have right now…..

This past weekend, I run a couple great runs in the warmer weather. I’m soaking in the sun as much as I can, as the nights are getting darker faster and soon I won’t have that wonderful Golden Gate Park trail to run Friday evenings any more.

img_20161008_202745

View of Aquatic Park & the Bay

I also invested in some new running gear. I bring many items with me on my runs. I don’t own a car, so it’s essential I have everything with me when I go out. Must haves for me on a run are: phone, keys, glasses, water, mascots Buster and Alfredo.

I have an Ultimate Direction hydration vest I really like. I’ve owned it for two years and it’s the best pack I’ve ever owned. But it is bulky and sometimes I’d rather not wear a big vest.

Just recently I purchased an Ultimate Direction Access 10 Plus waist pack. I’ve used it for a week now and really like it for the most part. What I appreciate about it is it doesn’t move around, it stays where I want it to stay. The small water bottle is perfect for short runs under 10 miles, which is just when I want to wear it. It has two pockets which is better than the usual one pocket styles I’ve seen. There is another waist pack with a larger bottle, (the Access 20 Plus), but I’m not sure if the pockets are larger.

20161013_210352

Access 10 Plus

The minuses, there’s only one negative about it is that the pockets are small. The first, to hold my phone doesn’t hold my phone if I have headphones plugged in, and I don’t have a giant phone. I have a Galaxy S6 Edge, so it’s not huge, but I have to keep it unzipped a little if I want to listen to music. The second pocket is barely big enough for my glasses and keys. I’m afraid I’ll break my glasses because they have to squish in there sometimes if I need to add fuel for the road.

Ultimate Direction makes great big waist packs, but that’s too much for a shorter run. If they made this one with one of the pockets even a half inch longer, that would make all the difference.

As a company, I highly recommend U.D.’s products. Their customer service and gear are top of the line. The pricing is good and delivery is fast. Just make that pocket a teeny bit bigger and I will recommend the Access 10 Plus 100%. 😉

Cheers!

Advertisements

SF GIANTS HALF MARATHON

This year, the San Francisco Giants Race was held on 9/11 and I really love the shirt design. I also love the Brandon Crawford bobblehead! I was very close to time I ran it last year, which was a little over 2 minutes faster. Unlike last year, I felt zero IT band pain and my run itself was good.

20160909_182103

Crawford Bobblehead, shirt, bib, and my running companions 🙂 

Let me start in at the beginning. The race does have a great packet pickup. I LOVE picking it up in AT&T Park. It’s really cool to be able to go inside an empty park, plus they have a lot of vendors, race reps and plenty of samples.

The half marathon and 10k started at the same time this morning: 7:00am, with the 5k starting later after 10:00am. Perhaps this was one of the problems. I spent the first 3 miles, jockeying constantly through walkers doing the shorter race. How great it was to finally breathe and space out once they had turned around! I would like to see them start at a later time so those of us trying to actually better our times and not just out for a stroll could get past the walkers.

20160911_055553

Beautiful 9/11 Tribute

One of my biggest peeves since I’ve bene doing this race is the same one I have for every race EXCEPT the Hot Chocolate Race….not enough porto-bathrooms! Come on! There are thousands of runners, can you get a few more? The Hot Chocolate folks are the only ones who seem to do this right, they have plenty! And, can you believe someone tried to cut in front of me in the line. Yeah, didn’t happen! I had been waiting for 20 minutes and wasn’t about to let anyone cut in front of me. Had they had a small child and ask nicely, I probably would have, but just trying to hog in without waiting, NO!

20160911_100603

Best Seat in the Park, for a few minutes

Another thing Hot Chocolate does is divide the runners and walkers up into more corrals. The first few specifically say NO WALKERS. I do apologize because I’m sure they’re wonderful people, if they are walking in a line blocking everyone’s way, it’s a huge pain. Every race should have signs posted: “Walkers Stay To The Right.” It really is up to the race directors to provide guidance to participants, especially because many of the Giants fans there may not have done other races and don’t know how things are usually done. Race direction is getting very lackadaisical anyway.

20160911_100204

I’ll just sit here a little while longer…

And maybe I’m alone in this, but those runner/walker types can be annoying, especially if they don’t bother looking behind them when they stop running, or if they think they can keep walking in the left with all the runners. No, you too, stay to the right.

The last thing that made me a little cranky was at the nutrition stop, I heard they were going to have Clif Shot Bloks, which I love. When I got there, they were giving out sample size Clif Bars, I’m not going to eat that during a run! Fortunately, I normally bring my own fuel so I don’t have to worry about it, but don’t BS me, Folks!

Other than those irks, I felt good, my legs felt good and there were some nice food giveaways after the race. It was also excellent to sit in the loge seats afterwards. I’ve never been in those before, and probably never will again!

Now for a couple days’ rest and back to tackling my next goals. I’ll let you know soon what I’m up to!

Cheers!

 

SETTING GOALS

Inspiration and drive are sometimes in short supply. After this year’s San Francisco Marathon, I didn’t have much of either. It was much, much more difficult than I ever thought it would be; the training for it alone gave me burnout and took all the fun out of running.

So, as I was running last night in preparation for the Giants Race half Marathon race this Sunday, I had to think of ways to get the excitement back into running. After this race, I’m not signed up for anything. It’s not because I don’t want to race, it’s really lack of funds. I need to buy new running shoes this month, so spending more money on an upcoming race won’t happen for at least another paycheck or two.

During the last few weeks of marathon training, I realized that for the first time in a very long while, I had very little motivation. I still ran, but I barely stuck to my way of eating, which resulted in weight gain. I had promised myself that I was going to lose weight this year and here I was, not accomplishing what I wanted. In 2015, I had set out a goal to run 3 marathons this year and that seemed like a galaxy away. Obviously, that was asking too much of myself. But I also started wondering if marathons were for me at all….

I can’t accept that.

So, I took a few days off of thinking about my future in running and just lived my life. I admit that I didn’t workout as much as I should have, I didn’t go to the gym as regularly for a week, but it was the space I needed for a new perspective.

And it was during my run yesterday when I started thinking about my last marathon. I don’t want that memory to be my only memory of this race. I want to create better memories. There’s only one way to do that, to run it again next year, but this time, plan better, do better.

I have a full year it’s time to think about how I’ll do it. The California International Marathon, even though the same distance was nowhere near as difficult or taxing on me. It could be that my IT bands weren’t stressed out as much at the time of my race or maybe I was more prepared, or maybe this race is just harder on them because of those blasted hills. But none of that matters. What matters is if I am serious about doing it a second time, I need to make this time count!

So, I will keep you informed about my ongoing training. Up until next July, there are some shorter races I plan to do, including my half this Sunday. I’m looking forward to it, no stress at all.

Cheers!

Running Just for Fun

When I was training for my marathon, the stress of trying to get in my long runs and scheduled weekly running miles took their toll.

20160814_100535

Seen on my run: A wedding party frisbee game 

I took an entire week off running to help my IT band feel better. Because of it, I was forced to re-focus, reset my running brain and attitude towards running.

Knowing that the marathon was done and I do not have another planned, at least for the few months ahead, was a relief.

I do have a race, the Giants Step Half Marathon in September, but there’s no stress, it’s a fairly flat out and back and halfs are a pretty comfortable distance for me. I would like to PR this time around, but more on that in a later post.

20160814_092148

Lots of wild life in SF

The result of no stress and relatively shorter runs? Enjoyment, better times and greater satisfaction. This morning’s long run, a 6-miler is the perfect example. I’m gradually increasing my distance for my half. Today’s run was smooth, painfree and I spent a lot of it with a grin. I have rarely done that in the last months.

My suggestion is if you feel the strain and stress of running marathons, you don’t always have to sign up for them. Take a few months off and run halfs, 10ks, 5ks or even don’t race at all. I will continue to do races, but with costs going up and up, I’ll be extra picky about which ones. And that’s perfectly fine. Remember, no stress.

Cheers!

 

 

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

This Is It!

Sunday is my next race – the San Francisco Marathon. I dare say it’s been really difficult getting there, perhaps even more difficult than the California International Marathon last December. My right IT band has been troubling me and lingering doubts over whether I could even finish have plagued me.

This past week I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve gotten a couple small runs in with lots of stretching and rolling. My leg has felt good and I am mentally in a good place going into race weekend.

The military have a saying “Embrace the suck.” So I’ll be doing that if it gets real bad Sunday, for I do NOT plan on giving up…I WILL finish this race.

But my goals have changed, for the next year anyway. I no longer think I should try to keep going longer. I think after Sunday, I’ll stick to half marathons and shorter and lose about 15-20 pounds, to be in prime shape. I want to run faster before I go farther. If I can kick this IT band thing, then I can run marathons much more efficiently and relatively pain free. RELATIVELY.

So, I’ve been quiet in here, at times frustrated, and trying to stay positive, which isn’t always easy. But it is always necessary. I will write all about my race with lots of pictures after it happens!

Cheers!

Oakland Half Marathon

Oakland Half Marathon, March 20, 2016

20160319_122354

View of West Oakland & San Francisco from my hotel room

I had planned on running the full marathon, but to my surprise, I was mortal and unable to get in the training necessary in three months, so I switched races down to the Half three weeks before race day.

Leading up to race day, I was extremely apprehensive. I suffered from an earache, which luckily, wasn’t infected, but was quite painful. It still is, although it is getting better. I don’t have a cold, so I think it might be allergy or hay fever-related. Every time I chew too hard or talk too much, it hurts. But, life continues…

I made plans to stay at the Marriott in Oakland. They had a great group rate and it was close enough to the start/finish. What a beautiful hotel! The rooms are lovely, a little small, but perfect for me. The staff was outstanding and the amenities were superb.

I was able to check in early which is always a HUGE bonus! I dropped off my bag and scurried down to the Race Expo in the hall on the ground floor. It was pretty good, not the largest I’ve ever seen, but it was cool.

20160320_081600

Pre-race Snow Park

The Half started at 9:10am Sunday. Everything happened at Snow Park close to Lake Merritt. I walked to the start, about a half mile from the hotel and passed some of the marathon runners already on their course. I cheered and clapped and encouraged them. There were a few spectators, but it was pretty quiet. In fact, on most of the course it was very quiet, one of the quieter races I’ve done, spectator-wise. Oakland just doesn’t get up early, I suppose.

Snow Park is a nice urban green refuge in a financial neighborhood of Oakland. There were lots of vendor booths, refreshments, sponsors, bag drop-offs and other things as well as lots and lots of porto-bathrooms.

The 13.1-mile course is flat, with only a couple very small and short uphills and most of it was well-marked, except for one bit after the third mile. There was some confusion that caused around 30 of us to run too far in the wrong direction. I lost about .3 miles because of it. Other than that, though, I like the course. I enjoyed the Taiko drummers, the Capoeira experts and the blues band. I especially liked the burning arch The Crucible created.

20160320_103514

The Crucible Arch 

My favorite part, even though it was my most difficult part, was running around Lake Merritt. It really is beautiful. Around miles Eight through 10, my right IT band started bugging me and I had to walk a couple times. And then, as we had about a mile and a half left to run, it started pouring! It rained like it never rained before! The weirdest part is it only lasted about five minutes and stopped as soon as it started. As I turned into the last mile, I gathered up all my reserved energy, what little there was and pushed myself to finish running and running just a little bit faster. That was fun!

I gave it all on that course. It wasn’t my best race, but it was a great time. I’m thinking I will do the full Oakland Marathon next year. Why not?

PLANS CHANGE

The last few weeks I had been ramping up my mileage in preparation for my upcoming marathon. I was also getting in plenty of strength training, doing lots of rolling and stretching.

But I have found that I am mortal after all. My IT band on my right leg, the bane of my existence,  started bothering me during my last two long runs. After today’s long run, I decided to switch from a full marathon to a half.

This saddened me, but I knew it had to be done. I know that at this time, with the nagging aching of my IT band after eight miles or so, I couldn’t finish 26 miles. I can handle 13. It might not be the best half I’ve ever run, but I’ll do it. I’m already registered to run the full San Francisco Marathon, held in July, so I’ll start training for that at a much slower increasing pace with plenty of time.

It’s only been three months since the California International Marathon, much too soon. I know that now. I guess I thought I could handle it. Now I know.

After a few hours, I’m looking at it in a more positive light. I will work harder, be a better runner, get as fit and trim as I can. And I will write all about it.

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!

The Giants Race 2015

Empty AT&T

Empty AT&T

This Half Marathon was the second one for me in a month. I was confident it wouldn’t be as difficult as the first one because three days before that first one, my back went out. But I was wrong.

That’s one of the things I love about running. It is never, ever predictable. You can go to the same gym, day after day and do the same exercises, sit at the same bench and be predictable, but running never is. Even if you run the same course, you’ll find things you’ve never seen before if you look around.

Buster pre race

Buster pre race

And today’s race was really hard. I am completely at fault for this. I took it too easy yesterday. I rolled once in the morning, but that was all. I should have at least gone for a walk and gotten some nice stretching or maybe yoga in, but instead I had a lazy day.

This morning when I got ready to run, I rolled and stretched, but as I walked towards AT&T Park, I could feel my right IT band getting a little tight. I prayed it would be all right for the race.

Everything was fine, though. The weather was great; it stayed in the low 60s, which is perfect and didn’t warm up until near the 12th mile. I ran around 11-minute miles and even when using a porto-potty, there was no line, so I wasted little time.

I felt a little knee discomfort around Mile 3 and thought “oh no…”, but it went away and didn’t act up again. I only walked going up a steep hill around Ft Mason, both out and back and when eating or drinking. Otherwise, I kept a slow, steady pace.

Me with friends

Me with friends

But then at Mile 9 my right IT band started acting up. I took short walk breaks when needed until Mile 12 when I knew if I didn’t run straight through I’d never make my PR, and I so wanted that. So, I ran the last two miles with a bit of pain.

I had a great finish by nearly sprinting into the park, giving Lou Seal (the Giants seal mascot) the metal sign and high fiving him. After the finish line, I was beat, I gave this race and finish everything I had.

The 5K race started a couple hours later. I stuck around to meet up with friends and chill. It was fun to sit on the grass of the outfield. How many chances do we get to do this?

I’m very proud of this race and my finish – 3 minutes under my SF Marathon 2nd Half time.

SWAG! And Buster

SWAG! And Buster

Now I’ll take a couple days off to rest and recover and then I’ll start my full marathon training for the California International Marathon in December.

Oh you can follow me and Buster on Instagram! We each have an account. Follow me at: @Martha_Runs_SF and Buster @busterrunstheworld

Cheers!