Golden Gate Bridge

GOOD FOR THE SOUL RUNS

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Sunrise over the Bay

The first part of the year I spent a lot of time increasing mileage. And it wasn’t always enjoyable either. While I increased my mileage, I had to deal with IT band pain and a constant weight battle.

It’s funny, after my disappointing San Francisco Marathon finish, I felt as if a great weight had lifted. I had put so much pressure on myself to do well (I wanted to do BETTER than at CIM (Calif International), that the closer the race got, the more I knew I would be luck to merely finish. After it was all over, I went back and readjusted my training to try something new for the second half of 2016.

This weekend I prepared to go running in the Marin Headlands. I don’t get up there as often as I would like or as I should. It’s so close to San Francisco, yet it feels as if I’m hundreds of miles away. It’s accessible by bus which makes it the perfect place for me to go. No need to spend tons of money on a rental car or wait for someone to go with me (like that happens).

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One of the many uphill parts of the trail

Friday night I bought myself an early Christmas present. I picked up an Osprey hydration pack. It was on sale and I was going to buy one anyway. Sunday was the perfect time to try it out. I’ll get to the review later.

I woke up at 4am and caught the 7:17am Golden Gate Transit bus. It’s a beautiful ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. I reminded myself that the last time I was there in the Headlands, it was foggy, windy and bitterly cold. This time it was a beautiful day. Breezy but not cold, warming in the sun, but not hot. I couldn’t ask for better running conditions.

The first part of the run is always very hard. It’s one mile straight up the side of the mountain, nearly 1,000 feet gain in elevation. Highway 101 gets smaller as the noise disappears once I reach the top. I decided to go to the right, on the SCA Trail. Then it’s level for a very short time, but mostly uphills and downhills, lots of both. The way I took eventually got me to Rodeo Beach the long way around the mountain with much to see and plenty of energy to use.

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Headlands Panorama

When I’m out on the trail, I love the sound of my feet hitting the dirt. I love the sound of the wind wrestling through the brush and the songs of the birds. I love the rhythm that sets in once I find a good pace and it is then when I’m able to relax my mind and exorcise all those toxins I’ve been carrying with me. What negativity I might have had when I got up that morning are gone by the time I finish this strenuous but very worthwhile run and I am tired and happy.

THIS, this very day (!!!) is why I run!!! Find your trail, exorcise your toxins!

Cheers!

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Back to the Grind….And a Recipe

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I have really enjoyed this all too brief mini-vacation. My race completed, I used the last two days off as rest days, but also as days to re-charge and to help think how to get myself going to lose the remaining weight i need to and to boost myself into the next step in my training process.

My next long distance race, the Giant Step half Marathon, isn’t until early September, so I have a couple months to focus on low mileage speed work in my running, as well as focus on swimming, stationary cycling, until I can purchase my bike, core work and weight training.

The other part of my training is my weight loss and toning. I have about 25 to 30 pounds to lose. These will not come off easily. I’m not as young as I once was and I have lost them before, but I have determination and the will to accomplish it. And I am stubborn. Yeah, I’m stubborn, ask anyone who knows me. 🙂

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Today, I took full advantage of having a day off work and the beautiful weather and went for a lovely hike just north of The City. I took Golden Gate Transit to Sausalito and hiked to Fort Baker and back to San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a lovely hike and I was back home in time to watch my Giants win Opening Day at AT&T Park.

During my race Sunday, there were many water stations that gave out Gatorade. I can’t stand the stuff and refuse to drink it, if at all possible. I make my own electrolyte mix and you can too if you so desire. It’s very easy, and can be completely organic too.

 

HOMEMADE ELECTROLYTE MIX

(for 8 oz)

1/2 cup fruit juice of your choice (I’ve tried apple juice and cranberry, but try what you like, adjust honey, sweetener as needed)

1-2 tablespoons honey, barley syrup, or whatever sweetener you like (this is all up to you and your taste)

1/8th teaspoon salt

juice of 1 lemon

Mix everything together and refrigerate until needed. I like to keep mine very cold until I go for my run. You can always adjust the taste if it’s too salty or sweet or not enough, but it should be a bit salty and slightly sweet.

This recipe can be doubled and made into a pitcher to last a few days if you’re doing some heavy workouts over some time. It will last a little while, but if it’s made from all organic ingredients, it won’t last forever.

I’m also working on switching over my solid food from Clif Shot Blocks to dates and orange segments and I have halfway but i still like the Shot Bloks so I haven’t converted totally yet.

 

Last Long Run Until my Half

I ran 12 miles today and it was a rough run. Let’s be honest, my half in two weeks is no cakewalk. The first half of it is mostly uphill and it seems no matter how much hillwork I do, it’s not enough.

I ran 3 miles through Golden Gate Park, which was a nice way for me to wake up and get some ground work down. During my run, I had to stop briefly to get Spotify on my phone to work and while I was adjusting it I spotted a lone coyote standing in a meadow near the Rose Garden. I’ve heard so much about the Golden Gate Park coyotes that it was cool to finally see one. But when I reached those first two very steep hills on Balboa Street, my heart sank a little. I run hills at least once a week and even with that training, I still had to walk up the last part of the second block.

And then later on the hill through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge is as brutal as it was last week! I’ll have one last chance to run it again next Sunday on a shorter run, but then that’s it. Sigh….

The best part of the run was the flats at Chrissy Field and through the Marina. That felt pretty good. I maintained a slow pace, but kept going and with the exception of a bathroom break, I kept running. Once again, I walked up part of the hill at Fort Mason and then that last couple of miles was very painful.

Somehow, I hurt my left thigh doing swimmers turns a couple weeks ago and it only acts up after running, cycling or walking a lot. I will meet with a trainer at the Y to get my turns made properly. But at least until after my race, no more trying to do fancy turns in the pool!

The things that really helped me today was my choice in music. I know it’s not that big of a deal for many, but for me, having the right tunes helps keep me moving. A few of my songs included:

Heaven Can Wait – Iron Maiden

Broadsword – Turisas

Glastonbury Song – The Waterboys

Only You Can Rock Me – UFO

Everything Invaded – Moonspell

A Thousand Lies – Hypocrisy

As you can see, I like my music mostly on the heavy side. 🙂

Also, I won’t miss this route once this race is done. I’m sure the directors of the Rock & Rock Half are great people, but this course….

Three Weeks to Go…..

The San Francisco Rock & Roll Half Marathon is April 6th, so I’m nearly through with my training. Today, was my second to last long run. I went out for 9 miles. I was thinking I could do 8 to 10 miles, because last week I was supposed to get in 8 miles, but due to my cold, I only ran 5 miles. 

It was a good run. I started at Fulton and Stanyan at the beginning of Golden Gate Park. I covered part of the Half in my run, especially the hill up to the bridge, as that will be the nastiest. I did walk up some of the hills. Through the Presidio, heading up Lincoln to the Golden Gate Bridge, the uphill got to me and I had to walk some portions. 

But there was at no point when I felt the horrible feelings of exhaustion or breathlessness i had last week. My right thigh that had been giving me a bit of trouble felt OK, and the usual aches and pains of distance running came and went and the miles added up. 

The other plus of today was that I started out early with a relatively empty stomach, having eaten only a small breakfast of 1 slice of whole wheat toast with almond butter and a banana with coffee. Last week, I went out much later because of an early morning Rangers game being broadcast. Why they have early Sunday NHL games is beyond me, and by the time I got to the park it was afternoon. My late runs are almost always inferior. 

I feel good now, after a lovely shower and icing down my legs, as well as a couple good rolling sessions. Those help so much. Tomorrow I start spin classes, so I’ll write and say how those are. 

But, the greatest thing about my run is that I’m no longer afraid of the R&R Half. I KNOW I can do this! If I had needed to, I could have run 3 more miles today. It wouldn’t have been pretty, but I could have done it. 

Next week, I’ll go for 11-12 miles and then the week before, I’ll taper down to 7 or 8 miles. 

And now, it’s dinner time! 🙂