San Francisco Half Marathon

Here I am just before mile one....

Wait, I'm getting too far ahead of myself. As always, starting out WAY too fast.

OK. So I hurt my ITB a month ago in Seattle due to some shoe failure (and lack of training in May/June, but shhh that will be our little secret) so I had to drop down to the Half Marathon in order to prevent further damage. My plan of attack for the course was going to be: 1. Have fun and 2. Not injure myself any further (even if it meant stopping) and 3. Take pictures and video.

It seems like every race I do, I'm preoccupied with trying to PR and I never really get to enjoy the course. Even though I have run sections of this course a billion times in training runs, I might as well have fun running it with 20,000 of my fastest friends.

(Chewie) Manny, Me and Lori before the race.

I decided to stop before mile 1. That's right, I didn't even get 10 mins. into the race before I "pulled over" and started bull sh*ttin'. haha Told you I was going to have fun. Here is some video (below) of the VERY start of the race with downtown in the background. Shortly after this, as I came upon the first mile-marker I screamed out: "MILE 1 WHOOOOOOOOO!!!" Everyone around me seemed to smile and have a laugh. You have to keep the spirits up.

Video from the first mile

As I continued through the first few miles, the legs felt good. We ran past Pier 39 where many people stopped to take pictures. We then ran past Ghirardelli Square, where again, people stopped to take pictures. I always forget that there are so many sights to see along the first half of the course. People seemed to be having fun... I know I was.

And to your right (above), you'll see Alcatraz Island. The home to notorious criminals such as Al Capone. And to your left (below) ... your first San Francisco hill of the course.

One of the major attractions to running the San Francisco Marathon and (in particular) the First Half Marathon (which always sells out) is running out and back on the Golden Gate Bridge. It's always warm and sunny on the bridge at 6 in the morning. Ummmm... OK, it's not, but at least it wasn't raining like years past.

Here is video from the Sausalito side of the bridge. As you can see, this section of the course gets to be pretty congested with two-lanes open to runners.

Pretty much after the Golden Gate Bridge, you run down a giant hill where you get to pick up some time that you may have lost. At this point you are at mile 10. As long as you don't trash your quads flying down the hill, you can fly through the next mile or so. But if you are injured like me, you get to walk and take a picture.

At the end of my 13.1 mile journey I had taken some good photos, got passed by the 5-hour pacer and had finished my slowest half marathon to date. But I successfully didn't injure myself further and after some tenderness shortly after the race, I am moving around just fine. Mission accomplished.

I was able to make it to the finish line in time to see my best buddy Chewie Manny finish the Full Marathon. I was with Manny when he injured himself in Arizona and seeing him come all the way back through diligent training was a sight to see. As you can tell from the video, he was very well pleased to "Finish."


No, not that Rachel

Note: The name and city of the runner have been changed.

Last weekend at The San Francisco Marathon, I was cheering runners coming into the finish line. I've run this course before and know that the last few miles can be incredibly daunting.

As I was clapping, cheering and exchanging in general chit-chat with friends, I hear the announcers saying the names of people approaching the finish line: "And here comes Rachel Roma from Smallville" as I look over there is a female runner wearing a hat just passing where I was standing. I didn't get a great look, but I happen to know a friend with the same name from that same town. Coincidence? Being that the city of Smallville is less than an hour away, it made me think "maybe it's her." It sort of looked like her, but I didn't get a great look since she was passing me, but maybe it was?

But here is the kicker. The Rachel that I know is pregnant with her second child. The runner didn't look pregnant, but I'm unsure of how far along the Rachel I know is. So I busted out the iPhone4 (nice plug) and sent out a text to Rachel asking if she was running in SF because I just heard her name. After a few minutes I get a text replying that no, that is her sister-in-law by the same name.

But that's not the point, the fact that I thought someone who 1. historically doesn't run, 2. is preggers and 3. was capable of running 26.2 in hilly San Francisco is amazing. Those are three huge obstacles to overcome... but I didn't think twice that it might be her simply based on the name and hometown of a runner.

That is a nod to the amazing "everyday" runners going out there and accomplishing major feats. The stories that some of you share about your experiences on the road caused me to believe that a non-running, pregnant woman was running 26.2 miles up and down hilly San Francisco.

That means I am either losing my mind or we as runners are accomplishing amazing feats everyday turning the impossible into very doable.

Feel free to share an amazing experience you've had on the road or a friend's mind-bending accomplishment here on the blog in the comments below. We continue to inspire and motivate each other... I guess that's why runners are "the cool kids." Cheers.


The Decision (Couldn't resist)

Some might say it was an easy decision. Some might say it was a difficult one. Heck, some may even say I'm making the wrong decision, but none-the-less it is one I am comfortable with.

This must be mentioned as either a qualifier or at least to give some context: runners are stubborn. Sometimes to the point of self-destruction (which is a whole different post altogether).

I have decided to drop down from the San Francisco Marathon next weekend to the Half Marathon. Sorry that it wasn't some of the exciting choices mentioned on facebook from Oreos, to pumps, to giving up Starbucks. But it was one that took me a few days to come to grips with.

I injured my ITB last month at the Seattle RNR and was unable to properly rehab it in time to be 100% confident in it for San Francisco's 26.2 miles. That being said, er written. I'm am not 100% confident in 13.1 miles, but am well aware of what my limitations are and confident I can take it slow enough to not make the injury worse.

I will approach this run as... well, as one not to make my injury any worse. I can't bring myself to not participate. I have never run this race well. In fact, this race is a pain in the side of my ass (literally). So, I will not let it win. I will not let this race be the first time I drop out completely (read self-destruction note above).

I will be continue to rehab back to 100% health in time for New York in November. And you can believe that I will attack that NY course like none other. But first, it will be the SF Half Marathon for me with alot of walking.

Note: I am really comfortable with this decision. It will not make my injury any worse, I won't let it. I dealt with this injury over a year ago and am aware of my limitations.


Run AND Walk (yes, I said walk)

In this month's issue of Runner's World (pg. 34 Starting Line) there was a small paragraph about "eventually be(ing) able to run without walking" and thought I would share some thoughts on the subject.

I've been running for almost 4 years and have always used the run/walk method. It's how I learned to finish a marathon back in 2006 with the San Francisco Aids Marathon Training Program, now Greater Than One. They taught us the Jeff Galloway (who the article coincidentally was by) Run-Walk training method.

Some may think you have to "run" the entire time to be a runner. Eh, to each their own. I'm not an elite and never will be, but I consider myself a runner. I have enough marathons under my belt and a few ultra's as the whip cream... (makes no sense, but it's too late to go back and change it).

My first marathon, I finished in 5:21 using a 4-1 run/walk ratio. I now train under a 9-1 run/walk ratio and finish around 4:30. Come race day, I run from mile marker to mile marker, then take a 30 sec. to 1-minute walk. The style works for me and many others. It took some time for me to reach that ratio after starting with a 3-1. It's a good pace for me and it may change as I get faster (or slower). It's nice to have a plan to work with that is flexible.

Often times I'll leap frog people that are running the entire time. We are both running 9-10 min. miles, just using different techniques. We both finish with smiles and we are both runners.

What's your running style and how does it work for you?


An Easy 10 with Rebecca McKee

I'm pleased to bring back another edition of "An Easy 10 with..." I was hoping our latest interviewee would participate, simply based on her location. Add in some great stories, a lynx and a passion for running and coaching and you get a wonderful interview. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce one of Alaska's greats: Rebecca McKee.

Name: Rebecca McKee
Anchorage, Alaska
Race History: I started running 11 years ago when I wanted to run a local mountain race called Mt. Marathon (it’s the 3rd oldest race in the nation, and it’s not a marathon at all, it’s a 3 mile round trip, 3,022 ft mountain race!)
Half Marathon: I have run many ½ marathons, but most of them are in triathlons. My best time was at the Las Vegas Half around a 1:40ish
Triathlon: I have done so many I don’t think I could count! I do know that I have completed 9 70.3’s, and I have raced in many Xterra’s including the National and World Championships.

I started running... with a PASSION for running in 1999! I was at a race in Seward, Alaska called Mt. Marathon and hours after the event was over, hours after the finish line had been removed and people were just milling around a woman came down the street running. She stopped and asked me “do you know where the finish line was?” I pointed and she thanked me and continued to run. I was overcome with emotion and started walking along with her cheering her on, many other people stopped and cheered her along the way as well. When she crossed the “finish line” people had come out from businesses all over the street to cheer her on. It truly touched me and I thought to myself... I want to be a runner!

When I'm not running, I... might be swimming or biking... but when not doing those things, I’m working. I own a science based coaching center called Peak Center Alaska, LLC. I coach many types of athletes and I love owning Peak, it is a very fulfilling job!

One time when I was on a long run... a lynx walked out of the bushes right onto the road I was running on. When I first saw it I thought it was a small dog. As I started to run up on it I realized it was a lynx and was just in awe of how beautiful it was. I stood there for a very long time wondering what it might do. It actually sat and stared at me. After almost 15 minutes a car came around the corner and scared it off back into the bushes. All I could think the rest of the run was… If I wasn’t out running, if I wasn’t a runner… I would have never experienced that!

I choose to run without... worry. When I run, I let my mind and my soul enjoy the rhythm of my feet, the sound of my breathing, the feeling that nothing else in the world but running offers... total freedom!

The question I am asked most about running is... How do you train in Alaska over the winter!

After an event or tough run, I... love to have a yummy piece of white cake!

Running is... an amazing adventure powered by only your will to continue!

When I'm on the road... I love to see other people out enjoying the sport, it’s very motivating to me.

I wish other runners would... not be so into their iPod/music that they can’t acknowledge others.

If I could run 3-miles with someone famous, it would be... ahhh... such an easy one for me to answer, and perhaps the timing is perfect as well, but I would love to run 3 miles with Lance Armstrong!

* * * *

Thank you Rebecca. I love hearing about your stories via facebook and hopefully one day we get an opportunity to run together (in Alaska?) in the future. Or should I say "start together" since you would speed away and leave me in the snow. Keep running strong my friend.

Feel free to leave a comment for Rebecca or share a similar experience.

If you'd like to be a part of "An Easy 10 with..." please email me at pavementrunner@gmail.com.


Seattle RnR Marathon: A Pleasant Disappoinment

Note: There will be several posts about my entire Seattle experience, including meeting Scott Jurek, kayaking with whales, Olympic National Park and the FOOD... but this post will be marathon specific. I'll also talk about the course early next week.

I didn't really have very many expectations going into the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon other than to run with a really great friend and to finish. My training took a bit of a dip a couple months before, most likely due to burn-out and I was fine with using this as a training run for the San Francisco Marathon, which was three-weeks away. Being competitive with myself, I would try to keep a 10 min. pace and see if I could PR by a couple minutes but I wasn't overly anticipating it happening.

I was going to run the course with my coach and dear friend, Lori. She was hoping to get me to PR around 4:20 which I had registered as my "expected finishing" time. So at the start, we set out with a 9-10 min. pace, which I was comfortable with. We traded general conversation and Lori was excited about the opportunity to "get me" to 4:20. Her energy got me going and we breezed through the first 5 or so miles.

Just as I was letting her know that I didn't get the opportunity to meet up with some facebook friends at the expo or before the race, a streak of red, white and blue flew by us. I recognized her as Larissa (facebook and twitter friend), from her photos and her Moeben sponsored running outfit was an immediate give-away. She was running the half as we traded general chit-chat and she showed off her amazing 26.2/wing tattoo before she continued on. It was great to see her running strong after a recent injury had sidelined her.

As the miles continued on toward the 13.1 marker, the course was really nice. Some hills, but nothing terribly over-whelming. I was running in an "older" pair of shoes that I recently used on my last two ultra marathons. My original running pair of shoes that I had planned to run in, fell apart, so these were all I had. I debated buying a new pair, but with less than 5 days until race day, I didn't want to risk running in a brand new pair. (this decision may have been good or bad... what do they say about hindsight?) Around the half-way point, I noticed that my right knee wasn't feeling "normal." Something was off and I knew that my older shoes, didn't have the support I was hoping they still had.

While we were running across the floating Lake Washington Bridge on an out-and-back stretch, I saw Dana, a fellow blogger and facebook friend. She is currently running 52 marathons in 52 weeks to help raise money/awareness for South African orphans with AIDS. We recognized each other and traded smiles and waves. She told me I was "looking good" which sticks in my memory because at that time, I was starting to really get concerned with my "uncomfortable" knee. But it put some pep in my step and we kept moving.

For the next 5 or so miles, I could tell that I was slightly slowing down, but still keeping pace for a 4:20 finish. As we reached the 30km (18.6 mi) we were at 3:07:29. Lori was going to do it. She was going to pull me to an amazing PR. I tried to keep my head in the game, knowing a lot can happen the last 7.5 miles. But if I could keep our 10 min pace, we would come in around 4:20.

As we reached the mile 20 marker we were around 3:20-21. It really started to creep in my mind that if we stayed on pace, 4:20 was an extreme possibility. Also, if we slowed down to 11 min. miles, a PR was still up for grabs. My PR is currently 4:29, if I could shave off a few minutes feeling under-trained, it would be an amazing accomplishment. My knee was still bothering me and I could feel my legs getting tight (under-trained much?). I stayed steady with my salt intake and just continued moving the legs. To this point we were talking a 30 sec to 1 min walk break at each mile marker, consistent with our training. As I took our normal walk break at mile 21, it would be the last time I was able to move efficiently.

After we took that walk break, my IT on my right knee jumped out and said "no more!" My walk turned into a limp of excruciating pain. I knew that my hopes and dreams of a PR were done. I had run an amazing 21 miles on beat up shoes and under-trained. It took us 3.5 hours to run 21 miles, but it would take us an hour and 15 plus min. to make it through the final 5 miles. As I started to try to run after that walk break, it must have looked like Frankenstein trying to run. I had a horrible limp, but as it started to warm up I was able to get into a decent stride. Every time, I took a break to walk, it was an ordeal to get back into a slow jog. It felt better to keep it moving than it did to walk, so I would try to slow way down, but keep a nice forward motion. At one point, as I tried to walk and stretch it out, I screamed out: "it hurts so bad!" (or something along those lines) and the people around me had a chuckle. Not the kind of laugh as in they were "laughing at my pain," but the general acknowledgment of understanding that marathons are not easy.

As Lori, stayed with me and helped get me through the last 5 miles, it reassured me that she is a gift to everyone that knows her. An amazing person that gives endlessly. She knew I was toast, but kept my spirits high and I was glad to not be out there alone. As we made it through the last couple miles, I think delirium started to sink in. I started singing REM's "Losing my Religion" out of nowhere and it must have been tough for those around me considering I only know a couple lines. We ran most of the last mile eager to be finished, grabbed hands as we crossed the finish line and I like to think that we were both happy to be done.

Being so close to a 4:20 finish and coming no where near it is obviously disappointing. But as the title says, it was a "pleasant" disappointment. I can't believe I had a shot at it to begin with. I was thrilled to run a strong 21 miles. It gives me amazing confidence for the SF marathon in three weeks (if i can recover from this ITB). My final analysis is the lack of support in my shoes was the cause for the IT issues. When I got back to the hotel, the bottom of my right foot was significantly more "rough" and callused than my left which leads me to believe, I had no support on that shoe. My last two runs in those shoes were ultra marathon in Feb. and April. The reason I was able to run those two without injury is because I was on softer trails. The majority of this course was on rock-solid freeways. They never stood a chance. What did I say about hind-sight? But who knows, new shoes may have blistered the hell out of my feet... or I may have smashed the US marathon course record.

Either way, I was happy and pleasantly disappointed.