Race Report: The San Francisco Marathon

IMG_20170723_095843I pick a verse for every goal race to focus on throughout the training cycle and race. For the San Francisco Marathon, I came across Proverbs 16:9, and it really got me thinking about where my heart was in this process. Running can easily become such a self-focused sport, and we lose sight of the mighty plans that God has for us.

Proverbs 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Training Derailed

I formally started marathon training 7 weeks before race day, and about three weeks in, I started to have shin splints that hurt pretty badly, and more importantly, scared me enough to change up my training entirely. My coach utilizes intensity in practically every run, so I was out of a coach and out of a training plan once I made the decision to focus on health over performance. I’ve never had a stress fracture, and I want to take precautions to never reach that point! So I spent the last month with a lot of time cross training and running on a flat treadmill. I also added a few 20 mile runs that I wouldn’t have run with my previous training schedule.ย  Although it was disheartening to have my training derailed a bit, it was a really good reminder to evaluate my heart and keep my focus on God. Injuries are really good at giving us perspective!

Arriving in San Francisco

San Francisco was not a goal race for me to PR, but rather a race to go enjoy, perform well, and then enjoy our friends and drink lots of good wine out in wine country.ย  Jon and I spent the night at my parents’ house on Friday night so we could be with Cadence one more night before flying out. We did a quick 1.5 mile shakeout run before jetting to the airport for our first trip without Cadence. Since I’m still breastfeeding Cadence, I brought a manual pump to use at night and in the morning.

Jon and I arrived in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon and walked with our friends to the expo. On our way, I just about had a heart attack when I walked all of hills. I had been avoiding hills for the last month because hillwork made my shins hurt worse, and my goal was to make it intact to the race. This race was going to hurt! I picked up my elite bib at the expo, which was a really neat experience since this is the first race as an elite runner!ย  Dinner included lots of good food, great friends, and an early bedtime.

Race Morning

Our hotel was right across the street from the start, so race morning was pretty easy. My alarm was set for 4 am, but I didn’t sleep great and woke wide awake at 3:40 am.ย  I ate some of my mom’s homemade bread and half of a protein bar.ย  Jon and I got dressed and headed downstairs to meet our friends at 5 am. This is probably the first race where I haven’t used the porta potty before a start. It was so convenient to have the hotel so close!! I hopped into the elite corral at the front of the line and did a few warm up strides. I wasn’t nearly as warmed up as I should have been, but the corrals closed at 5:15 am, and I was afraid I’d miss the window if I went off and ran much.

One of the announcers was Dean Karnazes, which was really neat. I admit that I felt totally out of place standing up in the front, but it was still a really fun experience to stand with the elites. Finally, the whistle blew, and we all started running. I started out at about a 6:50 pace, and it felt like an effort. I knew I could hold the pace at that time, but I didn’t think this was a good sign for what was to come as far as pace was concerned. I didn’t have a goal though, so I didn’t worry. I was running beside the 3:00 pacer, and there were a few other guys clumped with him. I like to run with others, so I decided to stick with them as long as I could.

First Hill to the Golden Gate Bridge

We reached the first hill around 2.5 miles. I really wanted to see how the other guys handled the hill to get an idea of what I should be doing. We all slowed down to about an 8 minute pace and then flew down the hill. This was fine by me, and I was clicking right along. Things were feeling really comfortable and I was having a lot of fun. It was 57 degrees at the start, which is way cooler than anything I have run in a long time. There was a really dense fog and a headwind, so we were pretty much just running in a bubble.

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At about mile 5, we ran up a hill to the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t realize that we were even on the bridge until I looked up and saw the bridge towering overhead. It was so foggy.ย  The bridge is 1.2 miles with entry and exit adding to the distance. This was definitely my most fun part of the race. As we were crossing over, we saw the lead pack coming back over the bridge. And then it was our turn. All of the masses of runners were crossing the bridge as we were exiting. I saw our 3 friends and my husband. This is also where I learned that I was first female. I had so many other runners, especially female, cheering for me as I passed. If ever I felt like a celebrity, this was the moment.ย  I also knew that I should enjoy it while it lasted. ๐Ÿ™‚

Running to the Golden Gate Park

We left the bridge around mile 9.5 and ran toward Golden Gate Park. Up until this point, pacesthe race was flying by and I felt really good, albeit tired of hills. Golden Gate Park seemed to last forever. And it wasn’t as flat as I had hoped. A really nice guy was running with me and tried to give me an idea of the landscape for the rest of the race. While it evened out more on paper, to the legs, it still felt really hilly.ย  Two girls passed me around mile 13. I had not really slowed down, but they were flying. I know that it was too early in the race to chase, and I didn’t have it in me to run their paces.

I got to see my husband and friends several times while I was in the park (they ran the half and finished in the park). This was a great boost to my morale. I was hurting a little, but it was more that I was just ready to be done with the hills. It wasn’t so fun anymore. I remember reading a race report by Tia Stone (@arkansasrunnermom on IG) who said that she felt relief at mile 20 because it was downhill. So I just kept looking for mile 20. My legs were tired, but not so tired that I really felt like I needed to slow down. My paces for the whole race were very much dictated by the hills. I had lost the 3 hour pacer guy (Carl) somewhere in the park, and the sun was so bright that I couldn’t really see anything in front of me (it was no longer a cool 57 degrees!)

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Map provided by The San Francisco Marathon http://www.thesfmarathon.com/the-races/full-marathon/

Running Past 20

The last few miles went by pretty slowly for me, but I didn’t want to slow down because I wanted to be finished. I only saw fuel at one stop at mile 8 (apparently I missed the other aid station), but I ate my Honey Stinger Gel and Honey Stinger Chews.ย  I also drank water at every other aid station. The second half of the race was direct sunlight and pretty toasty.

The last two miles of the race were by the bay, so it was flatter, but by then I had started to slow regardless of elevation change. I had not been running tangents very well, and my watch chimed at 26.2 as a sub 3 hour marathon, butย I still had 0.34 to run. I knew that I was third female, but I did not know how much of a lead I had. I crossed the finish in 3:01:12 as the overall third place female, and my sweet husband and friends were there to cheer me on.

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Lessons Learned

The race was a challenge for me, but it was an incredible experience. The race director and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job with every detail! My least favorite part was definitely the second half, which was supposed to be the easier half. I am satisfied with my time and place, but I do wish that I had gone into the race with a time goal. I absolutely believe that if I had gone into the race with a time goal of sub 3, I could have hit the mark. By the time that I realized that I could have reached this goal, I didn’t have time to make it up. I believe that I could have shaved off time with a little more mental edge alone. So that’s a great lesson to be mentally sharp going into a race, even if you don’t feel very ambitious at the start. You never know until you try!

Post Race

After the race, we attended the awards ceremony. All of the top finishers were super congenial and energetic. What an honor to get to know them! As a prize, I got a new Fitbit, Jaybird wireless headphones, and some other smaller items. I also got a nice 3rd place plaque. My husband and friends made me feel like a queen, and I am so thankful for their sweet support. We all ate a big brunch together after showering, and then we masochistically walked all around San Francisco on tired legs. What an amazing city!

We finished up the trip with wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa on Monday and Tuesday.

Here’s some cool data from my Milestone Pod. The main thing that I notice is that my foot strike changed for the uphills and the downhills. My stride length and ground contact were also better for this marathon than on my training runs. The faster I run, the more efficiently I run. Isn’t God good!?

If you want to order a Milestone Pod, use code PodTeamMeridith30 for 30% off until the end of July!

Race week prep

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I’m in denial that we are leaving this little chickadee for our California excursion. ๐Ÿ˜ญ But she’s going to have way more fun with her grandparents than she would sitting around at wine tastings all day. ๐ŸทToday is an off day for me, so we rolled and had an easy walk with Maggie. ๐Ÿถ I still have a little cold and a tiny bit of calf/shin/ankle discomfort, but I feel like I’ll be good to go for race day! ๐Ÿ™Œ Anyone else running the San Francisco marathon this weekend?!?! ๐ŸŒ‰ #marathontraining #taperweek #motherrunner #bestlittletrainingbuddy #21monthsold #sanfranciscomarathon #allthewine #orwhineafterirunthosehills #womenrunning #womensrunningcommunity

It really is true that the more races you run, the easier it gets. Since so much is mental with running, it helps to have experienced different scenarios and to know that in the end, it all works out. What if it rains? I’ve ran an entire marathon in the pouring rain and it was ok (maybe put on extra body glide next time?). What if I forget something? The expo is full of items that you can purchase, and if you can’t find what you need, there are typically stores all around. What if my stomach is upset? Been there and lived through it. Now I carry pepto bismal to races as prevention, and it works like a charm.
There are always unknowns with a race, but the more you can control, the better. During race week, I typically start to visualize myself running the race (although this process can’t start too early). I plan out what I am going to wear, order any fuel that I need (I just placed an order for HoneyStinger last week and it will get delivered just in time), order anything else like RockTape, etc. and review the course map and elevation profile. Check the weather, and prepare to bring throwaway clothes for road racing (not acceptable at trail races, haha).ย  Get a massage. Most of this stuff is not critical, but it makes race day much easier. If traveling, figure out where to go on race day before race day.
We spend the night with my parents tonight, andย leave for California tomorrow morning!ย  I’m going to miss that little baby!
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Do you have a race prep ritual?

Race prep: visualization

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But seriously?! ๐Ÿ˜Š It doesn’t get any better than this! ๐Ÿ‘ถ I bet everyone would run of they had a tiny little personal cheerleader with them too. โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ I dread having to pull the shade over her sweet little head when we run in the sun. โ˜€๏ธ But I think I found a good alternative. ๐Ÿ˜ We got in just under 6 miles this morning as part of the taper. I think I’ll take one more complete day off to make sure that my legs are fully recovered. ๐Ÿ™Œ #taperweek #strollerrunning #thuleurbanglide #bestlittletrainingbuddy #21monthsold #motherrunner #womensrunningcommunity #womenrunning #marathontraining

Unfortunately, I won’t have my beautiful baby in my vision for the upcoming San Francisco marathon, but I can help prepare for a good run through visualization (and maybe pretend that she is with me?!). Visualization is actually something that I’ve been doing for a couple of races now after seeing one of my friends utilize visualization for a really competitive job interview that she nailed.

I really like the approach that Tina Muir suggests for visualization here (scroll down a little or sign up for the download), and she really takes it to another level with detail and focus on specific aspects.ย  A few examples are visualize: waking up with a smile on your face, going to the bathroom the morning of (in my case, not too much, haha), arriving at the start, a few key places in the race, and what Tina says is most important, visualizing the finish.ย  While I’ve pictured myself running a race, I have never visualized quite to this detail. I’m not as familiar with the course, but there are certainly ways that I can visualize better. With so much of running being a mental field, I truly think that this is a powerful tool! I have a couple of days to really get those details nailed down! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Do you practice visualization for races (or anything else)? Has it helped?

 

Race Report: Peachtree Road Race 10k 2017

Jon and I ran the Peachtree Road Race 10k for the second year in a row, and I’m pretty fond of our new tradition together. We spent the night at my parent’s house so that we could leave Cadence in the morning with my parents. I’m still nursing mornings and nights, and I haven’t had a night away from Cadence yet (soon to change when we go to San Francisco).

We went to bed early on Monday night and woke up at 5 am to get ready. Cadence had nursed around 4 am, so that was about as good as I would get as far as emptying before the race. She nurses exclusively on the right side, and I no longer pump. So I’m a little unbalanced. Haha. We drove about 30 minutes from my parents’ house to Marta, where we thankfully caught a train just as we walked onto the platform (last year this was a nightmare).

We jogged to the porta potties as a warm up, and then we made it to the start just as the star spangled banner was being played. Jon started in the A wave and I started in the seeded wave. This was my first year as a seeded athlete, and it was really nice to start in the cooler 7:30 am weather (albeit 90+% humidity) and with fewer athletes to have to weave around. I got to say hi to one of my good ultra buddies, and then we were off!

The course is hilly, but it starts out downhill with an overall negative elevation gain. It’s easy to go out too fast, but for a 10k, I have no idea what that feels like. I guess you have to run a lot of shorter distances to get a good feel for pacing. It felt fast, good, and easy for the first half of the race. It was really fun to run with other fast runners. There were a couple of girls who looked like they had just stepped off of a track, and I tried to keep up with them for most of the race. Also, I noticed that no one at the front was listening to music. Is that just a mid-packer thing?

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Once we hit the hills, my legs burned on the uphills, but I just kept plugging along. Every time that I run a hill now, I judge it against how I’ll feel running the San Francisco marathon on July 23. I’m afraid that I’m in for some pain! About 4 miles into the race, I was running at a good pace, 6:15-6:20s, slowing down uphill, but I just didn’t feel like I was hurting badly enough. I thought about pushing harder, but instead I just kept plugging at that pace. Who knows?! Maybe I would have blown up if I had pushed more in the race. Maybe I would have trimmed a few seconds. I definitely sped up at the finish, but once done, I didn’t feel like I had pushed my hardest. This isn’t a goal race and I wasn’t trying for a goal time, but I was a little disappointed to not feel depleted. BUT I did feel sore for a couple of days after the race, so clearly, I pushed hard enough to tear up some muscle! Maybe I’m just not used to the distance.

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Splits Cumulative Time Distance Avg Pace
1 06:13.3 1 6:13
2 12:24 1 6:10
3 18:36 1 6:12
4 25:21:00 1 6:45
5 32:02:00 1 6:41
6 38:23:00 1 6:21
7 39:56:00 0.29 5:26
Summary 39:56:00 6.29 6:21

I PR’d with a final time of 39:56. Fun to be (barely) sub 40! It’s pretty eye- opening though, because I have dreams of hitting a marathon of <2:45. With a 10k overall pace of 6:21, I need to be a bit faster and learn to feel comfortable at the fast paces for a bit longer. I came in 5th in my age group and 24th female overall. With over 55,000 race participants, that’s not too bad. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Over 60,000 racers!

After the race, Jon and I walked around a little bit and then made our way back to Marta. The race was fun, but our little running buddy was waiting for us at my parents’ house! We finished off the holiday with a boat ride on the lake and a fun lunch with my family.

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Hope you had a good Fourth of July!

Race Day Slumber Party (with a baby)

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I’m back at the office today, but my heart is somewhere on a boat with that sweet little first mate and her daddy. โค๏ธ @jonussery and I are running the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race 10k tomorrow, so I kept my workout at 30 minutes on the bike today to break a sweat. ๐Ÿ’ฆ I’m sure there will be plenty of sweating tomorrow as we race the hills of Atlanta in July! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฒ Happy Monday! #charterboat #hiltonheadisland #21monthsold #perfection #firstmate #peachtreeroadrace #10k #spinbike #crosstraining #motherrunner #womensrunningcommunity #womenrunning #workingmom

Tomorrow is our 10k!ย  And the Fourth of July! Haha. Jon and I are both running, so we will spend the night with my parents so they can watch Cadence in the morning after we leave for the race. They live 40 minutes from our houseย in the opposite direction of the race, but we did this last year, and it worked out fine. I’m so thankful to live close enough to parents for the help!

My calf feels a little tight from all of the running in Hilton Head, but my shins don’t hurt anymore. If I don’t feel like I’m injuring myself, I plan to try for a fast race. It’s been a while since I ran a shorter distance, so this will be fun (and hot!)!

Here’s a neat survey of the Western States 100 participants and their gear, experience, etc. Given my newly semi-coachless status, I found it interesting that only 24% of participants hadย a coach to train for WS.ย  ๐Ÿ™‚

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Nana is the best for naps. โค

What are your plans for the Fourth?

Late to the Party

 

I just received my bib for the Peachtree Road Race 10k in the mail, and I’m in the seeded wave.ย  This is something new to me.ย  I’ve always been active, but I didn’t really run races until around 2013 when I finished my first marathon (3:45), and I had to work really hard (3 marathons) to finally BQ for entry into the 2016 Boston.ย  I ran my first 50k in November of 2014, then ran a 50 miler in January of 2015.ย  These were not fast races for me, but it was a great introduction to trails and the lovely trail community.ย  And then I got pregnant, and running took on a whole new meaning as a little human grew in my belly.

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Fast forward to postpartum running, and I was pleasantly surprised to have come back faster.ย  This wasn’t without effort, as I painstakingly ran through pregnancy and kept up a pretty tight strength routine.ย  I also think that pregnancy, delivery, and the whole process of keeping a baby alive gives a certain resolve that must be earned.ย  I can do hard things.ย  And I don’t take running for granted after what essentially feels like a year of injury as a pregnant runner.

My paces went from about an 8 minute mile to about a 7:30 minute mile. I trained for Boston, and ran a 3:24 at 6 months postpartum, which was a PR of about 5 minutes.ย  Things were definitely more speedy, but nothing like the speed that I would develop in less than a year after I hired a coach.

I signed up for my first 100 mile race shortly after Cadence was born, and decided to hire a coach since this was totally new territory for me, and as a postpartum momma, I wanted to make sure to do things right for my body.ย  My coach is a total badass and she has a little girl too.ย  A big part of my training is interval workouts.ย  I had never (never) run intervals before hiring Michele.ย  It turns out that speed work makes you fast.

I hear so many other fast runners who talk about their high school and college experiences running cross country or track with a coach who pushed them. I missed that somewhere along the way, but I’m so thankful to have a coach now who has shown me my potential.

I ran my 100 mile race in September of 2016, and I had an amazing experience and kind of accidentally placed 2nd female.ย  Then I set a goal for a sub 3 hour marathon in January of 2017 and surprised myself by hitting the goal in 2:58.ย  I have runs where I feel so slow and can’t believe that I could ever sustain that marathon pace, but then sometimes I get ambitious and want to keep getting faster.

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My next big race is the San Francisco Marathon on July 23rd. I get to start as an elite runner because of my 2:58 marathon time, which just blows my mind. I would never have dreamed that my mid-pack legs would line up with the elites.ย  It’s been really fun (and a lot of work) to see how fast I can get. As long as I am still enjoying the process and have the support of my sweet husband, I’ll keep chasing goals.ย  For anyone else who has dreams to get faster, keep pushing!ย  You never know what your legs can do until you give it a shot.

Have you ever surprised yourself in a race with a faster finish than you expected?

Unstructured training (break) between training

I’ve been enjoying a little unstructured time since my last race, and it’s been great to get extra sleep and decide how I’m feeling in the morning to determine what kind of workout or run I want to do. Cadence still does not sleep through the night at 19 months, and I feel like I’ll be digging myself out of this sleep deprivation hole until she graduates from high school.

My favorite runs have been with Cadence in the stroller, and I forgot how challenging that can be!ย  It’s so fun, but we haven’t done any high mileage together, and I think Cadence is at an age where she’s not about to fall asleep and risk the chance of missing anything. We ran 13 miles together on Saturday, which I managed to extend from our usual hour by bribing her with Cliff bar bites throughout the run.

I’ve been getting at least 45-60 min of cardio a day, as well as 3x upper body and 3x lower body strength work each week.ย  My legs don’t feel quite as fresh and fast as I’d like for them to be, but I have no goals this month that require for me to push hard, so I’m enjoying a little less speed and a little more baby time.

I plan to keep May unstructured and move back into training in June/July for non-goal races.ย  I am signed up for the Peachtree Road Race 10k on July 4, and I’m also running the San Francisco Marathon (as an elite!) on July 23.ย  Neither of these races are A goal races, but I want to perform well and have a good time.ย  There are a couple of other races that I’m considering, but nothing else on the calendar.

I will most definitely be focusing on road racing for a bit now that Gorge Waterfalls 100k is behind me.ย  I just don’t have the bandwidth to run on trails enough to be competitive on the technical stuff.ย  Plus, I really like road racing.

Based on my last race at Gorge, and my future goals, my two main areas of focus are 1. getting stronger on the hills (San Fransisco!) and 2. being mentally tough and confident.ย  I felt so strong for my sub 3 hour marathon in January, but it all kind of unraveled for me when I got out on the course of Gorge. But that’s how you grow. ๐Ÿ™‚

There’s a quote by Alan Webb that I love: “Experience is something that you gain… after you need it so much.” So true, huh?

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What are you working on right now?