Thursday, August 20, 2015

San Francisco Marathon: Part I (Pre-race)

I originally intended to tell my experience of running the San Francisco Marathon in one post, but with so much to share and talk about, that one post grew way too long. So, I decided to break my recap up into two separate posts. I'm sharing all of the pre-race fun today, and will detail the actual run/post-run craziness tomorrow!
Beginning January 1, I started training for the San Francisco Marathon. One of my big New Year's resolutions was to finish a marathon in under 5 hours. I only had one official marathon race under my belt, and I was determined to achieve an enormous PR. Month by month, I filled in my daily workouts and rest days so that I knew exactly what I needed to do in the upcoming days and weeks. I found that this method really worked at holding me accountable and allowed me to be successful in completing my training program. After a few months of getting back into the habit of running regularly again, I realized that I was capable of more than my initial goal. I wanted to PR by over an hour for a time of under 4 hours and 45 minutes. Again, after many more exciting long training runs, I challenged myself to finish the SF Marathon in under 4 hours and 30 minutes. I knew this final goal would be tricky, but based on my pace and how good I felt after my long runs, I was pretty sure I could accomplish this big feat.

Lauren, Marissa, Heather, and Leti also signed up for the marathon. We were all looking for a way to get back into running after having been out of shape for awhile. Since Lauren and I both live in Philadelphia, it was easy for us to train together and follow the same running schedule. The two of us completed all of our long runs and most midweek runs together.

I flew out to California with Lauren in the middle of July, leaving plenty of time for us to adapt to the time and environmental changes in preparation for the July 26 marathon. Being in California completely threw off my normal daily routine I had grown accustomed to in Philadelphia. I tried to be strict about my midweek runs the two weeks leading up to the big race, but when I did manage to go running, my runs were all pretty casual and lax. I'm not sure how this affected the actual race, but such a big change must've had some effect.
The day before the marathon, the five of us drove to San Francisco and eagerly went to the race expo ready to check out all the vendors. Our first stop was the SF Marathon pop up shop. I had been eying the souvenir zip up hoodies online, so I quickly purchased a green one! Heather and I now have matching sweatshirts, and Marissa and Lauren have dark gray ones. While waiting in line to buy our sweatshirts, Marissa and I ran into our second cousin Carey who signed up to run the second half marathon. We hadn't seen her in years, so that was fun!

Lauren and I are known as the "sparkle twins" throughout our SacFit running group because we always wear sparkly headbands when we run. Obviously you can never have enough sparkle, so of course we needed to stop by the Sparkly Soul booth to add a few more headbands to our collections. This was my first time trying this specific brand of headbands, and after trying multiple other ones, I can honestly say that I'm going to be a longtime customer of Sparkly Soul. I picked two glittered headbands: a pastel rainbow and pewter; and a solid shiny brown one to wear when I'm not running. 
After spending a few hours at the expo and dealing with the "parking situation", it was time for dinner! We were planning to go to Source since Lauren, Leti, and I loved the food when we were there last year. After trying to look up directions, we discovered the restaurant closed. Luckily though, we quickly agreed on Gracias Madre for our pre-race meal. Being an all vegan menu, Lauren and I found ourselves not knowing what to order since everything sounded so good. We order lots of appetizers and a few entrees, and decided to share everything amongst the five of us. Everything tasted delicious, just as we remembered, but all of our favorites were the potatoes and cauliflower appetizers. Their cashew cream sauce is to die for.
After dinner, we made our way to the Hilton in the Financial District to check in. Originally, the five of us were going to share one room to save money. I went ahead and booked two rooms, just in case we ended up changing our minds and needed more personal space. I was planning on cancelling one room, but my parents decided they wanted to come and watch us all run! So in the end, Lauren, Leti, and I shared one room, and Marissa and Heather shared a room with my parents. The rooms were on the pricier side, but being in SF that's to be expected. Our rooms were very clean, large, and had amazing views- well worth the price.
Once we checked in, we spent the entire evening resting. I packed my water bottle and drop bag, set out my clothes, and showered so that I wouldn't have to worry about doing anything the morning of the race. Planning works wonders! When I woke up at 4 o'clock race day morning, I wasn't stressed at all. As soon as I woke up, I sat in bed and made myself finish my entire breakfast. I made and froze pancakes two days before to bring with me. I also brought a single serving pouch of Justin's almond butter. Since I had been eating these same exact pancakes with almond butter the morning of every long run, I knew that this breakfast would work well for me. I gave myself plenty of digestion time to prevent any stomach issues during the race. After my fancy breakfast in bed, I finished getting ready in not time at all.
We met my parents, Marissa, and Heather in the hotel lobby around 5 o'clock and walked less than a mile to the start line with them. I was afraid that walking that far before the race would tire us all out, but fortunately this was the perfect little warmup. I threw on extra layers expecting it to be really cold on the walk to the start. Luckily though, we were blessed with the perfect weather! We dropped off of our drop bags and had just enough time for one last port-a-potty stop. None of us realized how much further the actual entrance to the corral was. We were expecting to be able to walk into the start gate right after the port-a-potties, but in actuality we had to jog another quarter of a mile to get there on time. Lauren and I have had bad experiences missing our designated corral, so we wanted to be able to start at our correct time. This caused a lot of stress for our group, but we made it there right on time and had a few minutes to take a group shot before crossing the start line.