Friday, August 21, 2015

San Francisco Marathon: Part II

Yesterday I talked all about our pre-race fun, including my favorite expo purchases and delicious dinner! Today I'm getting to the really good stuff- the actual race!

Since Lauren and I did all of the training together and we naturally run at very similar paces, we decided to run the entire marathon together. We had a big time goal (under 4 hours and 30 minutes), so we knew that we needed to run strong the entire 26.2 miles. From our past experiences, we decided that we weren't going to look at our pace but rather run entirely on feel alone. Obsessing on pace only makes us stressed and can be very discouraging if we fall behind. We did all of our training using 10:1 run:walk intervals, so we stuck to this for the marathon as well.

Miles 0-4: Embarcadero 
- We took off much faster than originally planned, trying to weave in and out of people.
- I was so in awe that I was actually embarking on this race that I didn't really look at my surroundings. I remember running by a few piers, but I was mostly reminding myself to keep moving and put one foot in front of the other. It sounds silly, but I was in shock that I was doing this.

Miles 4-5.5: Presidio Part I
- We were still weaving in and out of people, so we unfortunately missed a lot of good photo opportunities.
- We encountered the first big hill of the race. Expecting it to be a pretty hilly course, we decided to continue running up the hills, but at an easier pace. I was afraid that if we chose to walk the hills, we would be doing a lot of walking which would put our time goal way out of reach.
- This area was really foggy so it was hard to see stuff in the distance. But what was viewable, was stunning! I was able to spot the Golden Gate Bridge which was really motivating because I knew that was our next big landmark. 

Miles 5.5-9.5: Golden Gate Bridge
-  Prior to the race I was warned that the bridge should be thought of as a hill with the center of the bridge as the apex, even though it looks flat. Knowing this, I didn't push myself in an effort to save my legs.
- The race runs from the SF side to the Sausalito side of the bridge, and then turns back around to spit you out where you started. The turn around point (mile 7.5) marked the first aid station with fuel. I grabbed a pack of black cherry Gu Chomps and ate all of them between miles 7.5-11. Sidenote: I loved how these tasted and will be buying them as soon as I need more running fuel.
- As Lauren and I were heading back into SF, we crossed paths with Marissa, Heather, and Leti who were working their way up to the turn around point. This was the only time we saw them throughout the entire race, but they snapped some good photos of Lauren and me.
- I was surprised at how moist and foggy the air was on the bridge. If I hadn't known better, I would've thought that it recently rained.
- Although it was exciting and a once in a lifetime experience running across the GG Bridge, as a middle of the pack runner, it was tricky navigating my way through the herds of people. There were only two car lanes open to the runners across the bridge, one car lane for each running direction separated by cones. Because the path was so narrow, we ended up running on the opposite side, hugging the cones the majority of the time. 

Miles 9.5-12.5:
- We finished running through the scenic areas of SF's coast. One moment we were running along the water, and the next we were on the street. I definitely preferred the former of the two. 
- Many people wore their race shirts during the run which contains an image of the course on the back. I started realizing that because I'm vaguely familiar with the SF area, I could easily figure out where I was on the map. It was oddly very motivating to be able to see how much I had already run and how much more I had to go. Whenever I started feeling like I wanted to be done, I would look for a race shirt to check my progress. I think all race shirts should have the course on the back!

Miles 12.5-19: Golden Gate Park
Probably the most serene, yet boring parts of the entire race. If we had been in GG Park for half that distance, I would've enjoyed it a lot more.
- The first half marathon finished here, and the second half marathon started. It was a little disheartening to see the big finish line knowing that I still had over 13 more miles to run.
- We ran into Dan (SacFit running buddy) and talked/ran with him for a few minutes. I love seeing people I know!
- I saw my parents right before exiting the park. I didn't know exactly where I would be seeing them, so it was a great surprise to see familiar faces.

Miles 19-21: Haight St.
- I was expecting a lot of fanfare and excitement here, but it was just another ordinary street to me.
- Somehow I missed the aid station with fuel, but I had plenty with me so that wasn't a big deal.
- By this time I was getting tired and zoned out for awhile. I turned my brain off and let my legs just carry me.

Miles 21-23.5:
- The hardest part of the race for me, mentally. I never hit the wall (thank goodness!), but I really just wanted to be done at this point.
- We took it easier on the hills, and walked a few extra minutes.
- There were a handful of residents who were cheering outside of their houses which was really encouraging. One man even set out a table with cut up oranges for the runners; I took two slices! 

Miles 23.5-26.2: 
- I was expecting to see AT&T Park a lot sooner than we did. I kept telling myself that as soon as I saw the baseball stadium I would be in the final stretch of the race. I should've studied the course route more so that I would've had a more accurate idea of where we were.
- It just so happened that there was a Giants game the afternoon of the race so there were tons of people lined up all around AT&T Park. The baseball fans were pretty much contained so that didn't pose any problems, but it was a surprise to see so many people walking in the opposite direction of the race to get to the game.
- At mile 26 we saw a few of our good running buddies from SacFit. The day before they mentioned to us that they were going to try to make it out to the finish, but their plans weren't definite. It was so nice to see them cheering us on! Thank you so much Tim and Kathleen for being there! As soon as I spotted them, I had a sudden burst of energy and wanted to sprint to the finish. Seeing people you know cheering you on really is a great feeling, especially after 26 miles!
- Lauren and I sprinted the last .2 miles to the finish line to receive our finishers' medals and post race treats!

We completed the SF Marathon in 4:33:29! Although I didn't reach my biggest time goal, I easily surpassed my initial challenge and even PR'ed by over an hour. Of course I wish I would've been able to run just a little bit faster, but I'm still so proud of Lauren and myself for improving so much. This just means that we'll have to run another marathon to accomplish that goal time!
Right after we finished we ran into another SacFit friend, Jenny who had also just completed the marathon. We chatted with her about our race experiences for a little bit before leaving the finishers' area. Then we made our way back to mile 26 to catch up with Tim, Kathleen, and Brad. We figured that would be a good spot to wait for Marissa, Heather, and Leti. Soon after, we realized that we should've picked up our drop bags right after finishing since they were in the completely opposite direction. My only real complaint for the entire marathon is that the drop bag pick up location should've been much closer to the finish line. After having run over 26 miles, most people don't want to have to walk that far to get their belongings. Once we picked up our stuff, we walked all the way back to mile 26. We had no idea when Marissa, Heather, and Leti were going to finish, or if they decided to drop. My parents were back at the hotel checking out of the rooms for us, so we wouldn't be able to meet up with them for awhile either.

Leti came in an hour and a half after us. Since Marissa and Heather started the race with Leti, I figured they weren't far behind if they hadn't dropped. I called Heather, expecting her to not answer, but was pleasantly surprised when she did. I found out that she was still on the course with Marissa, around mile 25. Since the official allotted time was up, all of the aid stations and course support were gone. Wanting to encourage Marissa and Heather, I decided to run back to meet them, and run the last bit with them. Lauren and Leti stayed near the finish and watched all of our stuff, including my phone. I jogged all the way back to mile 25.75, expecting that they should've completed at least .75 miles within the last 15 minutes of talking to Heather. I saw a few runners making their way to the finish, but Marissa and Heather weren't in sight. I waited another 5 minutes for them, before realizing that they probably already finished and I must've somehow missed them. I was thinking that everyone was now waiting for me, and since I didn't have my phone, I went ahead and walked all the way back to the finish line to look for Lauren and Leti who I knew would be there. Still without a phone, I wasn't able to find them. Luckily I randomly ran into my dad who was searching for my mom. I was then able to use my dad's phone to call Lauren. So much time had passed since I left to find Marissa and Heather, that when I was able to contact Lauren, she was already walking in my direction with Heather and Marissa. I was bummed that I missed them crossing the finish line, but luckily Lauren recorded it.

After everyone was found, the seven of us walked back to my dad's car together. Thankfully my dad loaded up all of our luggage and checked out of our hotel room for us, so we didn't have to worry about any of that. My dad dropped Lauren, Leti, and I back off at my car, and we started our short journey back to Sacramento. We stopped in Berkeley to pick up Chipotle for lunch which ended up being the best post-race meal.

As far as fuel and hydration go, I started the race with a single 22oz handheld bottle filled with Nuun and had my bottle refilled with water one time once it was empty. In addition, I drank several ounces of Nuun at many of the aid stations, about every five miles. Throughout the entire race, I ate a package of Gu Chomps and three Gu Gels. This combination of hydration and fuel worked really well for me. I had plenty of energy throughout the entire race without feeling weighed down or sick. I find that eating a larger breakfast before and small amounts during the run is best for my body. 
I had an amazing weekend in San Francisco with my closest friends and family. I felt so proud of myself for finishing that marathon because I trained so hard for it and dedicated so much time towards it. Even though it was a difficult course at times, it was one of the most scenic areas I've run in. Unfortunately the timing doesn't work out, otherwise I would've already signed up to run this marathon again next year. Luckily though, Lauren, Leti, Marissa, Heather, and I are already signed up to run another marathon in November. We signed up months ago so we wouldn't back out after the SF Marathon which was such a smart idea. I'm already looking forward to them coming out to Philadelphia in the next few months. It was hard to start back up, but I've already started training for this next race, and again am hoping for another big PR!

Lauren also wrote a great post on her perspective of the SF Marathon!