Prologue: I haven’t run a half marathon since January 2014 and while I was looking forward to this race, I was worried about a cranky hamstring/glute that has been giving me some issues in the last few weeks. A couple of weeks ago, I chatted with Coach Liza about it and she recommended I get PT. While PT is helping the issue, my hammy/glute was not feeling the best going into race weekend. I was a bit discouraged, but I chatted with Coach Liza again and decided that I would do the race and just have fun. She taped up my hammy/glute/IT Band and wished me the best of luck. One other thing I would like to mention. Thursday before the race, I attended a lecture and book signing for six-time Ironman World Champion Mark Allen. His new book, The Art of Competition is a collection of inspiring quotes and just the inspiration I needed before the race. The night before the race as I was preparing my race outfit, I made a decision that I would “race” this race. You see, before today, I never really went into any of the half marathons or marathons with the intent of “racing.” I had the mindset that this was for fun and I just wanted to finish. Now that I have Ironman 70.3 dreams, I’m slowly but surely developing a competitive mindset. I not only want to finish, but I want to compete. I want to go out there, give it my all, push my limits and see where I land. With that mental affirmation in my head, I read some quotes from Mark Allen’s book, set my alarm clock and went to bed around 7:30 pm to prepare for race day.
Race Morning: Alarm clock went off at 3:00 am. Race starts at 6:30 am, but I was riding the bus with the awesome folks over at Fleet Feet Menlo Park. Bus was scheduled to leave at 4:30 am to make the trek up to San Francisco. I had a piece of toast with almond butter. I drank one bottle of water while getting ready and then made my way over to the bus. On the bus, they were giving out free bagels and bananas. I was worried that I hadn’t eaten enough so I took one of each and ate half the banana and half a bagel when we were about 20 minutes outside of San Francisco. We arrived in San Francisco around 6 am. I waited in line about 15 minutes for the rest room and then I made my way over to my race corral. I was in the 9:00-9:59 pace group; same as last year. Exchanged a quick text with coach and ran a quick lap to warm up my hammy/glute and then proceeded to stretch.
Quick side bar - I am loving my new Brooks Ravenna running shoes. I’ve run in Mizuno’s for the last couple of years and they served me well, but about a month ago I was in the market for a new pair of running shoes and decided to try Brooks out. I love the stability and comfort of the Ravenna’s. In addition, I think my new favorite running pants are the Brooks PureProject Seamless Capris. I love that they are super comfortable and have a bit of compression.
Now….back to the race :)
Made my way over to my corral and waited for the start.
The Race – For the first time in 10 years, Nike changed the half marathon course. The course no longer starts out with a run out to the Embarcadero which is pretty flat. Instead, it starts with a 3 mile gradual climb out of Union Square to Golden Gate Park. I was happy that I took the time to warm up my legs because the hills were pretty constant until you got to the park. The park was my favorite part of the race. It was fairly foggy and mostly downhill. A welcome rest for the legs after the last three miles.
Miles 4-5 I pulled back a bit because my legs were pretty wiped from the aggressive run up the hills and I was worried that I maybe had gone out too hard and too fast. After mile 5, I realized that my legs were still feeling pretty good and so I reminded myself that I was “racing” and kicked it up a bit. Miles 6 & 7 I turned it up, I ran harder and kept telling myself to push through the discomfort. Mile 8 was another hill, but I charged that hill too. Mile 9-11; it started with a bit of downhill after the climbing we did with mile 8. Around mile 9.5 we began what turned out to be the killer climb of the race. It was approximately 1.5 miles of a gradual but steep incline. I attacked this hill with a vengeance and it spit me right on out. I was spent coming out of that hill. I would pay dearly for this during mile 11. Right around mile 11.5 I got a sharp cramp in my left side. It was so painful that my running pace dropped to a slow crawl so much so that it seemed like walkers were passing me. I caught leg cramps last year and it slowed me down big time. I was not going to let it slow me down as much as it did last year, this year, so I kept pushing through the pain, clenching my teeth and tried desperately to breathe through the pain. At this point, I think I am either at the 12 mile mark or just a little before. I can’t remember. What I do remember is I saw Jim from Fleet Feet and shuffled over to him and gave him a quick hi-five. At that point, it was great to see a familiar face and get some encouraging words. With the side cramp behind me, I picked up my pace again at mile 12 and continued to run hard through the finish.
My official time: 2:11. My time from the 2013 race was 2:14, so I was able to shave off almost 3 minutes. Not a half marathon distance PR, but definitely a PR on a tough course.
Post race – I went immediately to pick up my bling ;).
After that, my mind was on starting my recovery as early as possible. It was cool and my body temperature started to drop and I got cold and started to stiffen up. I wrapped up in the mylar blanket quickly and then drank the chocolate milk they were giving out. In hindsight, I should have checked a gear bag and put my Osmo Acute Recovery powder in there along with almond milk. While chocolate milk is great, I find my body likes the Acute Recovery better. After finishing my chocolate milk, I chatted with a couple of fellow Fleet Feet runners for a few minutes, did a quick walk through the Finisher Gear tent and then made my way over to an area they had set up for stretching and foam rolling. A bunch of Equinox personal trainers were stretching runners out. I patiently waited my turn and then after I spent 15 minutes rolling and stretching. I also walked another mile back to the bus pick up area. The ride back I spent icing my hamstring (Thanks Fleet Feet for providing ice packs and snacks on the return ride). I stiffened up pretty quickly and by the time I got home, I knew I would need to sit in an ice bath, so that’s exactly what I did.
What’s next?? I’m going to continue to work on building a competitor mindset. I have IM 70.3 dreams in 2015 and I’d love to get a PR in the half marathon distance as well as the 5K . I have my first sprint triathlon coming up in a couple of weeks that I plan to “race” and a fun half marathon in Jamaica in December which I just plan to just have fun. In the off season I plan to work a lot on core and strength workouts since this is what I’ve learned is the culprit of most of my hammy/glute issues.
Finally, I couldn’t end this report without acknowledging and thanking Coach Liza. She has been incredibly supportive and patient with this newbie. She believes in me, more than I believe in myself at times. She continues to tell me that I achieve far more than I believe and with her help, I’m certain I can. Will the road be easy? Probably not, but what in life comes without a bit of hard work and sometimes a bit of discomfort. I’m ready for the challenge!