Friday, July 30, 2010

Race Report: San Francisco Marathon

J and I were up by 4:30am to get ourselves ready for the big event! We were out of the hotel by 5am and decided to just walk the half mile or so to the race start. There's something fun about walking down the streets of a big city when it's still dark and knowing that all the other people you see walking the same direction are going to do the same challenging thing that you are doing.

We found the potties and took care of business before lining up with the Wave 7 group just in time.

We were supposed to start at 6:22, but an announcement told us it would be at 6:30. Then, they counted us down and said go. As always, it was anti-climatic because we just started walking forward. However, then we came to a stop. We had to stand around for a bit, and then they counted us down and said go again. I have no idea what that was all about. It was a little annoying because we were ready to get started.

We started out at a pretty conservative pace. I think we hit around 10:30 over the first mile or two, and I felt pretty comfortable with it. We ran along the Embarcadero and passed Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. I felt like the course was pretty flat along the first few miles, and it was fun seeing these parts of town during the early morning hours when there were zero tourists out and about.

I knew that we'd have to encounter some hills in order to get up to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it turned out that there was really only one climb. It was a steep one, no doubt, but I really wasn't feeling like the course was all that hilly so far.

It was exciting when we rounded a corner and saw the bridge off in the distance.

As we approached the bridge, I noticed this sign warning cars that there would be runners on the bridge... as if the thousands of runners wouldn't clue them in, haha.

It was pretty exciting getting to run across the bridge... all 1.7 miles of it! Then we turned around and came back across. I loved it! It really had the potential to be a big climb since bridges often are steep on either side, but it never really felt like we climbed much.

By the time we crossed the bridge, we had a solid 9 miles under our feet. There was a pretty big climb soon after, and we realized we could walk up it as fast as we were running. Fortunately, they had the foresight to put a water stop at the top of the hill.

One thing is for sure - for every uphill, there was a pretty awesome downhill. This picture shows one off - we flew down this baby!

We encountered some rolling hills, and while they got old really fast, I didn't really think they were terrible. I went into this expecting the hilliest of hilly courses, but I have to say that I didn't think it was any worse than what I run in Nashville. Granted, the race people could have made it far worse... I definitely saw worse hills around town. I think they've done a good job of routing it so that you really don't have a ton of bad hills.

We hit the half marathon mark shortly after entering Golden Gate Park. I was feeling tired, but I still felt pretty good. I enjoyed running through the park, but by about mile 16 I was tired of it and ready to be out. It felt like we were in there for ages.

We did see this cool building and gardens before leaving.

Miles 17 through 21 are a bit of a blur. I honestly can't recall what we saw or if there were hills or scenery. I think we were just running through city streets. I was starting to hurt, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to hang on to the pace we were keeping much longer.

I also knew that S and A would be at mile 21, so I kept pushing myself to hang on until we got to them so that the 4 of us could be together briefly. A had to catch a flight home, so I knew this would be the last time I'd see her.

Before long, we found them. We took a quick photo and gave hugs before heading on.

I didn't want to hold J back in any way, and she was totally rocking her first marathon! I definitely only did as well as I did because I had her helping push me along (whether she knew it or not), but it was time to send her on her way. I told her I'd find her at the finish, and I pulled out my ipod to keep me company for the last 5 miles.

I'm not going to lie - the last 5 miles were brutal. I kept telling myself it's only 5 miles and tried to forget about the first 21. I definitely slowed down my pace, and I took a little bit longer walk breaks at the water stops.

When I hit mile 25, I realized that if I kept it up, I'd finish it faster than 2 of my other marathons. Two others that I actually trained for. So I kind of got a second wind because I loved the idea of finishing and it being my third slowest as opposed to my slowest or second slowest. (My two that are slower are 4:56 and 5:12.)

I saw S again briefly at mile 26, and then I kicked it on in to the finish in 4:53:32. I was thrilled!

One awesome thing about this race is the food! I grabbed a couple of really yummy scones to devour immediately, and I piled up some bags of popcorn-type stuff and cookies. I hate how you never have anywhere to put the food, but I was glad they offered good stuff that I liked. Oh, and they were giving out Jamba Juice! Score!

J and I found each other and celebrated that we finished. She was a rock star and finished her first in 4:43!!! S found us, and we took some photos to express how we really felt.

We decided we were too cold to hang out much longer and began making our way to find a cab to the hotel. We cleaned up, put on our shirts and medals, and did a little more celebrating.

Oh, and we totally sported our new recovery socks we bought at the expo the day before.

We headed to Max's on the Square for some incredibly greasy and yummy food... and a well-deserved beer! We did need to replenish after all.

We ended up wandering around the mall for a bit to stretch the legs before going back to the hotel to rest. We hit up Chevy's for margs and mexican food for dinner, and we made a stop for some dessert at The Cheesecake Factory. We were pretty serious about celebrating with food! Plus, we were starving all the time!

The weekend went by way too quickly, and before I knew it I had to head home.

One thing is true though - the medals were awesome!

I love these girls, and I'm so glad that we got to reunite and have a fun weekend together. I'm also so glad I got to enjoy the experience of J's first marathon with her, and I'm glad to have another full under my belt. It's amazing to me that I did as well as I did when I didn't train all that well, which I think proves that distance running really is mental. I mean, I had been running some 16-milers, so I'm not saying I would run one with no training or whatever... but it's nice to know that I'm capable of pushing myself to the extreme a bit.

I'm still recovering from the race. I wasn't any more sore than I ever am after a marathon, and I am both hungry and sleepy all the time just like usual. It always takes a few days for that to pass.

I decided on Tuesday when I was grocery shopping to buy some flowers for myself. I feel really proud that I was able to go out there and do this, especially since I was feeling a little uncertain about how it would go.

All in all, I'm really glad that I did this. I do have to say that I was a little disappointed that there weren't more spectators. I guess I think of San Francisco as a big race, so I was a little surprised at how it felt like there were not a lot of people out watching. Then again, only about 5000 run the marathon, which is about how many run the Nashville marathon... and we're not known for having a lot of spectators for the second half.

I had fun, and it was definitely a great way to see the city!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Photo Booth

Since I didn't have it scanned in for the earlier post, here's the picture I spoke about that we got from the free photo booth at the expo. In the middle one, we're supposed to look like we're running... but I kind of didn't get in there well enough to look the part. Oops.

I thought this was such a cool idea, and I love that the race logo printed out on the pictures. More races should do this!

(By the way... we're totally sunburned. None of us thought about sunscreen since it was 55 degrees out, and apparently the SPF in my makeup didn't hold up. Or maybe we got wind burned. We're not really sure.)

Wrecking Crew Reunion in San Francisco (Part 2)

On Saturday, we got up and headed to Olympic Café for a yummy breakfast. J and I both wanted to make sure we started our carb loading for the race as early as possible, so we we thrilled to chow down on pancakes, bacon and eggs. Plus, we all needed to fuel up for a busy day of sightseeing and hitting up the race expo.

We hopped on our tour bus and started around the city, learning all sorts of cool facts about buildings and various parts of the city.

We're all children of the 80s, so that means we held a special place in our hearts for Alamo Square and the famous Painted Ladies that are shown during the opening sequence of Full House. We realized that we remembered most of the words to the theme song.

We hopped back on the bus and enjoyed riding down Haight/Ashbury and seeing all the unique little boutiques and restaurants. I liked how "decorated" all of the storefronts were!

We were determined to sit on the top of the bus, but it was cloudy and chilly... it's kind of crazy to feel this cold in July!

We were all pretty excited about riding the bus across the Golden Gate Bridge, at least until we were in the middle of it. We were freezing! The bus was probably going about 50 mph... on a chilly, cloud day... across water. I told the girls that it was the worst roller coaster ride ever.

We got off on the other side of the bridge so that we could warm up a bit and snap some pictures with the bridge. I actually don't mind that it was so foggy - I feel like that's how it's supposed to be in San Francisco!
We made our final stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. Unfortunately, some construction barriers kept us from getting inside and taking pictures. We had to settle for just seeing it from across the pond.
After wrapping up our tour of the city, it was time for J and I to transition from vacation mode to marathon mode and head to the race expo. S and A headed off to do some shopping, and we took a bus to get to the expo. I was super excited for J since this was her first marathon!

I LOVED that the race slogan was "worth the hurt." I definitely hurt during this marathon (I blame my lack of training), but it was definitely worth it!

At the expo, I was thrilled to get to meet Aron! It was a quick hello since J and I needed to attack the expo, but it was SO great to get to have a brief meet-up with one of my favorite bloggers. When you read someone and communicate with them regularly, it's just always nice to have met in person to feel like you actually know who you are talking to! Aron is totally awesome, and it was nice to talk in person!

J and I checked out all the booths and enjoyed some free samples. I had forgotten to pack my compression recovery socks, but I'd been wanting to get a second pair for a while. We were able to get a little discount since we both decided to buy a pair, and we each got a pair of free runing socks to boot. Score. J made some other purchases, and I almost bought a shirt that said "I'm only doing this so I can post a photo on Facebook" because I thought it was so funny. In the end, I didn't want to spend the $26.

They also had a free photo booth! We totally stood in line to get our free pictures. I haven't scanned it in yet, but I'll try to remember to share it because it was super cute!

I have to admit - I was a little disappointed in the race expo. I have it in my head that San Francisco is a big race (even though with 24,000 runners in all the races, it's 10,000 people smaller than Nashville), so I expected a big expo. It was smaller than Nashville's, and I guess that makes sense since the race is smaller as well. Nonetheless, it was small and crammed into a tiny little space. Maybe part of it is that I've been to enough expos now that I know it's always the same stuff, and I'm just not as excited about them any more since I already have pretty much everything I want that I could buy at one.

After the expo, we met back up with S and A at Sodini's for some serious carb loading dinner. Lots of bread and pasta - and it was SOOOO good!

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got in the hot tub for a bit. Since we'd been walking around a lot (typically not a wise thing to do before a marathon), we wanted to get a little relief for our feet and legs.

J and I took quick showers, and S braided my hair. We laid everything out and headed to bed to get ready for that 4:30am alarm.

Next post - The San Francisco Marathon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrecking Crew Reunion in San Francisco (Part 1)

Last Thursday, I made the trek across the country to San Francisco, CA to meet up with three amazing girls. If you've been around the blog for a while, you may know that when me, S, and A had a girls' weekend in Chicago back in 2007, we were nicknamed The Wrecking Crew by a few guys we hung out with one evening. You can read about it here.

This year our other friend J joined us for a fun-filled long weekend in a city that none of us actually live in - a first for our girls' weekends! We quickly initiated her as a member of the Crew.

On the way to San Fran, I saw this rainbow as we landed in Denver. I ended up seeing two more while we were there. I love seeing them, and seeing these really kind of made my day.

By the time we all got into town on Thursday, it was late. Factor in that we all went backward through a couple of time zones, it was later. Nonetheless, we hit up a piano bar down the street from our hotel to have a round and catch up a bit before crashing.

First thing Friday morning, we headed out for our tour of Alcatraz. The ferry ride over certainly gave us a view of the city.

We also caught our first glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge!

We were soon on the island and began our tour of the famous prison.

One thing is for sure... I would NOT want to have to shower in here. Zero privacy. Oh, and it was pretty drafty in there. Not good.

This was how one of the escape attempts was made!

I feel like this looks like a back drop, but it totally wasn't. As the sun was coming out while we were on the island, we really started to see how pretty the area is around it!

I loved how the island looked with the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance as we drove away.

After we returned from Alcatraz, we walked down to Pier 39. Does anyone know why we found a giant macaroni noodle there? I didn't see any explanation, but it was a fun photo op! How many times do you take a picture with a noodle?

We were all craving soup in sourdough bread bowls, so we were thrilled when we found Boudin Bakery. I opted for the tomato since I'm not a fan of clam chowder... and it was AMAZING. I probably could have eaten another bowl of it.

One of the fun things about vacation is that it's totally acceptable to stop for a picture with a giant lobster.

We found the famous sea lions at Pier 39.

This fat one was my favorite!

We walked over to Fisherman's Wharf.

We also checked out Ghirardelli Square, but we opted to not stand in the long line and buy the expensive sundaes. We did take a couple of passes at the free samples!

After exploring the city all afternoon, we headed back to the hotel room to get all gussies up for an evening out on the town.

We ended up at a swanky little restaurant called First Crush. Our hotel gave us some coupons for some free flights of wine, and then we also enjoyed some yummy cocktails. I chowed down on their delicious bread and a salad.

I rounded out my meal with some lobster mac and cheese. Hey, when you're getting ready for a marathon, you've got to start getting those carbs!

After dinner, we headed to The Mint to enjoy some karaoke. Unfortunately, they never called us up... but we had a blast chatting with some locals and listening to everyone else. Ok, so we totally sang along, too!

All in all, we had a great day! We were total tourists, which is definitely one of the reasons why we travel so well together. We all love getting out there and seeing the popular destinations. The four of us haven't been together in a LONG time, so it was great to just be together and get to catch up while exploring a fun city.

Next up - Saturday sightseeing and the race expo!