20 October 2014

Nike Women's Half Marathon Recap

This race was fantastic. I love running in SF, I felt good running at marathon goal pace, the weather was cool, and I was strong on the hills. This was a really good tune-up for my confidence going into NYC in only two short weeks!

My opinion on the NWM event has changed a lot over the past few years. When I ran it in 2011, I found it to be a logistical mess and was highly disappointed in the whole thing. I vowed never to run it again. (But of course, I did because it's local and they give out Tiffany bling!) In 2012, I had a great time but still found many things to be annoying. The third time must be a charm; this year I found it to be much more organized, not as crowded as I remember, and overall a fantastic event.

It's worth noting that the race made two major changes this year. They did away with the marathon and made this a half marathon only, and in doing so they completely changed the route. From my perspective, these were both huge plusses. The focus on one event seemed to improve the logistics overall, and the new course was great. I loved it because it's different than other races in the city, and variety is fun. Finishing at Marina Green was much easier than finishing at Ocean Beach because we could walk back to Union Square. It's much harder to get back from Ocean Beach.

We stayed in the city on Saturday night partly to make it easier in the morning for the 6:30 am start and partly because we love an excuse to stay in SF. The race starts in Union Square, and different start corrals enter from different streets. I was in the 9:00-9:59 start corral which entered from Grant Street, and I had no trouble finding it. Each corral has its own porta potties and gear check, and they make sure you go to the right corral by checking wrist bands. The porta potty lines were huge (not shocking with so many women) but I'm not sure they could have fit more of them. I was able to move around in the corral much more than in past years.

 Start line, as taken by my friend Ann who was spectating.

 Big banner by Macy's, also from Ann.

They said the start time was 6:30 am, although in reality they started the fastest corral at 6:30 and put a few minutes between each one. That worked well and was a great idea, but knowing about the delayed corrals would have been helpful ahead of time. My corral was going off at 6:50 am, and luckily I was able to duck into the 8:00-8:59 corral porta potties when we began moving because they had already started running. I made it back into my corral before the people in back finished crossing the start, whew! I was assuming I'd have to go on the course because I'd skipped the long lines in fear of missing the start (I would have had plenty of time, hence wanting to know about the delayed corral starts.) 

We started running and I felt good right away. My body was cooperating, my sore foot warmed up and didn't bother me, and the weather was fairly cool. We ran on some streets that no other course uses, which was fun. There were gradual uphills and downhills almost the whole time, but I love a rolling course. We ran by Alamo Square and eventually into Golden Gate Park to make a big loop of the park. Running in the park was foggy and gorgeous. I was happy to have run a couple of the longer gradual climbs during my 17 mile training run because I had a reference point of when it had felt much harder. 

We exited the park, headed through the Presidio, and then descended to the bottom of the big Lincoln Boulevard climb I'd been waiting for. Running up Lincoln Boulevard is hard, that's all there is to it. It's long, some is steep, and it takes effort. I felt good and I was thrilled with my stamina on the hill, plus there were tons of people cheering there to keep us going. I've also run this hill during recent long training runs, which of course helped a ton. Unfortunately, we didn't get the Golden Gate Bridge  and bay views at the top because it was very foggy.

Finishing the climb and immediately starting the downhill portion gave us a nice recovery period. We took the steeper route down to water level and followed the road back to Marina Green for the finish. After running up and down so much, the flat felt like it took a lot of effort. Before I knew it, I was at the finish chute to find Ann and Kevin cheering for me. A quick turn of the corner and I passed under the pink finish arch feeling awesome at 2:09:06. Perfect marathon pace training run.

Ann's photo of me in the chute.

The finish area on Marina Green felt larger than the one at Ocean Beach and was nicely done. We walked through the area to get food, water, and of course the coveted Tiffany necklace. However, the necklaces were NOT handed out by Firefighters, they were handed out by volunteers. I kind of missed the Firefighters in tuxes with the silver platters...but what can you do. I have a feeling this was a much better way to regulate people and how many necklaces they tried to take. There were still firefighters nearby for photo ops if you wanted to wait in line. 

I found Kevin and Ann, and then met up with two Oiselle flock ladies for a few minutes. They had a family meet up area with letters and it was easy to find everyone there. The finish area also included a Nike shopping boutique, massage, booths, and probably things I didn't see; I didn't check out any of those.

Tiffany box!

Ann, Kevin and I headed straight to brunch at The Square in North Beach where I enjoyed beer and eggs benedict made with crumpets. So good. It was there that I finally opened my necklace, and I love it! Easily my favorite one of the three I have.

Brunch and Tiffany.

Celebratory brunch and drinks with Ann!

Race Details.

The Expo. The expo is held at Union Square in a big tent. I picked up my packet at the Nike store in Palo Alto the week before; it's much less crowded and I hadn't found the expo to have much to see in the past. Bib pick-up at the store was easy and quick. We walked through the expo on Saturday afternoon when we were showing Ann around a bit, and I found it to be the same as before. They don't have shops and booths like other expos; they have places to do hair, fit Nike shoes, and try Nuun. Rumor has it bib pick up for this event can take hours on Saturday, but I have never gone then to know firsthand.

 Expo tent.

Posing with the big 13.1 banner.

The Swag. The race is expensive, but they truly gave us good swag. We received black tank tops as the race shirt, plastic refillable water bottles at the finish, reusable shopping bags filled with snacks at the finish, and of course the Tiffany necklaces.

 Tank top.

Necklace close up.

The course. I loved the course. It was unique and there were fun surprises along the way such as a gospel choir, marching bands, the We Run SF statue, and banners. There were a couple of spots with cameras to wave to and another spot with screens that showed our names as we passed by. They handed out chocolate around mile 12 and Clif shot blocks around mile 8. I'm pretty sure they had Nuun on the course, but I only found water when I went through the aid stations. There were aid stations and porta potties about every two miles. At one point I remember thinking there were so many porta potties along the course that I couldn't believe it, and I'd definitely never seen that many at other races. I suppose they are trying to keep 25K women happy?

Improvements to note. I mentioned being annoyed in past years, so I want to outline the big changes that have made this race better for me. 

First, start corrals. In 2011 they didn't have the wristband and enforced corrals, and I ended up starting behind people who intended to walk the whole thing. Getting through the first mile was difficult and people were tripping over one another. This improved with the addition of enforced start corrals in 2012, but it still felt incredibly tight. This year, I think the additional separation of start corral times helped. I didn't have issues getting around people and it flowed well from the start. 

Second, crowding. In the past, I found myself dodging groups of people walking or slowly running three to four wide, which was terrible. That also improved in 2012, but this year I didn't find it to be bad at all. Naturally there are many people and you do some dodging, but it wasn't worse than any other large race. I have no idea what fixed this, but I'm glad it's better. It could be as simple as people starting in the right pace groups.

Third, in past years I saw many people drop throw away clothes in places that were tripping hazards (like the middle of the road.) This year they had many, many labeled clothing drop bins spaced out along the first few miles and people used them. 

Fourth, water stations. I remember water stations being very crowded and not keeping up with the flow of runners. This time around, they were longer and on both sides of the street. It was easy to grab water and go without waiting on it to be poured.

All in all, a fun race and great weekend in the city. I wish this one weren't so hard to get into!








14 October 2014

Weekly Recap: Taking it Easy

The last week definitely did not go as planned with regards to marathon training. I'm still having the minor bottom of foot and arch pain that started with my 19 mile long run. I'm so, so close to my big fall races - Nike Women's Half and NYC Marathon - and missing them isn't an option I want to consider. This is especially true for NYC because everyone has been so awesome in supporting my fundraiser.

I took last week off from running, instead using the elliptical and bike for workouts. The foot doesn't bother me much if at all while running, but it's the next morning and during the day when it feels off. I'm running less often to give it extra rest with the marathon being so soon. Ideally, I'd stop running for a few weeks until it was better, but the timing isn't working out for that right now. As long as I stay in the 1-2 out of 10 pain range I'm hoping it'll be ok until I can rest after the races.

Nike Women's half is this coming Sunday and I always look forward to a great SF course (not to mention the Tiffany finisher necklace!) At this time, I'm able to run and still planning to do it. If nothing else, I feel like I need one more 12-13 mile run before NYC for peace of mind because I completely skipped my long run this past weekend.

I was able to pick up my NWHM bib early at the Stanford Shopping Center Nike store and I'm pumped about that. The expo has a history of 2+ hour lines to get in, and when I went to the expo in 2011 there wasn't anything exciting to see anyway. Picking up early took a total of 20 minutes and now I'm ready to go for race morning.

Course map for the brand new course this year.

Also this past weekend, we went to a beautiful wedding in Sonoma for our friends. Wine country weddings are amazing! I loved the decorations, colors, food (ahem, including fancy mac and cheese), cake (Maple Donut flavor), and of course sharing the day with the bride and groom. The next morning many of the wedding guests went to brunch with the couple at Flavor Bistro in Santa Rosa, which I'd recommend if you are in the area. 

 Mike and Rebecca cutting the cake. Always one of my favorite wedding moments.

The only photo I actually took of us! Sorry, Mom.

Red wine, jam as favors, and beautiful flowers.

Before heading out of Santa Rosa we made a quick pit stop at Russian River Brewery. We were conveniently parked right in front of it for brunch...we decided we couldn't leave without stopping. Kevin and I both tried the Supplication, a sour we'd heard was fantastic, and we took home a growler of must-have Pliny the Elder. If you like sours, Supplication lives up to the hype.

Supplication.

All in all, a bad training week but a fun life week. I'll take it!



10 October 2014

Bridge to Bridge Run 12K Race Report

Kevin was so excited about his first race report, he asked to write another one! He ran Bridge to Bridge in SF last weekend and I unfortunately backed out due some foot pain. I'm happy to have him recap this one because it looked really fun. Without further ado...let's hear from Kevin.

Here's Kevin.

Hey! I’m back with another guest post to give you my thoughts about a San Francisco tradition: the Bridge to Bridge Run. This is my first time participating, probably because the event tends to conflict with the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon, which I’ve run the past few years. I decided not to run the half marathon earlier in the year, so I finally had the weekend free for the 12K.

Paulette drove me into the city the morning of the race and we arrived early enough to find free street parking and enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Blue Bottle Coffee in the Ferry Building. Paulette and I both had the caramelized Belgian waffles, which were a nice pre-race treat.

After breakfast, we walked across the street to Justin Herman Plaza, where the staging area for the 5K and 12K races had been set up. Paulette and I then joined a number of runners who were having their picture taken with a huge inflatable Oral-B Glide Floss from the race sponsor.

Don’t forget to floss!

This was the 38th running of Bridge to Bridge and you could tell that the race director has it down to a science at this point. Everything went very smoothly at the start line and KRON 4 sports anchor Gary Radnich was there to say a few encouraging words to the runners.

Standing in the middle of The Embarcadero.

The 12K course is along the San Francisco Waterfront. Runners start in front of the Ferry Building and run up The Embarcadero through Fisherman’s Wharf. From there, runners pass Aquatic Cove and climb a hill at Fort Mason. Coming out of Fort Mason, the course runs along Marina Green and Crissy Field to a turnaround at Fort Point. Runners then loop back through Crissy Field to the finish line / expo on Marina Green.

The course map

 Karl the Fog view along the course. (Taken by spectator Paulette)

A good Golden Gate Bridge view never gets old. (Taken by spectator Paulette)

This was my first time running a 12K race and it was a nice change of pace from the half-marathon and marathon distances that I’ve been running lately. I ran a comfortable pace and finished in 57:31.

Finished!

Course Support: There were many volunteers and several aid stations on the course.

The Finish Line / Expo: There were a variety of refreshments available at the finish line / expo on Marina Green, including bottled water, protein shakes, clementines, and almonds. Soul band St. Paul & the Broken Bones provided post-race entertainment. School buses were standing by to ferry runners back to the start.

The Swag: Finishers received cotton shirts with the Special Olympics Athlete Oath and a poster. The shirt was very comfortable and I wore it to lunch at Southern Pacific Brewing after the race.

Cotton shirts with the Special Olympics Athlete Oath.

That’s all for me, but you might want to pencil in the Bridge to Bridge Run in San Francisco for next October.

05 October 2014

Recap of Many Weeks

I did a terrible job of keeping up with my weekly recaps this marathon cycle, so here's a catch up post. We have had a ton going on both at work and home for the past few weeks and I can barely keep up with myself lately. It's all good though, it's been a really fun fall so far.

Training for NYCM has been going fairly well, although I hit a little bump in the road yesterday with my 19 mile long run. For whatever reason, my right foot started cramping up in the last 1.5 miles or so, and today I woke up to a very painful foot. It hurts more when I get up after a long period of time or when I use ice, and it seems to be a cramped up feeling when I put pressure on it. I'm panicking a little today because I've been psyched for Nike Women's Half and NYCM, and they are getting close. Hopefully it's just sore for a couple of days and then I can run again. After dealing with the hip flexor this year and giving up the 50K and SF Marathon, I don't want to be injured for my big fall races too.

On the happy side, the long run yesterday started at our place and ended at the Mountain View Oktoberfest! That was such a great way to motivate a long run in the heat.

Oktoberfest!

Last weekend was my birthday, and we spent it visiting our friend Jen in Pasadena. I went to Hollywood for the first time (I love the Walk of Fame stars!), ran trails in Griffith Park for my long run, and climbed to Griffith Observatory on the bike for awesome views. We also enjoyed many cupcakes both in Pasadena from Jen and at work thanks to my great co-workers. 

 View from high up while running.

 Enjoying the Walk of Fame.

 Jen and Kev visiting the Village People.

 Hollywood sign viewpoint.

Cupcakes!

The weekend before that was Ragnar Napa, where very much fun was had by all. I also ran the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge with the Google team that week and met many of the super fast Google runners. I loved it! Both the men's and women's teams won and will be going to the World Championships (I'm not fast enough to score, but I loved being there anyway.)

Google team, before everyone had arrived. (Photo from the official photographer for the event)

The next few weekends bring a wedding, two weekends with visitors, and then the trip to NYC. Whew! It'll all be fun, but I'll be glad when things slow down a bit too. 

What are your fall races? Anyone else coming to SF for Nike Women's or to NYC? 

25 September 2014

Ragnar Napa Recap: We're Feeling Lucky

Yes, I'm addicted to relays. The camaraderie of the team, making friends, the running, the cool new routes - what's not to love? Last weekend I spent 30 hours relaying with the team 'We're Feeling Lucky,' a team named by the fact that it was a mostly Googler group. Some of the people on the team ran with us in 2012 and others came to us new this year. I had a fantastic time with everyone and hope to keep seeing them outside of Ragnar too.

I was in van 1, and we started from San Francisco in Golden Gate Park at 10:15 am on Friday. We arrived early enough to hang out at the start and to meet friends on other teams. I was thrilled to finally meet Amanda and Cathryn, who I feel like I know already from the Twitter-verse but had technically never met in real life. It was fun to start around the same time as them and also as the Go Far run group team because we saw them throughout the relay.

Early departure from downtown San Jose.

 Van is ready. 

 Van 1: Cecelia, Jason, Amy, Brendon, Justin, and me. (Photo from Justin)

Runner 1 getting some Turtle Power!

The Napa course has changed since I ran it in 2012 when it started in Crissy Field and runner 1 ran the Golden Gate Bridge. This time, Justin (runner 1) started in Golden Gate Park and ran up the hill by Cliff House to an exchange, where he passed to Brendon for the Golden Gate Bridge leg. Brendon also got to enjoy running on the beach, climbing the sand ladder, and finishing the uphill on Lincoln Boulevard. That's a seriously tough run and he rocked it.

Climbing up the dirt path beside Lincoln Boulevard.

Amy ran into Sausalito and then it was my turn to pick up the slap bracelet for a jaunt through town. Even though I was a different runner number than I was the last time I ran this relay, the course change resulted in my route being the same one I ran then. It was a good route with some along-the-water running, so no complaints here! I ran much harder than I expected to and was very happy with myself at the end. 

Happy face mid-run. (Photo from Cecelia)

I passed off to Jason (runner 5)and we headed to our last exchange for the morning. Poor Jason ended up on the runner 6 route at some point and ended up running at least 2 miles extra in the heat, but he made it back safe and sound to pass off to the real runner 6. While waiting, we had more time to chat with Amanda and Cathryn as well as to meet more Googlers who were around. The Google singlets are good conversation starters!

We soon united with van 2 to say hello and sent them on their merry way. Our next stop? Marin Brewing Company for food. It's one of my favorite places and we were basically right by it. After that we hung out at Exchange 18 for a while and Cecelia and I took advantage of the free massage. So nice.

 Van 2: Mark, Helen, Julie, Derek, Kevin, and Eddie. (Photo from Eddie)

Bringing Cecelia in via human tunnel. (Photo from Justin)

Runner 6 in! (Photo from Eddie)

Now we move into the night where there are almost no photos. I had an 8.3 mile run that I swear felt like it followed an uphill grade the whole time, but again I felt great and was happy at the end. Somewhere along the way the course switched up a little because this run wasn't the same one I'd done in 2012, but I'm unclear on how that worked out. 

Kevin coming into his first exchange. (Photo from Eddie)

Eddie running off into the sunset. (Photo from Eddie)

Anxiously awaiting my night run. Night runs are my favorite. (Photo from Justin)

Our van finished our second set of runs around 2:45 am and went straight to the next major exchange to sleep. Sadly, that exchange (which in the past had showers and indoor sleeping) had us sleeping either in the van or on the grass. I made myself comfortable in my sleeping bag on the soccer field and that was fine, although a little dewy. Kevin said their sleeping spot at another exchange was outdoor and then evacuated because of sprinklers. There were no indoor sleeping areas on this course at all.

The sun came up and we were off running again around 7:30 am. Leg 3 let me know how hard I'd worked on the first 2 runs and boy, were my legs heavy. My route was nice and included going by wineries and over a bridge with a view. I was happy to finish that one off though!

Handoff to Jason, and I'm done! (Photo from Cecelia)

That brings us to exchange 30 and van 1 being finished. As much as it's nice to be finished earlier, I kind of prefer running from van 2 and having the finish line legs. I'd like to experience Napa from van 2 sometime because the scenery and routes look great, but the heat is definitely worse for van 2. I was feeling worried for the people out there running the long exposed routes in the 80+ degree weather and full sun.

Van 1 signing off.

Kevin enjoying the scenery before his hot 12 mile run. (Photo from Eddie)

Helen's final hand off to Derek to finish the race! (Photo from Eddie)

 And across the finish line we go! (Photo from Eddie)

Finished and happy! (Photo from Eddie)

You may notice we have belt buckles in our hands and not medals. Ragnar said the medals were caught in customs and they'll mail them to us later. Instead, they gave us Ragnar Trail Relay medals and extra beer tickets. Beer, yay. Trail Relay medals? Weird. It's a nice gesture but felt like they were just trying to get rid of extra inventory. I did, however, collect my double medal for running both Ragnar SoCal and Napa. That thing is HUGE and I love it.

Gold Rush.

With regards to race swag, they handed out the light blue shirts in the photos. Kevin's bright green Ragnar shirt was specific to NWP because it was sponsored by Brooks; the Brooks shirts are superior to the regular blue ones used at most events. I also received a captain's stemless wine glass with the Ragnar Napa logo.

All in all, another great relay experience and a great execution by Ragnar despite the medal situation. Next relay up? Ragnar Wasatch Back in June!


12 September 2014

Currently Loving

It's been a long time since I've done a currently loving post, and I have a few new items to share from shoes to hydration to clothing. New running gear is my favorite!

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own, and I was not compensated to write this post in any way.

Hoka One One Clifton
I have actually found shoes that seem to be working for me after trying what feels like everything on the market. Shocking, I agree. Enter the new Hoka One One Clifton, a very light but cushioned road shoe that launched a few months ago. I tried them on at the SF Marathon expo and fell in love. So far I've taken them up to a 15 mile long run with no issues, and I'm hoping they'll be my NYC Marathon shoe.

I love the Clifton because they give me cushion without weight, and they still seem to be supportive. They are wide enough for me to wear a normal women's width, likely because they upper is soft and forms to the foot well. They come in 3 fun colors, of which I now own two so I can rotate them. The sole is thicker than standard running shoes, as is customary with Hoka, but I find the sole to be much more 'normal' feeling than other Hokas I've worn like the Bondi 3 or the Kailua Trail. If you are curious, I'd highly recommend trying them out.

My favorite Clifton color, bright coral.

Salomon S-Lab Sense Hydro Set
Even if you think you hate all hand bottles, this one might be worth another look. The soft flasks come in many sizes and fit into a unique hand 'glove' that lets you carry the flask without needing to grip at all. I have the standard size set that comes with the 1250ml flask; it sounds small but has been sufficient in many cases. It enables me to carry water for miles in between refill stops and is great for carrying some water on hot days. (That said, if I'm going out on the trail for a long run without available water refills, I take the full on hydration pack instead.) I expected to replace the flask with a larger one and never found the need.

Bottom view. 

Top view.

Scratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix
While crewing for Matt at Western States, I discovered Scratch Labs for hydration and immediately loved it. It has a light but good flavor and comes in a few varieties, my favorites being Orange and Raspberry. It's a powder to mix into 16 ounces of water and it goes into solution easily. Scratch isn't carbonated at all, which my stomach seems to prefer during workouts. I also use and enjoy Nuun, but I find Nuun to be a good during-the-day drink as opposed to a during-a-workout drink.

Large packet for home, single servings for travel.

Oiselle Verrazano Bra
The Verrazano bra is the new version of the Strappy bra, and I find it to be a fantastic update. The strap location feels better, I like using the removable cups, and the overall fit just feels more right to me. I needed to replace bras and had been waiting to find one I loved; finally, this is it! There are four fabric variations: scantron, chevrona, standard, and charcoal. Charcoal is more compressive and too tight to me, but many ladies love the extra support. The other three versions are similar to one another in level of compression but vary in color offerings and texture.

Things to note: I'm small busted and don't need a ton of support, but many friends who are better endowed than me still love this bra (especially the charcoal version). The idea is that having two straps balances the weight without causing pain points. I'm also long on the shoulder-to-under-bust measurement, meaning bras don't always hit properly below the bust, but the Verrazano styles fit me.

Back view Scantron bra, photo from Oiselle.com

Front view Scantron bra, photo from Oiselle.com

Vivobarefoot Jing Jing Flats
These flats aren't running gear, but they keep my feet happy when I'm not running. I find most flats to be uncomfortable, toe-pinching, and heel-blistering. The Jing Jing causes none of those issue for me. It uses the Vivobarefoot running shoe platform and is shaped like a foot to give the toes space. The heels have never caused blisters even when the shoes were brand new, and the barefoot sole is comfortable for walking around campus at work or for a day in the city. They have a flat, barefoot-like sole and no specific arch support, but somehow they still feel supportive. Even better, they aren't too expensive at a retail price of $70 (I found all of mine at better prices than retail at Zappos.com) and they come in a variety of colors. 

Vivobarefoot Jing Jing in Black. Please ignore my sock tan line.

Your turn! What gear are you excited about right now?