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Posts tagged ‘26.2’

Tackling the ‘race even marathoners fear’

I was hoping that if I put off my race report, I could report that within days of running one of the toughest marathons in the country, I was back up and running.

The truth is I’m still nursing a very sore left hip. My toes still have blisters. And I only started being able to cross my legs again. I started hurting on the way home. I didn’t stop hurting until sometime on Wednesday.

I haven’t been as sore as I was this week since I ran my first marathon in 2011.

Five days after crossing the finish line, I’m not afraid to admit something I didn’t want to before: I was absolutely petrified to run this race. It sparked every bit of my anxiety. I had nightmares about getting to the start line and not having pants on.

Why? My thigh wasn’t at 100 percent. It wasn’t even at 80 percent. My cranky IT band wouldn’t settle down. And it’s a marathon. My fifth marathon. And, if everyone was right about San Francisco being a tough place to run a marathon, it was going to be a really difficult one.

I even told my husband that I’d be fine if he didn’t wake up, I was going to go back to sleep. If we hadn’t of stopped to take a breather at Treasure Island, where I used the portable toilets, put on sunscreen and got myself generally situated, I think I would have needed to breathe into a bag in my corral.

As it was, my husband dropped me off near the Embarcadero with only about 30 minutes to spare. My corral was literally shut behind me as we were all shifted down to the start. The daybreak revealed two things to me: 1) It was going to be a rare, sunny day in San Francisco. 2) It was going to be a “26.2” or bust kind of experience for me.


At around 6:30 a.m., we began, passing the finish line to get to the start.


Mile 1: 10:41 — The flattest part of the race is at the beginning and the end. This was the first time I’d run in more than a week. Yet, my hip had a little nagging pain in it. My whole plan for this race was that if I was truly in a lot of pain, I’d cut out at the half marathon point and call it a day.

Mile 2: 10:31 — Moving into the Marina District and up to the first hill, which is essentially just an up and down. I knew there was no way I could do a graduated run up the hills on this day. So I paced myself, I stopped and walked when I felt as if my leg was really going to suffer.

Mile 3: 11:26 — I started seeing the Golden Gate Bridge about now. I think most runners are really, really excited about this part. I hate saying this, but I’m not a fan on the bridge. There are slippery parts to it, most of which have covers, but it’s also a little isolating being on the bridge. The runners are so low on the span, too, that we often can’t see anything. But the bridge doesn’t come in this mile. It comes later. Gu in this mile.

Mile 4: 10:24 — I felt the Gu really perking me up. I know this is one of my final “flat” miles, so I try to push myself though here.

Mile 5: 10:45 — I nearly forget about my leg here, but when realizing that I need to climb one of the biggest hills in the race, I realize that my thigh is in more pain the beginning. And … if I manage to make it through this marathon, I still have 21 miles to go.

Mile 6: 12:47 — Up the hill and onto the bridge.

Mile 7: 10:45 — This time I actually feel the gradual incline of the bridge, it goes up and goes down.

Mile 8: 11:19 — I’m steadying my pace as we get into Marin County. I’m enjoying the experience on the bridge today, but I also know that I’m not even done with the first half yet. I start to kind of freak out about the whole thing, but I bring myself back down. Gu here again, with a lot of water. It’s sunny on the bridge. And warm. I’m starting to get dehydrated.

Mile 9: 11:08 — The little cups of water are just WAY to little in this race. Off the bridge now and back up a hill.

Mile 10: 11:46 — Another large hill. I slow down and stopped to refill my water bottle. I stopped at the wrong booth, though, and got a chalky-tasting energy drink.

Mile 11: 11:29 — All downhill here. The problem with the downhills in this race were that my leg just wasn’t having it. I felt I was floppy and uncoordinated on the downhills, especially near the end of the marathon.

Mile 12: 12:40 — Running through the neighborhoods toward the park.

Mile 13: 12:33 — The miles into the park are rolling, by the time I hit the park, I’m exhausted. I’m slowing down. I’m considering not finishing the marathon. My leg is starting to throb a little. Thirteen more miles of this? Maybe not so much.

Half marathon: 2:31:03

Mile 14: 10:44 — But I don’t stop. I keep going. The next few miles are a gradual uphill through Golden Gate Park, past the start for the Second Half Marathon, which was already underway.

Mile 15: 11:55 — I’m late in the marathon group, so there’s only marathoners for the first couple miles here. There’s a nice, steady stream of people.

Mile 16: 12:40 — I forgot a Gu somewhere, so I do one here.

Mile 17: 13:53 — This is when it gets hard. Marathoners spend six miles in Golden Gate Park. Six miles in the middle of the race. Six tough miles where you just want to get out of the park. I was tired. My body was already aching. I just wanted out of the park. I wanted me leg to stop hurting too.

Mile 18: 11:54 — And yet, I had to get around Stow Lake. I’ve only ever been around Stow Lake while running this race. I’m sure it’s beautiful and tranquil, but when I saw it I just wanted it to be over. Unfortunately there’s a loop around the whole thing. At one point, when you think you’re done, you see other runners and say: “Wow, they’re just starting out!” Then you realize that’s an area you HAVEN’T run yet.

Mile 19: 13:01 — We run past the 1st Half Marathon finish. I hate everyone right now.

Mile 20: 12:02 — Finally out of the park. FINALLY. A couple more uphills. Gu! Make me feel better please Gu!

Mile 21: 13:35 — And then we start the downhills. I would normally go at these aggressively. But I really, really slowed down.

Mile 22: 12:49 — It was literally one tiny footstep in front of the other.

Mile 23: 13:15 — Finally back into the less hilly part of the course. Another Gu. I was considering calling Thomas here, just to let him know where I was and that I likely wasn’t finishing in 5:30, which is when I told him I would probably come in. But … instead I suddenly realized I had to go to the bathroom. I only make marathon bathroom stops if I see an open stall. I did here, so I got in and out as fast as I could. This is also where I realized my leg really, really hurt. There was no “I’ll be fine tomorrow.” I feared that if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to walk either.

Mile 24: 12:13 —Battling a little here, but overall finishing stronger than I did in the San Luis Obispo Marathon.

Mile 25: 11:57 — I’m exhausted. Just trying to put on foot in front of the other. Gu. I needed one at that point.

Mile 26: 11:49 — But the finish line isn’t anywhere near me. What gives? I had realized how far off my Garmin was from the actual course until then.

Mile .51: 5:36 — That extra .31 was torturous for me. I should have just been done. In fact, mt 26.2 time was 5:12:40 which wasn’t too far off my SLO Marathon time (only about 20 seconds), but this course was difficult. And long. I thought I tried to run the tangents good. (Other people were pissed about the course length, missing Boston qualifying because of it, etc. I’m not as concerned about that, obviously. I ran a good race despite my leg constantly throbbing.)


I’m incredibly proud of that time. It was a tough marathon. I felt like I did my best running on a daunting course with a bad leg.

The finishers shoot wasn’t too crowded (with only about an hour left before the official end of the marathon). I collected my medal, a space blanket (even though it was warm), and headed down the shoot. I was handed a blueberry score from Panera. I also got a four-pack of King’s Hawaiian rolls, which I are later with some chicken my husband grabbed at a Safeway in San Francisco.

My husband had sent me a text message around mile 22 asking me if I was still alive. He found me at the finish line soon after I finished. I was sitting on a curb.


There’s the finish line under the San Francisco Bay Bridge.


Since San Francisco now charges to park on Sundays (lame!), Thomas and I headed back across the Bay Bridge and back into the East Bay en route to our home in Tracy. I just wanted to go home, take a shower and eat something.

I was more than happy just to stare at my race medal (I can’t be the only one who does this) and take a breather for the rest of the day before the True Blood season premiere.


I’ve received a “coaster” medal before, but this one is awesome. I earned it for those 26.51 miles on that course. I didn’t even feel bad about hanging it in front of my PR SLO Marathon medal.


The rest of the day, my legs were elevated and compressed. I swear my compression socks are the only reason I can walk after a long run. I love them more than I can relate.

That said, I wish I had a body “compression suit” for my stubborn little hip. It still hurts today. I’ve done some yard work on it, but I haven’t done any pounding. The problem is that I know it’s not broken. I now what a break feels like. I can put pressure on my leg. When my arm was broken, I’d recoil in pain the moment I put pressure on my arm. This isn’t a break.

It’s likely a bad strain. One that I’m reluctantly saying off of for at least another day. I’m itching to run again. But after five runs in a seven week period, I’m also willing to let my hip rest for a bit to put myself back together for September’s flatter Half Moon Bay International Marathon and, possibly, a half marathon in August.

The rest of my summer is about training, not racing. I’m looking forward to some downtime where a start line, and a finish line, isn’t in my future for a bit.

A new member of the ’52 Club’

“Worth the hurt” is the motto for the San Francisco Marathon. Today, I know why.

My whole body hurts. It’s not just my super angry IT band and left hip. It’s my lower back, my shoulders and my core. When I finished my 26.5-mile jaunt (that’s what the Garmin tallied) yesterday, I sent a message to one of my running buddies.

“I’m never doing this one again,” I wrote.

She’s pretty sure I will.

After resting my legs all week, which was it’s own cruel punishment, I pounded the pavement of San Francisco. I ran my second fastest marathon at 5:15:46. I’m still a little impressed that it went so well. I told my husband to expect me around 5:30.

“Or later,” I said when he dropped me off near the Embarcedero, which happened to have a full line of portable toilets without any lines outside of the security checkpoint. (This year, there were security checkpoints in place where runners were searched in light of what happened at April’s Boston Marathon).

I timed everything so well on Sunday morning that I had maybe at 15 minute wait in my corral before hitting the streets.

Immediately my leg started hurting, but it didn’t develop into a full-on “why are you doing this???” pain until about mile 18, which is where I normally hit “the wall.” Except my wall wasn’t a wall as much as a lake that I didn’t want to see and a park that I just wanted to escape after six miles.

In any case, I’m completely satisfied with my time. I don’t feel like the last two races were regressions at all. I’m proud of what I did out there in San Francisco, even if some of my miles had the 13-minute mark in front of them.

My finish also means I truly earned my “52 Club” sweatshirt. When I asked my husband to grab me a long-sleeve shirt from upstairs before he went to work this morning, he brought it to me.

“I’m awarding you the sweater,” he laughed.

My three medals above show my progression from 2011 (“I’ll run the second half because it’s less hilly”) to 2012 (“I’ll run the first half to complete the Half-It-All Challenge”) to this year (“Why shouldn’t I run the full marathon?).

A full race report is in the works. I’m just happy to have survived and not done any significant damage to my leg and hip.

A quick trip to San Francisco (and race shirts gone awry)


My husband accompanied me for a very quick trip to San Francisco today to pick up race packet for Sunday’s 26.2. I mean quick. We weren’t even in the expo for an hour. We were trying to get into the city and back home before all the Bay Area rush-hour traffic hit. The good news is that we were successful.

First off: Why did I sign up for a marathon that marathoners fear? Am I that crazy? The answer is yes.

I’m kind of over expos. I’ve been to a lot of them in the past couple months. I’m just tired. I’ve purchased what I’ve needed to at other ones recently.

I usually make a day of my trip to the San Francisco Marathon expo. This year I’ve just been too busy and too exhausted to make that happen. So I settled for the speedy trip.

The expo was larger this year, occupying the whole San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center. The past two years runners have entered on the complete opposite side. This year, I was a little confused with the address and directions.


It was like a completely new place.

First things first, we headed to bib pickup. Except I went where it said “1st Half” and “Marathon.” But it was actually “1st Half Marathon,” the run that I did last year. When I asked where my bib number pickup was, the volunteer told me to “go ask the service desk.”

Yeah … all she had to do was point me across the aisle where the full marathon bibs were.


I was handed by “swag bag.” Unlike the Rock ‘n’ Roll series races, these bags actually change every year. The first year it was four racing shoes on a bag. Last year, the bag commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. This year, it’s a nice homage to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

We then headed to the shirt booth.

And things got a little weird.

The shirts look just like the bags and are nicely designed. I actually love them more than the half marathon ones last year, which had the corporate sponsor emblazoned across the chest. I kind of hate that. These are much more simple.


The front includes a smaller logo on the left-hand side. Yellow is obviously the color for the full marathon this year.


Maybe it’s just me, but when you write “26.2” on a shirt, it’s kind of implied that it’s the “full marathon.” I’m not actually as hung up with that about these shirts. Almost immediately, the people around me started talking about the race shirts. Right at the booth.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I heard a woman say before I even looked at the shirt.

I turned toward her. I’m sure I looked concerned.

“This is just bad,” she added later.

Then I saw it.

The sleeves were really short. I looked at my size medium shirt. I realized there was no way it would fit across my torso. I’ve asked for mediums for the past two years from the San Francisco Marathon. Both times I had no issues with fit. I still wear my 2011 half marathon one a lot.

I know I’m not supposed to, but I immediately went back and asked to exchange.

“There’s no way this will fit me,” I said. The volunteer sympathized. She probably shouldn’t have. I’m sure there will be people in the next few days that won’t get their size large shirts because of people like me, but I could make fit half my torso in that shirt. I thought she’d handed me a small. So did my husband.

The large fit me better, except for in the sleeves.


Well. OK. Smallish.

It couldn’t be that bad, though, right? I put it on when I got home and realized it was more of a 3/4 length sleeve than a full sleeve.

Then I compared it to past race shirts.


Hello short sleeves! I’m pretty sure this is a good compromise actually. Some people want long sleeves. Others want short. This one hits somewhere in the middle.

People on the San Francisco Marathon Facebook page are complaining about the “boxy” cut of the shirt. I didn’t notice that so much. Instead, I noticed the smaller-than-usual head hole, which is bad for me because I have a large head.

The sizing, though, is similar.


The shirt from 2011 is about the same length. Folded over it shows a difference, but it is really about the same length. I don’t mind the length. I have a longer torso, so most race shirts don’t fit me too well. That’s why I like the longer Lululemon shirts as an under layer.


As for quality, the shirts are similar quality. I think last year’s shirt, with the nice screen printing, looked and felt nicer, but it’s essentially the same fabric. I actually think the yellow is maybe just a tad more lightweight.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it now: Race shirts divide people. Pretty significantly.

And the race shirts at this race, one of the biggest runs I do, have divided people repeatedly over the past three years. The first year people complained about the dark grey used on the marathon shirts (Too dark! I can’t see the design!) and the half marathon shirts (I hate orange! I don’t like the words on the sleeve!). In 2012, people complained about the corporate logo (I hate brands across my chest!) or the color (Why Blue? That’s so boring!).

There’s always something. You can’t make everyone happy. That said, I do like the design this year. And I don’t necessarily mind if the sleeves are short because I like to roll them up anyway.

That said, I only really had three goals when I went to the San Francisco Marathon expo today.

  • Pick up my race packet.
  • Check my status for the “52 Club.”
  • Register for the Berkeley Half Marathon.

I took care of the race packet. Then I turned around and checked out the “52 Club” booth. I wanted to confirm that my name was on the list so when I finished the marathon, I’d be entitled to the “52 Club” sweatshirt.

I admit, I ran the first year for fun. The second year for the Half-It-All bling. And this year for the sweatshirt.

I didn’t expect to be handed the sweatshirt BEFORE finishing the race. But the nice guy at the booth handed it right over to me.


That makes me even more nervous about running on this slightly battered leg. I’m already not sure I’m going to be able to make it through. When he handed me the sweatshirt, I kind of wanted to refuse it. I haven’t exactly earned it yet.


That’s the logo on the back of it. It’s pretty inconspicuous. But I kind of love it. It makes me really eager to finish the full marathon. On my gimp leg and all.

The third goal was to register for the brand new Berkeley Half Marathon. Registration opened for it today. At the expo, it was 20% off the $65 price. It came to $55 for a single registration. That’s a steal for a half marathon. I was able to sign both Sam and I up for the half marathon. It’s Nov. 24, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.


I’m really, really excited about this race. I love the Oakland Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon in 2011. It’s one of my favorites. I’ve run it now three times. I signed up for it because I love the community of Oakland. I lived there for two years while I was in graduate school. I went to graduate school at University of California, Berkeley.

So Berkeley represents just as much to me. So I was excited when I saw the announcement posted on the San Francisco Marathon’s Facebook page. I’m so excited that I decided to sign up even though I was hoping my race season would be done in October. I have a lot going on in the later part of the year, including being a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.

But now I’m registered to run Berkeley.

So I, essentially, accomplished everything I set out to do on Friday.

Now all I have to do is run the 26.2 miles. For the first time in a long time, I’m really nervous. It’s not just the 13.1 I’ve been running in recent weeks. It’s twice the distance. On a still bothered leg. I’m hoping for the best.

But I’m also crossing my fingers for a good race, a sub six-hour finish and an amazing run.

What we take from Boston


I know there will be a lot of posts about Boston this week. I know that I’m also behind on being relevant with this. It’s amazing what happens when you are no longer tied to the day-to-day life of a journalist. I’m still in the mindset of a journalist, though. When I see a to-do list, I bust through it like there’s no tomorrow. Because in news tomorrow is too late.

This week, I’ve been bogged down in catch-up projects that got pushed aside during my student’s journalism conference.

But I’ve also been watching the news.

A lot of news. It’s basically been on auto play behind me for four days.

On Monday, I told my husband that this hits close to home in more ways that I could even comprehend as I watched the events unfolding in front of me Monday. This was an attack of unspeakable horror. At a public event. At a marathon.

I run marathons.

Once upon a time I was accused, by a newspaper reader, as making a horrific event all about me. The problem with events like what happen in Boston, a lot of people start asking themselves questions about how it could impact them, or if it could.

What I knew before Monday: The start line used to be what caused massive anxiety for runners (especially me).

What I know now: Now the finish line takes on a completely different meaning.



The start line has always been a source of fear and trepidation among runners (the photo above is the Oakland Half Marathon start in March). It’s when your heart starts racing. When every doubt you can think of crosses your mind. If you’re anything like me, the moment you get past the start is actually the minute you feel any sort of relief.

The finish? The finish brings mixed emotions, depending on how a runner does. The first marathon? The finish is the goal. The PR run? The finish is the moment to quit the push. The bad run? It’s the moment it’s finally over.

Consider what the Boston Marathon represents to those who run it. It’s the crowing glory for the everyday runner. It’s a tough race to get into. Runners have to qualify. I likely will never qualify for Boston. Many runners won’t. For those who do, it’s not just about those 26.2 miles. It’s not about Heartbreak Hill. It’s about the journey.

Seeing that finish line? It’s the finish line of all finish lines.

Now it means something completely different. Joy and accomplishment have been replaced with sorrow.


On Monday, one of the talking points that kept coming up was that of how to make “large public gatherings” safe.

Have you ever considered any marathon you run a “large public gathering?”

Think about it. Because until this week, I never did. Instead, I lumped running events into “you either have to be crazy enough to do this or love someone who is” to be here. I think about the smaller races I’ve run, where people not involved were annoyed at our presence when streets were closed down. The bigger races? Well, even those didn’t really seem all that big.

Then I think about the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon. I ran the full 26.2 last year (it sucked, I cried, I’m over it).

According to, the “Epic Summer Run” is one of the top 10 runs, according to finishers, in the United States.

The ING New York Marathon (43,660), Bank of America Chicago Marathon (33,701), Boston Marathon (22,843) and the Marine Corps Marathon (21,405) are the top four. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego includes 13,361 finishers. I was among those finishers last year.

This year I’m signed up for the half marathon with my friend Sam. She’s running all the Rock ‘n’ Roll events she can this year.

Yes, the suspects were apprehended (one died, the other was taken into custody earlier this evening). But there are so many twisted people in this world (what you learn from 10 years in the news industry is that humanity, while there are good moments, is full of bad people), that I wonder if this could happen somewhere else.

I’m running San Diego before I run the San Francisco Marathon this summer. Both are large events.

I’d be lying if I said thinking like this didn’t trigger my anxiety.


This is kind of a given, but you don’t see it really, truly in action until something like this happens. On Sept. 11, 2001, very few people had their smart phones out. Facebook wasn’t invented. Those initial images we received on the attacks? More often than not, they were from news photographers. Not a lot of people were pulling out their smart phones.

Today? The finish line at the Boston Marathon was literally the most photographed public place that day. From the moments before (captured by a Boston Globe videographer), to the moment of (captured by an Instagrammer flanking the race path) to the aftereffects (including the YouTube video of people pilfering the Adidas booth).

I ask my students in my first lecture of every semester the same question: Where do you get your news?

Where did you find out about Boston?

I was knee deep in code and curriculum writing on Monday. A Facebook status post alerted me to Boston. It was from another runner friend. That’s when I turned on the television. I tell my students all the time that the best ideas for stories come from Facebook. I can name about 10 ideas that I’ve found on Facebook in the past year.

Twitter is also good for that. This obviously was a breaking news event. Still, social media played a huge role in conveying messages to the masses. I teach mass communication. Unfortunately a really bad headache kept me from my class and more talk of the Boston Marathon on Thursday, but believe me, we’ll be digesting this story for weeks to come.

Why? There is just so much more now out there. We are seeing every side of this story, good, bad and indifferent. Consider, too, that the photos also played a huge role in the identifying of the suspects. The FBI was asking for photos and video.

Say what you want about being in a wired society, in this case it helped crack the case.



This may be the most obvious lesson from watching the bomb blasts in Boston. The videos show the dazed reality runners were heading into after the blasts. And 468 just kept running. That’s right, nearly 500 people finished the 26.2 mile journey AFTER the bombs blew.

“They had no idea what was happening,” one of my Facebook friends wrote.

True. But if you’ve ever run a marathon you know that in those last few miles, you are basically on autopilot. Your legs feel like they are going to collapse under you. You can’t remember exactly why you signed up. You are tired.

The moment you see the finish line, you just run. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed seeing my husband at the finish line because I’m just running and not thinking about anything else.

Runners are a tough bunch.

Runners are also part of a tight-knit community.

And we come to the aid of other runners in times of need. Members of my running club were posting links on how to help, whether it be racking up charity miles or donating to campaigns.

On Thursday, Adidas introduced Boston: Stand as One shirts. The first ones listed, including the yellow one above for women, sold out. I was able to grab up a yellow one before they were all gone. The $26.20 goes to One Fund Boston to support the victims of the attack.

Runs have been scheduled across the country for people to show support. This is an amazing community to belong to.

“You will run again,” President Barack Obama said to attendees of a prayer service on Thursday. The truth, though, is that runners never stop running. Those 468 marathoners kept running. There were people running for Boston that evening. There have been all week. This weekend, the London Marathon will go on as planned, though with more security precautions.


Hours after the second suspect was apprehended alive, what we take, at least right now, is the realization that it only took law enforcement four days, less than 100 hours, to catch the the two allegedly responsible. That’s fast.

We also take away a sense that we may not be as safe on the marathon route, that once exposed in those 13.1 or 26.2 miles, the finish line is not a guarantee.There’s no promise we’ll make it to the end. As runners we know that going in.

But we also take a sense of community, of knowing that we are not alone because there are people out there who want the good to outweigh the bad. And that’s the real lesson in this week.

There are no words


I’ve been watching the live coverage of the Boston Marathon explosions since I received the first update on my phone earlier today.

My television is surrounded by my California International Marathon poster and a Nike Women’s Half Marathon picture frame. Marathons are part of my life. I watched the live coverage of the winners this morning online.

Then I shut off my television.

I’ve been watching the replay of the explosion at the 4:09 mark.

The photos are horrible and dramatic. An emergency room doctor earlier said there were several “traumatic amputations” of the victims. NBC is quoting that two are dead. The number injured is still in dispute, but it’s somewhere around 100. A former soldier, who finished before the explosion, compared the explosions to an IED blast.

It’s chilling to watch the videos over and over again.

These are details you can’t forget.

It’s painful to watch. The Boston Marathon is the top event in marathon running for mere mortals. There are stringent qualifying times and rules to get it. It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening there.

It’s heartbreaking to know that the marathoners there will never come to the start line of a marathon feeling the same way again. It’s also heartbreaking to know that some of the rest of us, me included, won’t feel the same either. This event changes everything.

My prayers are with those in Boston right now.

Jumping back in


There was a bit of a joke in my house last week about my ample amount of extra time since I usually take a week off of running after a marathon. It’s less about recovery, more about me giving myself a treat. One week without running.

That said, I really didn’t have “ample” free time last week. I spent Monday recovering from the run while coding some websites, specifically mocking up a text-only version of a site I’d been working on for some time. Then my students had full-day labs both Wednesday and Thursday for the newspaper. Then, as I was hoping for a wind down, I left with six students for a three-day, two-night journalism conference.

Once there, it was literally one thing after another for the entire time.

I’m not ashamed to say I slept most of Sunday.

So today is finally my “back to running” day. But I’m buried in projects. So I’m not 100 percent sure that’s going to happen either.I’m also behind on grading. So far behind.


That joke about free time? It’s really just a joke.

But since I’m home more now than I was six months ago, my husband constantly reminds me that I can’t just walk past the dishes and laundry anymore without doing anything.

I was peeling potatoes last week and he offered to buy me an apron.

“You’ll probably need one now,” he laughed.

My husband, the comedian.

I need to jump back into running. But I’m still a little tired from the crazy week I’ve had.

Part of that means writing down a plan for the San Francisco Marathon. Right now, I have my 18-miler in place (thanks to the Mermaid Series Sirena 18), and a half marathon planned out (Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland).

The quick turnaround between runs means I go back to mid-length runs this weekend, maybe even a 10-miler. In fact, I have a feeling that I’ll be doing at least two 15-milers during this training cycle. San Francisco is big on hills. I need to be ready.

So here’s to jumping back into it, or at least trying to, this week.

A SLO marathon: Part I


I realized when I was printing out my confirmation for the San Luis Obispo Marathon that I registered on Jan. 1 at 2 p.m. By 7 p.m. that night, I was laying in a hospital bed curled over begging the emergency room staff to give me something for that pain.

When they finally did, the marathon I had just signed up for was the farthest thing from my mind. I was pumped full of Dilaudid and sent home. A week later, I was back in the hospital being rolled into an operating room having my gallbladder removed.

Ominous beginnings, right?

Good thing the San Luis Obispo Marathon didn’t turn out anywhere near bad. It was actually an amazing, pleasant experience. I had fun. I felt good. It turned out to be a great weekend, actually.

My husband and I left home at around 11 a.m. I completely forgot how long the drive down to the San Luis Obispo area was, a total of about four hours with a pit stop for lunch. The drive was relatively uneventful. In fact, we hit very little traffic on the way down, likely due to our late start.

By 3:30 p.m. we were driving down into central San Luis Obispo on Highway 101, passing right by the tented expo at the Madonna Inn.


I should explain why I decided I wanted to run this race.

One of the issues I’ve had lately is with running really large races. Nothing spikes my anxiety more than being around a huge group of people. So I’ve been avoiding large marathons. I’m lucky that California International Marathon only has about 8,000 people. I was slightly hyperventilating at the beginning of CIM. The fear was masked by the rain, thankfully.

I read that the SLO Marathon had a cap of 1,200 marathon runners. The half marathoners were capped at 4,000.

I hate to say this, because it’s a great race, but I knew that the races wouldn’t sell out. The event is only in it’s second year. I heard about it from another runner’s blog, but otherwise there was very little Internet chatter about the marathon. I signed up when I did in order to avoid rising prices, though it still wasn’t cheap.

On Sunday, only 672 people ran the marathon. It started at 6 a.m. It was still dark. By the time I was hitting mile three, the half marathon was starting. Most of my time on the course, I only saw one or two of the fastest half marathoners. Small. Nice.

Plus, I love the SLO area. My husband and I went on our first vacation together in Morro Bay. We went back for years before our lives became too busy (note, we need to go back more now).

I ignored the elevation chart. I just wanted to run somewhere beautiful.

And it was beautiful when we arrived at the expo. It was also easy in and easy out to get my race packet. The only people lined up for the marathon were two misplaced half marathoners. It took me about five minutes from start to finish to get my race packet and number, which was assigned the day of. The race organizers then wrote my shirt size on the bib tag for me to claim my shirt.

I initially signed up for a medium. On race day, my husband went and exchanged it for a large. It was way too tight across the chest. But it was a beautiful green color, very similar to my CIM one (see above).

We made our way through the expo, which actually didn’t seem all that big. I found the race gear booth and admit that I went a little crazy. I’ve been so good at not buying anything running related lately. But I always consider marathons different. I don’t do a ton of them, definitely not as many as the half marathons I do. So I bought myself a nice jacket, my first nice race-related jacket.


The nice logo was embroidered on the front. It’s a nice jacket, with a fleece lining and no hood. It’s kind of a windbreaker material, but it’s really, really warm.

So I splurged a little. The back of the jacket also had a basic logo on it, but simplistic design that I loved enough that I was sold pretty quickly on the jacket.


I also bought a hefty water bottle. I’m already using it. Like I said, I haven’t been buying any running items lately, so I figured this would be my gift to myself for running the marathon. Incentive is always a plus, especially with 26.2 miles ahead.

We didn’t stay at the expo long. The area is too nice to stay inland. And we were staying in Morro Bay, which was only 20 minutes away. I had told my husband I would have preferred to stay in SLO, but I’m glad we stayed on the coast.

We actually headed out to the peninsula area and went exploring for a little while before dinner.


You’ll notice the difference in atmosphere here. It was nice and sunny inland. Last year the marathon was run on a relatively foggy day. This year it was beautiful the entire time. The coast, though, was layered in fog. We went for a quick jaunt along the peninsula, but I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.

I did get to take in some ocean calm.

It helped to soothe my nerves, though, a little before my run. We ate at an Italian place overlooking the ocean before heading back to the hotel. I settled in for bed early, at about 10 p.m. Why? My iPhone alarm was set for 4 a.m. The marathon started at 6 a.m.

And you know what? I slept really, really well. The bed was super comfortable, comparable to my bed at home.

I felt like this whole marathon lead up was different than the three times before. I felt as if I was much more calm. I wasn’t cranky. The anxious nerves were being kept at bay as well. I was taking it moment by moment.

I’d like to think that’s what led me to PR success the next day.

Admitting I’m better at this than I think

Three weeks ago, I replaced my half marathon PR with a brand new one.


The Garmin data isn’t even completely accurate. The actual time was a 2:20:52 half marathon. Two minutes off my previous personal best.

Yesterday, I ran a fantastic first half in the San Luis Obispo Marathon. I wanted to run my little heart out. But at mile 18, where I normally get a little held up, my left IT band started telling me how much it hated me.

I made a choice then, a smart one. I could either keep running on it until I couldn’t run anymore. Or I could pull off, slow down a little and still be able to run it into the finish. At mile 25, it really started bothering me. But I had a smile on my face the entire time.

Between the increasing heat and the lack of people over the last couple miles, I had my worst mile right before the end. It happened through the streets of downtown San Luis Obispo, where the spectators became few and the  passion to finish well was waning. I was tired. I was done running.

Even then, I knew I had the goal I had projected for the very rainy, very windy California International Marathon. I was coming in well under 5:15.


When I saw my husband at the finish, I yelled out: “I’m coming in WAY under what I anticipated.”

What I’m learning: When you keep running better than expected, you should refocus your priorities. Instead of feeling anxious about every race, maybe I should just embrace each one?

I’ve replaced two PRs in three weeks. And while the SLO marathon wasn’t what I had planned, I still came in under a 12-minute average. I knocked eight minutes off my last marathon time, which is a good chunk when you think about it.

I’m better at this than I’m giving myself credit for. It’s time I start focusing on THAT as opposed to thinking about the negatives. And while a 5:12 finish may be bad for another person, on Sunday it was amazing for me.

When time works for and against you


When I was in the middle of intensive counseling sessions last fall, my therapist told me to write down a list of things I couldn’t control. Want a lesson in humility? Make that list.

You’ll end up realizing that you can’t control anything. You’ll want to give up, buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream and eat it while watching afternoon talk shows (Ricki Lake has a show again, who knew?). At least that’s what I did. Months later, I’m not ashamed of it. The ice cream was good. And my soul needed more soothing that I realized.

I still have my list. The third item down is “time.”

I can’t control time. Because it keeps ticking away. Because there’s always a sun up and a sun down (unless you were the dinosaurs, as one of my students pointed out to me recently). Time just moves. You either embrace the temporal moments as just that or you let some bad drag you down.

Five weeks ago today I fell hard on my left side while trying to get in my 15-mile run for this marathon training cycle. It laid me up for two weeks. Three weeks ago, I finally did that run. On my treadmill. I also ended up in the doctor’s office being properly diagnosed with a fractured radial head.

This training cycle, I didn’t do a 20-mile run. I didn’t even do an 18-mile run.

Two half marathons, one 10K, various eight and 10 milers, but no marathon-standard runs.

And I’m running a marathon this weekend.

Time. It just kept moving.

When I ended up in the hospital in January, I wondered if I’d even make it to the start line in San Luis Obispo. My husband and I did a lot of talking in the hospital. We had conversations both of us had been avoiding, or hoping we wouldn’t have to have. They concerned work. Money. Running. Happiness.

I worried more about the 10K I’d be giving up than the marathon. I’d be fine by the marathon, right? I don’t even know how to define “fine” anymore.

Three weeks ago, sitting in my doctor’s office, I was more concerned about the Oakland Half than SLO. I PRed in Oakland.

In that time, my arm has become stronger. I’m able to bend more, but still not put a lot of pressure on it. I’m able to do some of the things I couldn’t before. And I’m grateful, because time helped that. I didn’t think it would ever be better. I was convinced I was going to walk around with T-Rex arm for life.

But I was back in Modesto getting my arm looked at today. The stiffness is causing the pain. I need to regain mobility. The fracture has healed nicely so far. (See image above, where the cursor is pointing? That’s where the crack was. I took the photo for my husband.) Time healed.

Runners say that by the time you get a week out from a marathon, there’s really nothing you can do that will prepare you more. Taper. Stay off your legs. Get your gear assembled. But don’t go crazy. This past week, I kept wishing for more time. In the middle of multi-hour meetings, looming deadlines and prep to take my students to a journalism conference out of town next week, I needed a minute or two extra. Something. Anything.

The reality is that I was wishing and wanting more time to feel better about this marathon. I guess I could just not run it. But my husband doesn’t really give me that option anymore. (You know the meme that says “you had one job…” where someone messes something up even though that’s all they had to do? I kind of feel like that. I have one job on race day, and that’s to run my ass off.)

Nerves? Anxiety? Yes. Always now. But if I had four more weeks, two more weeks, I know I’d be better for it.

Tomorrow we hop in the car early and head the 3+ hours to San Luis Obispo. We’ll be staying in Morro Bay, where my husband has family. The good news is that this course has an eight-hour limit. The bad news is that last year’s finishers mostly came in well ahead of that. I’m just hoping I’m not too alone out there on the course.

In my mailbox

For the second time in less than a week, I was greeted with a little package in my mailbox when I came home. This time it was my “triple crown” medal from the Rock ‘n’ Roll series.

I completed three of the company’s runs this year to earn this hefty piece of metal:

Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon

– Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon (No race recap for this one, because it was lame)

I love the extra bling from this series, but I’ll admit, I don’t find these runs all they are cracked up to be. Three of my worst racing experiences this year have been from Rock ‘n’ Roll races.

And yet, I’m signed up to do Pasadena again, everything going right, in February with hopes of avenging my time.

But I don’t plan on doing San Diego again, instead subbing in another marathon in the spring and then a summer marathon in San Francisco.

Also in my mailbox yesterday: My new Running Times magazine.

It has a lot of good articles in it about training. I’ve been reading it since I opened it up.

I remember always hoping to get something in the mail when I was a child living at home. I usually never would, but when I did it was really exciting. When I got a little older, we’d tease my brothers and give them the letters addressed to “occupant” or “resident.” These days all I get are bills and other no-fun adult documents.

So it’s nice to open the mailbox and have something a little awesome every now and then. And these medals are definitely awesome.