San Francisco Marathon Race Report- Smurf’s First Marathon!
Background: So, this might be redundant for some of you, but for those first joining the story I feel like it’s important to say that I didn’t intend to run San Francisco Marathon this year. Last year, I’d had 4 or so stress fractures, my most recent coming on in one step on mile 7 of an 8-mile easy run on Thanksgiving. Fibula. A bone that rarely gets broken, since it’s technically not weight-bearing, but I managed it. Running great, feeling strong… step… broken bone. I remember the exact spot where it happened on the Embarcadero, just before the marina before the ballpark. So every step of the way this training cycle, that was in the back of my mind. “You feel great, but one step…. One step is all it takes.” Even to my last two miler on Friday… “One step and your world can change.”
Back up to the beginning of this year. Injured, depressed, on crutches, unemployed… You name it. I was a hot mess. I made a commitment on Jan 1 to “GOI.” Another good acronym—Get Over It. Do whatever it takes. Get the f*&k over it. So, while coming back from my fracture, I lost about 18 lbs to get to the bottom of my normal BMI range and, on March 1, took my first running steps since that day in November. I started on the treadmill, and then slowly transitioned to the road. I didn’t care about pace, I just wanted to run.
As I was building mileage, I picked the most conservative marathon training plan I could find, Higdon Novice 1, and saw how nicely it meshed with my rehab. I gave myself 3 extra weeks to pad the plan, planning on another injury sidelining me. On March 27th, when I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon, I went into it knowing my mom was running the first half, so my plan was to run the first half with her at about 12-ish pace, and then, if I was feeling OK, just soldier on and do the full. “Get one under my belt. Just cover the distance”… otherwise, I’d take a DNF and stop in the park. I wanted to “back into” my first marathon because I was afraid my body would break down otherwise.
Weeks passed. Stickers were put on the chart on the ‘fridge… I was ticking off increase weeks, stepping back, following the plan to the letter. Just getting the mileage in. I felt great! I was recovering well and not feeling nearly as achy in the legs as I had previously.
On May 11th, we found out a friend had killed himself. The whole week was a waste. I showed up for the Bay to Breakers on May 16- thinking about Bob a lot and totally distracted- and ran at 8:06 pace. Wow! Never ever ever have I thought that was a do-able pace for me for a 12K. It was a real breakthrough to feel what it was like to “open it up” and feel the fast turnover and realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to equate to “grinding in the gears” and hard effort. It felt smooth, it felt natural and good, despite the run-down and emotionally-depleted state of mind.
About a month later, as I’d wanted to for about a year, I ran the Angel Island 25K and came in 5th female. Felt strong, powerful, tough race… but I was really pleased with my effort… hmmm…
Last year, before I broke my femur, I’d selected a Pfitz 18/55 plan to get me to a sub-4. All I’m doing here is a Higdon Novice 1 with no speedwork at all, so who am I to think I can go sub-4? The doubts are really strong heading into the taper, though I did run every single run of my plan, including maintaining through those “pad weeks” since I had no niggles, so marathon day was pretty much a crapshoot for me…
(To check out all the photos from here on out, see the public album HERE.)
Marathon week started with the first spotting of a road closure sign on Market street. My stomach dropped and my head started to buzz, hanging out the window of my boyfriend’s car, trying to snap a photo. Holy Cheezus, and I doing it this time? I guess there’s nothing saying I can’t! At this point, Joe and I started talking more about goals and realizing how close we were in pacing, so the decision was made for me to try to move up to Corral 3 to run with him and Ben. Before this I was saying “Sub 4:15.” Connecting with Joe made me commit to “Sub-4,” but I still had serious doubts. And then Ben twisted his ankle, so there was a question mark over the day… but we ended up gaining a Johannes! Which ruled!
Carb Plan: 3 days before, bumped up to 70% carbs, kept it at 1500-2000 cals as I wanted to hit the race as light as possible. Had a couple of Nerds Ropes in there—one thanks to Kwikchick!!
Night before: FE, got to meet Sam and chatted about him running back to run me in the last couple of miles for a Sub-4. Finalized with Joe where we’d meet. Decided that we’d run with Johannes… Had a bowl of cheesy chicken pasta with no chicken, no cheese. Everything came together perfectly. I went to bed feeling confident in every part of the plan—though still questioning whether I could keep up, but I’d try!
RACE EVE/MORNING! Laid down at 10ish, got to sleep at about 11. Boyfriend came home at 2AM and I was pretty much ready to go. I stayed in bed and meditated on the course for about an hour and got up at 3:15. Made my waffles, drank my Clif drink and 5 Hour Energy. I felt awesome! My meal from the night before had settled perfectly. My waffles went down like silk. I felt like cash money.
Cab showed up as planned right at 4:30, got to Hyatt Embarcadero by 4:38! Hit one of those public restroom pods on Market (I’ve always wanted to), then went to meet Joe, Mary Beth and Emil at the trollycar. Johannes showed up shortly after and we went to use the restroom at his office near the start (all they needed was a tray of bagels and it would have been just like the Runner’s World Elite Area!)
After Smurf stopped to flirt with the bagcheck girl for a minute or five, we hit our start corral. Emil and I decided to hit the porta-potty line, figuring we had time and I have a nervous bladder. My shorts came down just as the elite horn went off. Good timing! We were in our corral and met up with Joe and Johannes in plenty of time.
The wave goes off without much fanfare. No bouncy-bounce. Just a simple walk to the mat and then a jog. Shortly after taking off, we see Vixen and wish her well on the half. She says her hips are feeling barky, so I send ‘em a little love and then joggy-jog along the Embarcadero through Fisherman’s Wharf. I’ll say this—it was a GORGEOUS morning. Not too much fog. Not too cold. Bright eggplant sky… Me and Joe are kid of letting Johannes lead the pace (he’s “only doing the half,” after all!)
Mile 1- 9:18 – A little slow from crowding at the start. Emil shot off like a bullet in the night at about mile .5. Godspeed, Emil!
Mile 2- 8:52 – At 2.5 we hit the first major hill on the route at McDonnell grade. In training, my heartrate was usually 172 cresting the hill. It never topped 166 this time. Me and Joe killed that hill- lock step! At this point, I pretty much knew it was going to be “my day.”
Mile 3- 8:51 – Half a Roctane.
Mile 4- 8:51 – Making up time. Seeing the bridge in the distance, I knew my mom was going to get her picture that she wanted so badly of running across the bridge, so I tossed up some thanks.
Mile 5- 9:07 – Lead-up to the bridge.
Mile 6- 9:23 (+244’ elev, 166HR) – Coming up onto the bridge. Me and Joe and Johannes were chatting the whole way. Feeling great! – Half a Roctane.
Mile 7- 8:33 – Cruising on the bridge, we saw Sam and Howard looking strong!
Mile 8- 8:41 – We caught up to Emil at some point, his calf was giving him problems. Came around the turn on the Marin side of the bridge. The GU people were running into the crowd trying to hard-sell people on taking a GU. It made me chuckle.
Mile 9- 8:41 – Half a Roctane. We were trying to make the most of the downhill slant of the bridge.
Mile 10- 8:42 – Under the bridge and up a pretty fierce uphill on Lincoln (Garmin doesn’t reflect.) I didn’t want that hill to last any longer than it absolutely had to, so I powered up it, losing Joe and Johannes in the process, but figuring I’d see them later.
Mile 11- 7:48 (-164’ elev) Woo hoo! Cruising down the hill! I actually “spread my wings” and coasted for a while to break it up and relax.
Mile 12- 8:47 (HR creeps into the 160’s) The rolling hills between Lincoln and the Park… Man, these blew. Again, I just wanted to get them over with as quickly as possible. Heading into the park, I had a mental pick-me-up, as my friends Sherri and AT were there with their baby, Andre (and I was able to toss my armwarmers at Sherri, as planned) and my friend Karen was there, cheering us all on! It was so great to see them before the long, boring miles of the park. I let Sherri and AT know that I was well ahead of schedule, but that would probably change, so they were able to Tweet ahead to people. I was nearly 10 minutes ahead of 3:59 time at this point, I think. I had stapled a pace list to my Garmin, but I was so off that I couldn’t even math it out by now, I was just running by feel.
Mile 13- 8:40 – Into the park, and the half splits off from the full. I got some added emotional juice by hooting at the half folks to finish strong!
13.1- Half split is 1:56:03—My previous half PR is 1:58 on a very short course.
Mile 14- 7:46 – Ah, God love the downhills of the park! Boring, but easy to lock into. We also ran by the model boat lake, where a lot of half runners were cheering us on. I had a grin on my face from ear to ear, people were reading my bib and yelling “Smurf!” I have to admit, I got a little choked up here. I was thinking, “Damn, I am feeling GREAT! I could do this forever!” At this point, I realize I have totally fallen off my fuel plan and just take Roctanes kind of willy-nilly from here on. I ended up taking only 3 over the course of the race.
Mile 15- 8:37 – And, now we’re running uphill (and this is why we hate the park.) I passed the DailyMile aid station at some point, and they had BACON and fruit and whatnot. I didn’t want anything, but I told them thanks and that I love DailyMile. Well, I thought I did, but I think I just screamed “I’m Smurf! I’m Smurf! I’m Smurf!” and pointed at myself like five times as I ran around the table and up the road. Lol.
I realize I am running a little quick, and I think “I am either going to regret this big time, or be glad that I did.” I look down at what I wrote on my arm…. “If you can, you must.” I know that I can. There is nothing in my body telling me that I need to slow it down. If I can, I must. I’ll deal with it later. I might blow up, but for now… Let’s get through this as quick as we can.
Mile 16- 8:40 – At about 16 we hit Stow Lake. I see a fellow coming off the lake in leather panties and a bondage halter. I squealed at him so loud that he looked at me like I had no skin on. Poor guy, but I give him credit for rockin’ the race in that! Especially on Dore Alley Sunday! You go on with your bad self, sir!
Mile 17- 8:45 – The lake was fun! I got a huge pick-me-up from it, because I kind of knew after the lake the worst of the park was over. The song I really wanted to hear came on my shuffle (California Gurls from Katy Perry), so I kinda dancey-ran and pumped my fist and was just all smiles.
Mile 18- 8:17 OK, so I love me some California Gurls, but my other most fave song came on during this part, Ru Paul’s “Don’t Be Jealous of My Boogie.” And, I’ll admit to screaming it outloud as we ran down JFK through the First Half Finish. At this point, some dim-witted A-hole decided that giving out bushels of skin-on half bananas to people would be a great idea. So there was at least a half-mile swath where you had to dodge… vintage comedy fans stick with me… BANANA PEELS! Greeeaaatt…. But. I also got to hoot at the finishers and tell ‘em to finish strong. I have realized in a race situation, I am totally “that person” who loves to say thanks to every volunteer and cop along the way, and let crampy stretchers know that I’m sending them encouragement and all that happy hippy horseshit.
Mile 19- 8:20 – Coming out of the park, feeling great. I’d asked Rob to be at the McDonalds at Haight and Stanyan, so I was looking for him… And there he was with a big sign with running Smurfs on it… I blew him a kiss and then instantly went into a wheezy-asthma-thing situation. I think because I got a little emotional? It took me about a half a mile to be sure I wouldn’t pass out. I had to pull my headphones out and listen to my breath and really concentrate on not being wheezy. It was kind of weird.
Mile 20- 8:28 – Blowing down Haight street. Just to editorialize for a minute— It really pisses me of that that this is the most cultural and residential part of the route, but there is NOBODY out cheering! Literally just *cush, cush, cush* of runners’ sneakers, motorists getting mad at cops because they want to get through, and families walking to brunch—patient but peeved—that they have to wait for a break in the runners. I really wish this city would get behind this race more!
Mile 21- 7:50 (-163 elev) – Still cruising! Some of these downhills are tough, but at this point I am where I was on my longest training run, so I think I can keep it up for 5 more. I am totally playing the “Just a Tuesday run left” game at this point.
Mile 22- 7:57 – Turnover, turnover, turnover…. I got a mental pick-me-up by being the first runner to go down 15th street at the traffic swap. So I ran and joked with all the cops and volunteers, “I assume I must be winning, right?!” I had more fun than they did, but a couple of cute cops decided to humor me. Thanks, fellas! This became old quick, though, as I also ran about 2 miles almost entirely solo.
Mile 23- 8:32 – I knew when I ran by my fave brunch spot, Just for You, that it was almost over. But, when I hit it… man, it started to hit me. I ran from here to the bridge on training runs, but I knew it was a while to the finish. This is where I started to wonder if I could keep it up. Turnover, turnover, turnover. I kept telling myself… “It doesn’t take any more to turn ‘em fast than it does to turn ‘em slow.”
Mile 24- 8:24 (HR moves into the 170’s) I knew Sam was supposed to come back and get me. But I also knew that I was ahead of schedule… and that I told him NOT to come back and get me if he wasn’t feeling it. So I was kind of looking for him, but just trying to keep going, head down. At this point, a bunch of really elite-looking runners in Google singlets and whatnot started BLOWING past me in tandem. I assume it must have been some kind of a relay? They were far too fresh to be marathoners or even halfers. I kind of wanted to kick them in the nuts. (Yes, they were all male. Skinny, gangly males…)
Mile 25- 8:33 I can see the AT&T Park… I know I’m close… But, MAN ALIVE, my legs are getting angry. Head down. Turn, turn, turn. All I am telling myself is to keep the turn at the same rate as it was. At this point, I kind of realize that, if Sam does come back for me, he is going to be really shocked to see me so ahead of schedule. When I finally do see Sam on the sidewalk, I scream, “SAM!” and wave my handheld. He looks at me, but kind of looks through me. “SAM!!!!!! It’s Smurf!” I scream again. He comes over and asks, “What’s your watch time?!” I am a little out of it at this point, so I think I tell him “4:35” or something. Eventually, he finds out my actual time and says, “Let’s go for Boston!” I think my Boston time is 3:40 (I still need to check.) But I know I’m blowing through my sub-4 goal. We run and, (sorry Sam!) but I am so out of it that I am just head-down, turnover-turnover-turnover just trying to get to the finish without dropping pace.
Mile 26- 9:03 Sam asks me a couple of times if I want to push the pace, but really I feel like I am at my end. We decided that it wasn’t like I was going to break another threshold (ie: 3:45) by going any faster, and I really didn’t want to poop my pants. I thought once I got up that last curb by the ballpark I would be ready to sprint, but… really… I had NOTHING left. Oh, did I mention my left hand has been numb the entire race? It has been. I am trying to wave at people, but clawing at them like my left hand has been in ice for the past 3 hours. This is… literally… the LONGEST mile I have ever run. I keep on thinking I see the finish… but, nope. LONG mile.
.2- Pace= 9:23 or so, HR hits 180. Turn, turn, turn… staring at the ground. Trying to keep sight on Sam (I don’t know what would have happened had Sam not been there, because it was ROUGH!) I see the finishline, I got nothing, I can’t even sprint. I hear Rob scream “Smurf!” out my left ear, and I push to the mats. I hit mat #1 and then my legs do the total noodle thing (you can see it in the video) and Sam has to tell me to come through and hit the second mat. Were he not there, I would have fallen over, I’m pretty sure.
CHIP TIME: 3:48:58!!!!
After the mats, we find Rob on the other side of the ropes and he mixes me my recovery drink. I’m still very wobbly on my feet, and we walk through the chute, where there’s scones and bananas and Pirates Booty (“Who wants diet Cheetos after a marathon?!” I joke with Sam.) I’m clearly high at this point, as I think I also told Sam, “Let’s do it again!!!”
I get me a free Jamba Juice, which looks awesome at the time, and then leave the runner’s area to meet up with Rob. My friend Jody and her daughter, Eliza, meet up soon after and then I go back in to get a space blanket (It’s not a marathon unless you get a space blanket!) As I’m coming back, I see Joe’s boyfriend and he tells me Joe just came through, so I wait and reconnect with Joe who got a whopping HUGE PR on the course, but missed his Sub-4 goal due to some monumental calf cramping in the last 4 miles…
As we’re chatting, I exuberate about not having peed my pants like I did in my last race and, well, you can read about THAT in the paper here: I’m just glad Sam got some love for OJ out of my urinary incontinence!
We meet up with Gabe, as well, who hit his goal in the half. He mentions that my lips are turning blue (if you look at the photos, they are VERY blue…) and Rob and I head home. The only scary moment was some SEVERE stomach cramps on the ride home. They were coincidentally elongated by roads being closed for the course. But no GI distress, just shooting pains. Ouch
The rest of the day was brunch (they brought my food out and I nearly wanted to barf) and cocktails ( I had like one and wanted to go home) and a nap (Ohhhhh… nap, sweet nap! Loved the nap!) and Dinner with my mom and her First Half buddies at Asia SF and then some karaoke.
What’s next? That’s a good question, but I’m REALLY excited for it, whatever it is!!