Thursday, August 28, 2014

Race Report: Santa Rosa Marathon

So in case you've been absolutely dying of suspense, my hip felt good enough to start the race, but as I'd more or less expected, it just wasn't cooperating fully enough for me to feel comfortable trying to run the whole thing. I made it to about mile 15, plus a ~1.5 mile warm-up and really felt totally fine the next day, so as much as DNFing sucks, I think I made the right decision & was glad to find that I hadn't pushed it to the point of needing major rehab & a bunch of time off.

BUT, I'm still very glad that I went & ran as much as I could. I really did enjoy the parts of the event I participated in & feel like I experienced enough of it to be worth writing a race report. (I do have more thoughts & things to say about what's going on with my hip, but I think that's a separate enough topic to warrant its own post.)

On Friday morning, I saw my spots doc, who did not want me to run but grudgingly accepted the compromise of my starting the race if I was having no pain but immediately stopping if I did & doing absolutely no running whatsoever after that until the problem was identified. (I'm getting an MRI on Friday.) That was fine with me since it was pretty much what I was already planning on. I'd run four miles on Thursday at ~8:10 pace, which felt perfectly easy & better than any running I'd done in the last month, so I felt reasonably confident that I would be able to run at least some part of the race without anything terrible happening.

On Saturday I drove up to Santa Rosa through the most craptacular traffic I have ever seen on that route (what is normally a 90 minute trip took me 2.5 hours) & arrived at the expo at DeLoach winery around 5pm, significantly later than I'd planned. It was open until 6pm, though, so I was still able to get my stuff with time to spare. Afterward I headed back to my hotel in the city, did a quick two-mile shakeout run that felt totally fine, then met Amy & her husband at Third Street Aleworks downtown for beers. It was fun to finally meet them after following their training over the last few months, & also helped take my mind off of worrying about the race.

(I have to say, sitting around alone in a hotel room the evening before a race because you had to be there by four or five or six or whatever to get your stuff is my absolute least favorite thing about out-of-town races. Waaaaaay too much time for my brain to stew/freak out.)

I'd planned to be up at 4am for the 6am start, but at 3:20am this happened, so at that point I was pretty much up to stay.

(In case you haven't seen these pics, this is what happens when you have a 6.1 earthquake in wine country:

Most California picture ever?

My poor friends in Napa apparently lost everything glass in their house, plus their chimney, but counted themselves pretty lucky considering that 200+ ended up at the hospital with injuries, a few in critical condition. Still, aftershocks with a two-year-old are apparently not much fun.)

I'll say more about this below but one of the things I enjoyed about this race is that it's about as logistically easy as a marathon can possibly be. My hotel was less than a mile from the start, & there is ample free/cheap parking just blocks away. I left the hotel around 4:45, drove right into one of the free garages & was parked by 5am, which gave me time to make the five minute walk to the port-a-potties & back, read about the earthquake on social media, make my last-minute preparations, throw all my crap in the trunk, & start warming up at ~5:40.

6AM HOE-DOWN! #form #wow
I was a little disappointed that at that point it was already 58F, which Weather Underground wasn't predicting it would get to until around nine. I was also disappointed that there was no water available anywhere at the start. In spite of drinking several glasses before leaving the hotel & then finishing my water bottle in the car, I was suddenly incredibly parched about ten minutes before the race & no one anywhere knew of any source of nearby water.

My favorite thing about small races is that you can time your warm-up so that you finish just minutes before the start & can jump right into your corral with no problem (not that there even was a corral, really, just people self-seeding according to the pacer signs) & don't have to stand around getting cold. At 6am on the dot we were off, and I began the tricky business of trying to ride that slowest possible BQ pace as finely as possible.

I started off running right in the 8:12-8:14 range, which was where I wanted to be for at least the first third of the race. For a while that felt fine, but around maybe mile 5-6 I started to feel some tightness in my leg & pain in my right quad. It was still pretty minor & I was keeping the pace pretty easily, though, so I decided to ride it out for a while. Over time, though, the tightness just got worse, and the twinges came more and more often, and it got harder & harder to hold the pace. I hit the half at about 1:48, which would have been fine except that I knew I was already working too hard to be only halfway done.

The thought of keeping this up for another 13 miles was just demoralizing. I kept waiting for my average pace to drop so that I could quit in good conscience knowing that it was hopeless, but miracle of miracles, it never actually did. It stayed at 8:14 for miles and miles, then finally slipped to 8:15; based on how I was running, I couldn't believe it wasn't up to 8:20 or more. I kept telling myself, "One more mile," "One more aid station," etc., but the stupid average pace number refused to drop any farther.

~Mile 10 after running through the DeLoach barrel room. My superpower: Smiling through pain in race pictures.
I knew it was only a matter of time, though. I don't know how much of it was hip trouble & how much of it was missing half my workouts in the last month, but if I was very honest with myself, I knew that I shouldn't be feeling like this before mile 20. By which I mean I was pretty sure I could hold on for maybe 5-6 more miles if I had to, but there was just no way I could keep it up for 12. So, around mile 14 I made a decision to stop at the next aid station rather than continuing to run at this pace until I couldn't and potentially risk serious damage to my leg.

Now you might think that if you go up to race volunteers & are like, "I've got a joint injury that's really bothering me so I think I'm done running, can you guys help me get back to the finish?," they'd be like, "No problem!" But OMG they did NOT want to let me quit. One guy looked intensely into my eyes & was all, "LOOK, you've come 15 miles, I know you're hurting but YOU CAN DO THIS!" and I was like, "Uh, no, seriously, dude, I'm getting MRI'd on Friday for this shit. I really need to stop running." And he was all like, "NO! NO QUITTING!" and even though I don't actually think I have a stress fracture, I finally told him, "No seriously, I might have a stress fracture in my hip. I need to stop."

And then the paperwork. Did you know paperwork has to be filled out (at least sometimes, apparently) when a runner quits? The medical people were like, "Did you eat breakfast? What did you eat? When? Have you been taking fluids? Gels? Did you train? What program did you use? What prescriptions do you take? What medical conditions do you have? How much potassium do you get?" I'm sure it has to do with liability stuff in case someone tries to sue them, but given my particular issue & that I was basically fine once I stopped running, the whole ordeal was a little strange.

A guy in a pickup came to get me & drove me back to the start/finish with a woman who had pulled her Achilles tendon. I still had my free beer tickets for the beer festival, but honestly, at that point I just wanted to go home. Even though I'd known this would probably happen and had been somewhat mentally prepared for it, hanging around the finish line was still the last thing I felt like doing. What I really wanted at that point were dry clothes, solid food, a hot shower, & coffee. (Never underestimate the power of a hot shower & a latte!)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Date: Late August (August 24, 2014 this year)


  • FULL: $110 Sep 3rd - Sep 30th, $115 Oct 1 - Dec 31st, $125 Jan 1 - April 30th, $135 through expo (online registration ended Aug. 15)
  • HALF: $95 Sep 3rd- Sep 30th, $100 Oct 1st- Dec 31st, $105 Jan 1st- April 30th (No prices listed after that--maybe they sold out super early?)
  • 5K: Adults $40.00, Under 16 $15.00, $10 extra for same day registration

The half strikes me as rather pricey, but I thought the full was quite reasonable, especially if you can get in early.

Deadlines/sellout factor: The half sold out, but as of the day before the race, the website listed < 50 spots left in the full & < 100 left in the 5K. So it could potentially sell out in the future, but no need to rush to sign up unless you just want the cheap prices.

Field Size: 1657 in the full, 1450 in the half, 872 in the 5K--kind of my ideal race size!


I have to say, SRM has really stepped things up since I ran the half two years ago in 2012. That year, the expo was held in a tiny, cramped side room of a divey hotel in town. The room was so tiny that people were smashed up against each other & pushing through knots of other people to get to bibs/shirts/vendors, etc. This year it was held outdoors at gorgeous DeLoach winery out on Olivet Road, which, while this did create a few different issues, it was infinitely more pleasant.

Once on the grounds, bib & shirt pickup was easy & efficient, they had some neat-looking merch if that's your thing, & runners also got a ticket for a free wine tasting in the barrel room. (I've wine tasted at DeLoach before and do enjoy their wines, but I was in a bit of a time crunch, so since I've had most of what they make before and it is not particularly difficult to get, I did not partake at the expo.) The weather was lovely, so wandering around the winery grounds was quite nice.

The only issues were a) parking, b) traffic getting into / out of the winery, and c) proximity to town where most people (including myself) were probably staying. Clearly they were aware that there wasn't enough parking to accommodate the numbers, so I give SRM a lot of credit for offering a shuttle service from a number of nearby hotels to DeLoach & back. (I only wish they'd advertised it sooner--I didn't know this until getting an email a couple of days before. My hotel sadly was not near the ones where the shuttle stopped.) But there were still HORRIFIC lines of cars down tiny two-lane Olivet road to get in; it took me about fifteen minutes from the time I located the end of the line to park & another 10 minutes to get back out. For me, the proximity issue is mainly about convenience; having the expo so far out in the boonies meant a good extra half hour of driving round-trip, & there is definitely something to be said for a quick, efficient stop-by-get-in-get-out expo location.

(But again--I cannot emphasize what an improvement this was over the tiny hotel conference room in 2012.)


The start/finish was staged in Julliard Park downtown. My only complaint about the staging is the lack of water at the start. The starting area was easily accessible & literally steps from a giant L of port-a-potties where I never saw lines more than a few runners deep. I did not need any information (except about where I could get water), but there were plenty of tables of volunteers ready to answer questions. I also liked that there were plenty of open sidewalks/empty streets surrounding Julliard Park for warming up. If I run this race again, I'll just now to bring some water with me to the start.

The Course:

Now the obvious caveat here is that I only ran the first 15 miles of the course (although the last ~6 miles or so go back more or less the same way as the first 6), but let me still say that the change in the full marathon course was the "deal-maker" for me with this race. I believe the half marathon course stayed the same (~6.5 miles out & back along the SR Greenway) except for the elimination of all the hairpin turns / loops around the bridges (another sweet improvement), but whereas in 2012 the full was just two loops of the half course, it's now a much more interesting single-loop that winds through more of town and some of the nearby wine country. (There was also some gravel on the Greenway in 2012, which there was not this year, unless it was on the return trip.)

As marathons go, this course is pretty flat, but as I learned from Amy & Aaron Saturday evening after they'd driven the course, there were definitely some non-insignificant rollers in places, so if you run this race, I would not skip the hill training altogether just based on the elevation chart. (My issue with the few hills was mainly just that I wasn't mentally prepared for them.) As the website says, "There are several minor 20 foot up and down rollers in the 12 mile loop. The biggest gain is a set of two hills at mile12 (700 feet and 350 feet long) each with plus 40 feet of elevation change, but what goes up, also, goes down 20 to 40 feet."

The roads were slightly canted in spots, but for the most part it was easy to run in the middle so that it didn't matter. I also appreciated that any potholes or chewed up spots were spray painted bright-orange. There were plenty of aid stations with water and honest-to-gods real, calorie rich Gatorade; the larger cups meant that I didn't have to worry about trying to grab two, and also that I was getting significantly more liquid carbs than I'd planned (awesome; just required adjusting my gel-taking a bit so as not to make myself sick). In general, I really enjoyed the part of this course that I ran and I'd actually be really excited to go back at some point & run the whole thing.


SO EASY!! There are giant, multi-story parking garages just a few blocks from the start/finish, some of which were free (including 1st street, where I parked both this year & in 2012) & one of which (the mall garage) cost $3 if you entered between 4am & 8am. It was so close & convenient that I didn't even use the sweat check.


GIANT ASS MEDAL, tasteful longsleeve tech shirt, and a custom bottle of wine from DeLoach.

"Runner's Red" Heritage Reserve

I have never been much of a medal horse anyway (and seriously, at a certain point, how many does one person really need?), but if I was going to miss out on a race medal because of a DNF, I am really not too bummed that it was this one. The medals were pretty similar to the one I got in 2012 (the medal for the full just looked like a bigger version of the one for the half) and it was so big that honestly it was kind of tacky & put me in mind of a WWF belt buckle. I'm pretty sure it was bigger than the one I got for the half in 2012, which is still the biggest medal I have ever gotten for anything ever in my life.

I know nothing about the wine except that it's a 2013 red, so I'll be super curious to try it out in a few years!

Overall Assessment:

Like I said, this race has stepped it up quite a bit since 2012 (which is not to say it was that bad then). Besides the whole hip-not-cooperating-DNF thing, I enjoyed the parts of SRM I experienced, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a reasonably priced, well-organized Bay Area marathon with a very reasonable PR-friendly course. Yes, August in wine country sounds kind of terrifying in terms of running 26 miles, but in both 2012 & this year, it stayed in the 50's & completely overcast. I haven't spent enough time in Santa Rosa that early to know if that's common or not in August, but given that early-morning fog is part of what makes wine country wine country, it wouldn't surprise me if it were. The early start times are an added bonus in that department.

So watch your back, Santa Rosa. I may be coming back for you at some point!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SRM WEEK 14: Poked In the Psoas + What's Up With SRM

The Bad News:

I can sum up Week 14 for you pretty succinctly. After my awesome 20 miler on Sunday, I rested on Monday. I was a tiny bit sore, but not much, and not particularly in my right hip/leg.

I'd begun to suspect that the hip problems (which if you'll recall have plagued me on & off since early 2013) were related to cumulative fatigue & tended to appear when some muscles somewhere on that side had been working hard for an extended period of time (ie, days or weeks of high mileage and/or tougher speed/tempo workouts), so on Tuesday I thought I would maybe not tempt fate with a track workout two days after a twenty miler. Instead, I tried to run 8 easy miles, got about 3 miles out, and became convinced I was feeling weird stiffness-maybe-kinda-sorta-pain. Again, not wanting to tempt fate, I turned around to make it 6 very strange, "off"-feeling miles for the day.

On Wednesday everything felt fine with my leg, but I went home from work mid-day with stomach cramps & went straight to bed.

On Thursday I was feeling better & my leg still felt good, so I decided to attempt Tuesday's skipped track workout (2 wu, 1200m @ 10K pace, 800m @ 5K pace, 1200m @ 10K pace, w/ 1:00-2:00 recoveries, 2 cd), see how it felt, & stop if I had any pain/weirdness. It did start to feel a little stiff at a couple of points, but there was never any pain, and I was able to run all the intervals at the right effort level & faster than prescribed pace. In fact, that evening my right leg felt better than it had in a long time--no pain, discomfort, or stiffness of any kind.

AND THEN, I woke up Friday, & the pain was back. It wasn't awful--certainly not as bad as it was after SF2HM--and I could walk fine, but it was enough to make it completely clear to me that I would not be running that day. Which continued into Saturday, and then Sunday. Each day it's been slightly better, but when I jog down the hallway at home there is still a little niggle of pain on impact that tells me I wouldn't get farther than a quarter mile or so if I tried to do a run.

The Good News:

I saw the massage therapist Monday, and he has a working hypothesis about the underlying problem.

If you've been a distance runner for any length of time, you've probably heard about a muscle called the psoas.

On each side, the psoas originates at the lumbar spine, stretches down your torso through your hip, joins with the iliacus, and inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur. You can see that it's a great big beast of a muscle, and the only muscle in your body that connects your spine to your legs.

The psoas does a whole ton of important stuff, which you can read about by googling the internet. Most relevant to this discussion, though, is its function as a hip flexor. It is the main muscle involved in lifting your leg forward toward your trunk, and in lifting your trunk towards your legs if your legs are stationary.

We have lots of other muscles that participate in hip flexion (quads, TFL, adductors), but they're a lot smaller and less powerful than the psoas and serve more of a stability function than a prime mover function.

"When you're running and the psoas stops firing," my MT told me, "your body will use anything and everything it can to keep moving your leg forward. Quads, adductors, TFL, whatever it can get. And suddenly you've got an overuse injury or three."

Of course he was careful to remind me that he isn't a doctor and isn't the person to give me an official diagnosis about all this, but if you assume that's what's happening, suddenly a lot of things fall into place: pain that's diffuse and kind of everywhere, with the worst of it moving around from incident to incident, that fits the profile of an overuse injury while the muscles themselves seem to be looser & more supple every time I see him, & still retaining excellent range of motion with no signs or symptoms of structural damage (labral tears, stress fracture, etc.).

What really won me over was when he dug his fingers deep into both sides of my hips under my ab muscles. While it wasn't exactly super comfortable on the left side, when he moved to the right side I was immediately howling in pain.

"Yep," he nodded. "That feels awful in there."

He also showed me how to lay on my back and externally rotate my leg so that the only way to raise it is by engaging the psoas. Again, it wasn't super easy on the left side, but I could get my leg a few inches off the table, which is apparently respectable enough. On the right side, though, it was like I didn't even have that muscle. For a few seconds I just laid there, trying to figure out exactly how I was even going to do this. I finally managed to engage something a little, but barely enough to get my skin out of contact with the table, my leg shaking all the while as I tried not to cheat by pushing down on the table with my opposite leg.

This is called "not being able to use your psoas." Sooooo....

  • Good news: Strengthening the psoas & getting it to fire correctly is an easier fix than, say, surgery for a labral tear or taking 8-10 weeks off for a pelvic stress fracture.
  • Bad news: It's not something you fix in six days.
  • Good news: The whole thing seems to be fatigue-related, ie, multiple weeks of 40-50 miles culminating in an 18 miler was enough to render it useless, but seven days of rest got me another 47 miles, including a 20 miler, with no pain & no soreness.
  • Bad news: This has been the most anemic taper in the history of ever, & I still have no idea what's going to happen Sunday.
  • Good news: Better under-trained than over-trained, eh?? Eh??

By some magical voodoo I don't understand, I managed to get an appointment with my sports doc for Friday morning, so I'll be interested to run the psoas theory by him & see what he thinks.

Santa Rosa:

I am not so under-trained that I think I couldn't run a fair-to-middling marathon Sunday if my leg is pain-free & cooperates, particularly if I can do some of the exercises the MT showed me to get the psoas firing a little more reliably. I was in worse shape after SF2HM, and after a week of rest I did run a pretty darn decent 20 miles at a completely respectable pace, so there's some hope.

If my leg is feeling good by Saturday, then I'll likely go to Santa Rosa, pick up my stuff, check into the hotel, & see how the two easy shakeout miles feel. If all goes well and it's still feeling good Sunday, I'll likely start the race and see how things feel and what kind of pace I'm able to hold. If I'm in any way struggling to hold a BQ / PR pace (~8:10 or better) and I can tell that early-on, I have no problem quitting. I don't care about finishing this race just to finish, especially when my leg has been in such dicey shape. Likewise, if I ever have anything more than the least little bit of discomfort in my hip/adductor, I will totally walk off the course & not think twice about it. It's just not worth the rehab. (Been there, done that.)

If I'm able to hold the pace fine and still not having any pain (the metric I have for this in my head right now is hitting the half in the ~1:47 range), then I don't see any issue with bopping right along & seeing if maybe < 3:35 is in the cards. If I get to 20ish & can tell I'm going to lose the BQ/PR but still not having any pain, I *might* be willing to just finish comfortably for the heck of it, but only if I'm in a good place mentally & don't feel like there's any risk with my leg.

Honestly, even if I do run, because of the number of workouts I've missed lately due to the hip thing & being sick, a lot of things will probably depend on circumstances beyond my control--the weather, the course, & the luck of the draw in terms of how I'm feeling. I had a chat with Coach Tom about my goals (again, assuming I can even run) & admitted to him that since my long runs had been perfectly comfortable in the 8:15-8:25 range, I was hoping to be able to race around 8:00-8:10. Given everything, though, he thought 8:10-8:20 was maybe more realistic.

And hey, if that's how the cards fall, okay. I certainly won't be going out at an 8:00 pace. But since all my long runs have been on rolling hills & often into massive headwinds at least half the time, there's a little part of me that is curious to see if maybe I'll get some help from the flat course and (fingers crossed) nice weather. (Right now, the forecast calls for partly cloudy & 55F at 6am & 57F by 9am with basically no wind, which, hey, could be a lot worse.)

Also, I'm pretty thrilled about the lack of black top.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

SRM WEEKS 12 & 13: Onwards & Upwards (for now)

Uggggghhhhhh, could I *be* any more behind the times? At least I'm catching up!

We left off on July 27, when I ran 5 miles from my house to the start of SF2HM & then ran the race as an easy long run for a total of 18.2 for the day. By the time I got on the plane for LA that evening, I could barely put weight on my right leg & was having some serious pain in my inner quad, hip flexors, & especially my adductors. It was a fitting start to what was to be one of the most craptacular weeks I've had in a while. I have enough distance at this point that I can laugh about it, but trust me. At the time, I was Not. Laughing.

I'd hoped that resting it all day Monday would fix things & I'd be able to do some amount of running on Tuesday, but Tuesday rolled around & it was still just as bad. I tried biking in the hotel but even that amount of motion in my hip was painful enough that I felt like I was probably just making it worse.

The situation was not helped by the fact that the area of LA we were working in that week had an absolutely dire restaurant situation (Lots of bad pan-Asian? Everything Styrofoam take-out? A veritable hellscape of fast food & Applebee's clones? Done, done, and done!) & the catered breakfasts & lunches were a wonderland of sugar, refined grains, sugar, fatty/fried meat, sugar, refined grains, and iceberg lettuce. Oh yeah & that one fruit plate.

Throw in 10-12 hour work days with the absolute shittiest wifi in the history of the internet at our hotel and it is probably no surprise that after two days this foodie athlete less than a month from a marathon was a bit of an emotional wreck.

Friends, I did not even have a car to go buy myself a nice bottle of wine with. I WENT AN ENTIRE WEEK WITH NO WINE. I ask you, what fresh hell is this?

Is a half decent '02 Rhone blend *really* too much to ask?

On Wednesday I put on running clothes in hopes that I'd be able to run at least a mile or two, which would at least mean things were healing up & headed in the right direction, but a few easy strides down the hotel hallway was enough to disabuse me of that notion. I spent that evening doing some kick drills in the pool & just trying to activate the right muscles (hamstrings, glute med) without also firing the wrong ones (adductors, piriformis); I don't know if it was at all useful, but it certainly made my back sore. I went back up to my room where there was still no wine (!), called Don, & sobbed for like an hour. (This is kind of a big deal because I am generally not a sobber or a boyfriend-comfort-caller.)

At this point I decided it was time to wave the white flag & resign myself to zero running until the pain was totally gone. When this exact same thing (but worse) happened to me last summer a month before Mountains 2 Beach, that was the advice Coach Tom had given me. By Saturday most of the leg felt considerably better, but I decided to give it the weekend for good measure.

The following Monday, I spent some quality time on the table while my MT worked the everloving bejesus out of my right adductor and hip. His assessment:

  • Adductor muscles definitely feel tight & unhappy. (Also, everywhere he poked still REALLY hurt.)
  • Inner quads feel tight & unhappy as well, but it doesn't feel like the sartorius (ie, the one I tore last summer).
  • Hip feels surprisingly good and more or less just like the left one. (That was kind of a big deal, actually.)
  • I should try running 1-2 miles later in the day just to see how the leg was feeling, and if it was okay, I could gradually increase over the week & see if getting back on track with my schedule was at all in the cards.

(This was all about two hours before I had to drive to Sacramento for another work trip, btw. Does the timing here get any better? That was sarcasm.)

So that was week 12.

Let's talk about something happier now, like week 13.

* * * WEEK 13 * * *
(2 (!!!!!) to go)

Grand Total: 47 miles

    * 20 long
    * 27 easy

This graph looked kind of pathetic to me & had me feeling kind of sad for a while, so I decided to take advantage of RunningAhead's custom report feature & look at the big picture:

That's the entirety of my Santa Rosa training up to last Sunday. Aside from the week where my hip was too messed up to run, it actually doesn't look all that bad. Right? (Somebody please tell me I'm right.)

Monday: a.m. massage / p.m. 1 easy

    I took the MT's advice & tried running an easy mile around Cesar Chavez Park when I was done with work for the night in Sac. Ugh, it did not feel good. also did not feel awful, and it didn't hurt during or after the run or the next morning, which I took as a good sign.

Tuesday: 4 easy

    Since my one easy mile on Monday went well, I decided to try taking things a little farther on Tuesday & see how it went. I decided I'd go no farther than four miles, but if I had any pain before then, I would stop, so I stayed close to my hotel & just ran a short circuit of city blocks that would never leave me too far away should I need to stop running & walk home. I had a tiny tiny bit of adductor pain at first, and my stride definitely felt a little weird/off (I'm guessing this is because I'm working so hard to make sure I'm using that right glute med & protect the adductor), but in less than a mile the pain went away & everything felt great after that. I made it to four miles & resisted the temptation to push it father. (Actually not much of a temptation, given the 80F temps & 80% humidity.)

Wednesday: a.m. 4 easy / p.m. 4 easy

    Since my easy four on Tuesday went well but I didn't really have big chunks of time to work with, I decided to do a short run in the morning & another in the afternoon & see how it dealt with that. Also, an easy double day seemed like a nice intermediary step between a short easy run and a longer one. The heat and humidity were brutal (even at 7am, and moreso by 5pm), but I figured this was as good a time as any to suck it up & do some heat training/grow some extra blood plasma. The hip/adductor held up, didn't hurt during, and felt good after.

    (Pro tip: If you're ever in Sacramento without a GPS watch, the sidewalk that surrounds the Capitol building is almost exactly one mile & there are almost no traffic lights!)

Thursday: 8 easy Be sick / rest.

    This was my last day in Sacramento, and I'd planned to drive back to SF around 1, unpack & relax a bit, then get my run in later that afternoon. Unfortunately my body had other plans & I spent most of Wednesday night tossing & turning & going through an entire box of tissues. By the time I got up Thursday morning I felt awful and just could not believe this was happening after a week of zero mileage thanks to my hip. I dragged myself through the last half day of my training, drove home, & promptly passed out. Physically I might have been able to force myself through a few miles but as I hadn't been able to eat much & was already feeling light-headed & dizzy just laying in bed, I'm not entirely sure I wouldn't have collapsed at a stop light a mile or two in.

Friday: 6 easy

    Thursday night/Friday morning was the low point of my cold. I called in sick to work & spent most of the day sleeping (and not eating), but by afternoon I was feeling better & decided to see if I could get a little running in. I stayed close to home, just doing various laps around the neighborhood, and generally just felt lightheaded & awful. I made several stops by my house to guzzle cold soda (see: much-needed calories & fluids) & kept dragging myself back out the door for another mile or two, but when I hit six & realized I was swerving & stumbling a little, I decided I'd probably hit the point of diminishing returns & called it good.

Saturday: 8 easy

    I still didn't feel great on Saturday, but I'd been up & around & eating regularly, so I decided to at least try getting in my regularly scheduled easy eight. It was definitely one of the hardest eight mile runs I've done this summer, but I never felt so bad that I thought I needed to quit.

Sunday: 20 long

So yeah. From the jaws of defeat I actually managed to salvage a halfway decent week, albeit without any speed or tempo work (though I might not have done those in Sacramento anyway). It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride since then hip-wise & I'm still not sure what's going to happen on August 24, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Desperate Miles, Desperate Measures

It's been a rough couple of weeks.

I've run many (er...several?) 20+ mile training runs in my life, but never when I've been traveling so much for work, dealing with a sketchy leg constantly on the cusp of injury, and sick for much of the week prior. On top of that we've been dealing with a tragic family situation, which has made everything that much harder. Between all that I have barely been holding it together most days. So maybe it is not shocking that for a lot of last week, I didn't really think the 20 miler was going to happen.

I mean I'm a serious optimist here, people, but I just couldn't see it. I double-dog couldn't see it when I woke up at noon Sunday morning with all kinds of aches in my feet and hips and glutes. But still, I kept telling myself it was going to happen, counting it in my mental weekly mileage tally, & even justified making the blueberry crisp I hadn't made the night before because "It'll be good for refueling when I get back from my 20." (Carbs! Antioxidants!)

Under any other circumstances, I don't think I would have done it. I felt like crap. Everything was sore. I was sad and distracted and afraid it would wreck what was left of my leg and honestly just could not muster the least little bit of enthusiasm about running at all. But with all the problems with my hip post-SF2HM/18 mile long run two weeks before, I was on the brink of waving the white flag in terms of Santa Rosa, and I knew I needed to at least try to run those twenty miles in order to see if there was any hope of running twenty-six of them two weeks from now.

Oh hey! Haven't had one of these pics in a while. Aren't you
reassured that I still have feet & don't wear the weird toe shoes?

I have never been big on running with music, mainly for safety reasons but also because I've seen the research about running with music being correlated with dissociative running, which is correlated with higher rates of injury & decreased performance. Even so, I do have a running playlist on my phone which serves as a kind of "in-case-of-emergency-break-glass" type of thing. If I absolutely, positively can't get myself out the door any other way, the playlist is my carrot of last resort. This was the second time in eight years I've had to use it.

The plan was simple. I'd start running, see how my hip felt, & go until I felt too ill/too in pain to continue ("Run Vaguer Run Faster (?)"). No worrying about pace. No feeling bad about stopping at traffic lights and water fountains. Just run with good form, for as long as possible, & find out what the leg can take.

Not exactly what it said in my training plan but close enough.

The only way I got through this run was by not thinking about which mile I was on or how many more were left until 20. In fact, I'm pretty sure that if I'd told myself, "We are running twenty miles today come hell or high water and that is FINAL," I would have given up after three because it just seemed so completely impossible. Instead it was more like, "Good job, you ran some miles & aren't broken yet! Maybe run a few more & see what happens?"

I'd even made a deal with myself that instead of running entire loops of the east side of Golden Gate Park which includes two or three big sucky hills, I could just run back and forth along the part without the sucky hills, but that proved too complicated for my brain to deal with. "NO GOING BACK, ONLY FORWARD," it insisted, so forward we went, big hills and all (and I don't know why but I swear they got easier on every lap, probably because eventually my soul just became too numb to notice or care.)

When I'd run 16 miles and was four miles from home, I knew I'd make it. Because I kind of had to, or face the shame of having to call Don & have him put a towel down in the passenger seat. Let's be clear that if I'd had to run by my house at mile 16 and keep going for another four miles, I am not altogether sure I would not have quit. I was keeping up more or less the same easy pace with no problem, but I can only carry six gels at a time & realistically probably needed nine, & that on top of still being kind of sick led I think to a kind of mild bonking that was more mental than physical.

I really can't describe the relief of getting to this moment without any pain in my right leg, and only very occasional & manageable pain in my feet.

(Not that it makes any difference whatsoever, but I'm pretty sure there were some Garmin hijinks in those last two miles. The first & last two are almost always my slowest because they're back in my neighborhood & inevitably involve more weaving in & out of pedestrians/cautiously approaching intersections/slowing to stop at lights/etc., but I don't remember them feeling particularly worse or harder than the few right before and honestly don't think they were THAT slow.)

On the other hand, apparently this is just a thing that happens now:

I don't even feel it anymore. Hooray for nerve damage!!

In case you're interested in what got me through that run (besides a shitte-tonne of emotional apathy), here's my playlist; analyze away.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SRM WEEK 11: Back in Ye Oldene Week of Julye Firste and Twenty.......

Ugh, see the disclaimer / apology at the top of my SFM 2nd Half race report.

My life is not totally back to normal yet, but it's making progress.

At least I have a nice hotel room.

And the view is not too bad.

#seenonmyrun. The last time I was up this way, I was hobbling my way toward the end of 26 extremely wet, windy, exhausting miles.

I can also see it from the shower.

(That counts as blogging, right?)

* * * WEEK 11 * * *
(4 to go)

This week happened so long ago you probably don't even remember what your life was like.

Grand Total: 52.2 miles

    * 6 speed
    * 3 tempo
    * 18.2 long (including 13.1 race)
    * 25 easy


    * 17 miles bike
    * 1.5 hours strength/stretch/roll

Hey, I ran > 50 miles, so that's good, right? Let's go with that!!

Monday: a.m. strength work / afternoon 17 miles bike / p.m. karate

    Another of those nights where my brain kept me up until ~4:00 am for no good reason. Getting up at 6:00 am for strength work was not happening. Instead I slept an extra 3 hours & went to work late.

Tuesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 10 speed (2 wu, 3 x 800m / 200m jog, 20:00 @ goal marathon pace, 3 x 800m hard / 200m jog, 2 cd)

Wednesday: 8 easy

    It was Wednesday so I was reasonably well prepared for this run to suck since that's what Wednesday runs inevitably do, but it still felt like the longest 8 miles I have run in a very, very long time. (I'm sure the unseasonal heat in SF didn't help. But hey, heat training!) I didn't have the massively tight & painful Achilles/lower calves that I usually have mid-week, though, and my recently-injured left Achilles didn't give me any trouble either, so I suppose overall it could have been worse.

Thursday: a.m. strength work / 8 easy

    Another sleepless night. When I was still awake at 5am, it was pretty obvious that getting up at 6am for strength work was out of the question. As was going to work at the regular time, or really working from anywhere other than my living room couch. Seriously, WTF?

    At least my run was good. Not fast, and not particularly easy, but not bad.

Friday: a.m. strength work / p.m. 8 tempo (3.1 wu, 3 @ half marathon pace / 1:00 jog, 1.9 cd)

    Got it done, including some surprisingly good-feeling tempo miles! On the downside, some concerning pain in right hip/adductor/foot, and quads more sore than they've been since finishing my first marathon. ?!?!?!?!

Saturday: 8 easy Rest. I had a feeling that I could do this run or I could do the 18/SF2HM on Sunday, but not both without pushing my right leg too far.

Sunday: 18.2 long (5.1 easy + 13.1 race)

    Not easy, but after (virtually) watching 4 friends become Iron(wo)men at Whistler that day, I do feel a little awkward describing it as any kind of hard. You can read my "race" report here.

Sunday night was when my life started falling apart, not limited to but including my right leg slowly but surely seizing up in the hip/quad/adductor area. Almost right after SF2HM I had to get on a plane to LA, & by the time I got to my hotel that night, I could barely put any weight on it thanks to some really intense pain in my adductor, some stiffness/cramping in my right hip flexor (the one I tore last summer), and some not-quite-as-intense-but-still-achey-and-annoying pain in my right foot.

Never have I been so bummed that a work trip came between me & my previously scheduled Monday appointment with the massage therapist.


Sorry, I am stealing these precious minutes from a grant proposal I'm supposed to be writing. Everyone loves a cliffhanger, right?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Race" Report: San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon

(Please accept my apologies for the lateness of this race report and the recent lack of blogging in general. I have had a crazy, insane week work-wise and also had some tough stuff going on in my family & personally & just haven't had the time or energy for it. I wrote this race report in ten minute snatches over the course of seven days and it took just about all the extra juice I had. But it's done!! Here it is!! Enjoy, and I promise more real posts sometime soon.)

I'd had my eye on a sub-seeded spot at SF2HM for a while (IMHO as someone who lives in SF & runs through Golden Gate Park / through the Haight / Mission / along the Embarcadero nearly every day of my life, it is just too expensive to consider otherwise), but it wasn't until 2013 that the timing worked out. Although I managed to spectacularly injure myself three weeks before race day (BOO), I still had a sub-1:40 half marathon time on the books recent enough to get me the discounted rate for the next year (YAY), so in July 2014, come hell or high water, I was absolutely determined to make it to the start.

Being four weeks out from a marathon, racing it for time was out of the question. I wasn't trained for it & didn't want to sacrifice marathon workouts/mileage in order to taper for & recover from an all-out 13.1 effort, particularly on a course I know (because I run it all the time) not to be all that PR-friendly. But I did have an 18-mile long run scheduled for that Sunday, so I figured I'd just do it at long run pace, tack on an extra five miles somewhere, & call it good.

I went back and forth on how/when/where to do the extra miles, which was tied up with how & when to get to the start. After mentally running through a few different scenarios, I decided the most logistically simple thing would be to run the five miles from my house to the start in Golden Gate Park, run the race, then BART home from the Embarcadero. The downside to this plan was that it meant carrying my drop bag during my pre-race five miles, which I did not think would be that bad, but let me just state for the record: it was, in fact, that bad. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!

Otherwise, it worked out well. I arrived at the start maybe ten minutes before the gun, and although I almost choked when I saw the line for the bag drop, it actually moved really quickly & I don't think I waited more than 3-4 minutes. I was already warmed up & sweaty, so there was none of the usual agonizing over how long can I keep my sweats on & put off checking my bag before I need to strip & warm-up. (Not that it was that chilly; even when I left home at 7:00am, I was pretty comfortable in just a sports bra & shorts. This is called foreshadowing.) I also managed to spontaneously run into reader Tim & say hi, which was cool. (Hi, Tim!)

Somewhere in Golden Gate Park, so literally anywhere between miles one and six.
Unfortunately, I totally misunderstood how the waves were situated. I was assigned to wave 1, so I don't think I can be blamed for locating the wave 1 sign & lining up behind it. Okay sure, there were maybe 20-30 people lined up right at the starting mat, but since there were so few of them I just assumed they were elites/otherwise special people. I didn't realize that those people were in fact wave 1 until the gun for wave 1 went off, they started running, & my corral didn't. After thirty seconds or so of dithering, I kind of went, "I guess I'm supposed to start now..." & awkwardly jaunted off in my own private little wave 1.5.

This wasn't really a big deal considering I would not be running anywhere close to the pace that got me into that wave. The only snafu it caused came at maybe mile 2 (?) when the marathon & half courses split. (Didn't see that coming.) Only because I had started after speedy wave 1 & before reasonably speedy wave 2 had had time to catch up (because believe me, they were going to catch up), I encountered not so much a split but a row of cones with arrows pointing to either side & every other runner in my field of view going to the left. (I'm assuming there were signs specifying that marathoners were to go left and half-ers right, but I was probably too busy panicking about being separated from the herd to see them.)

The miles through the Park were fairly uneventful, & I spent most of it reminding my psychotic runner brain that in spite of the fact that I was surrounded by other runners looking serious & wearing bibs I was not in fact racing & should at no point be doing anything that resembled expending effort. After a while I settled into a good rhythm, though, & just tried to be very strict with myself about never ever running faster than 8:15 at the fastest (at which I was marginally successful).

The Mission? Portrero? The Embercadero? Who tha eff knows. What's really important here is that I almost have abs again.
The suckage began as we exited Golden Gate Park & ran down Haight Street towards the Mission. If you know anything about San Francisco microclimates, you know it is entirely possible to have clear skies, sun, & 75F temps in the Mission while it is 50F & dark & raining sideways in Golden Gate Park. This was at no point more apparent than when we crossed Divisadero Street, the clouds parted, and Lo, that coy mistress that passes for the sun in these parts decided to grace us with her presence.

Her hot, miserable, radiating-off-the-pavement, hydration-sucking, soul-crushing presence.

The last five miles or so are kind of a haze of oven-baked misery. It was at this point that I decided to fully embrace the fact that this was Not A Race for me & started walking through water stations, downing two or three cups & dousing myself with another for good measure. There was precious little shade on this part of the course & when a sliver appeared the entire field gravitated toward it like a Marina girl toward a juice cleanse.

Adding to my growing ugh-just-let-it-end mentality was the fact that I couldn't remember exactly how this part of the course went, only that it would eventually T into 3rd Street & become basically a straight shot to the Embarcadero & the finish, & every time I thought we were headed directly toward 3rd, the route would turn south again & the psychotic runner brain would begin anxiously barking, "We're turning right. WHY are we turning right?? THE FINISH LINE IS THAT WAY, YOU FOOLS!!!"

(Also, course marshals, you are lovely amazing wonderful people and no races would ever happen without you volunteering your time, but PLEASE, help a runner out with two things:

    1) Unless you can see the finish, we are really just not almost there. I know you're trying to help, but.....Don't try to help.

    2) If runners ask you when the next water is, don't tell them it's "Right around the corner" when it is in fact half a mile down the next street after the corner. If you don't know where the water is, just say you don't know. It's cool. We really are dealing with enough at that point without the heartbreaking betrayal of learning the Water Is A Lie.

THX, UR AWSM!!!!!)

With three miles or so to go, I was so, so ready to be done, just because of the heat. At that point I feel like perceived effort is kind of fixed; I was maintaining the same pace with no problem, but to be honest I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have felt any easier even if I'd slowed down. I just wanted water & shade.

With literally about a tenth of a mile to go I heard a familiar voice call my name & turned to see a certain retired blogger coming up behind me, one of the many friends I had hoped & failed to see at the start. We finished together, then kvetched over our free beers about the ridiculous heat & what a giant exhausting time-suck marathon training is.

Thanks to Jen for the sweet pic!

Instead of timing my warm-up & the race separately, I just started my watch at home & kept it running until I hit 18 miles.

It was another .2 or so to the finish, which I estimate I ran in about 2:00 or so.

My official race time was 1:50:14 / ~8:26 pace, which was more or less what I expected. The only thing I don't understand is my first official course split at 1.5 miles, which was recorded as 14:19 / ~9:33 pace and makes absolutely no sense. My Garmin paces for that portion of the race (splits 5-6ish above) were over a minute below that, and even my first super-relaxed warm-up mile was only 9:20. The only thing I can think of is that maybe wave 1 only gets a gun time & not a chip time, so my time started counting while I was standing in corral 2 dithering after the official wave 1 start. Since I wasn't racing my official time is no big deal to me, but I am kind of curious about what the discrepancy could have been.

    Overall: 615/4492
    Women: 180/2437
    A/G: 66/819

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*LOGISTICAL STUFF~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Location: San Francisco, CA

Date: Late July (July 27, 2014 this year)

Price: This seemed simpler than typing it all out:

I think the race weekend prices ended up being irrelevant in the full and halves since they sold out well before then. I don't know what the 5K / ultra race weekend prices were. Like I mentioned before, in my mind these are REALLY steep prices, so I'm not sure I would ever be willing to pay full price for any of these races given that I live here (though I can maybe imagine paying that much for a destination "race-cation" event that I was really excited to run as a kind of one-time experience).

Deadlines/sellout factor: SFM sells out all their races every year. (Not sure if the ultra is selling out at this point.) The first half seems to be the first to fill up, followed by the full, & finally the second half. I think this year it sold out sometime in late June or early July.

Field Size: As noted above there were ~4500 finishers in the 2nd half, ~7200 in the 1st half, ~6600 in the full, ~1600 in the 5K, & some indeterminate number in the ultra.

Expo: I know many people preferred Fort Mason over The Concourse, but I have to say that when I realized that's where the expo was & that I had no choice but to go there on either Friday or Saturday, I just groaned to myself. I mean yes, it's kind of picturesque, I suppose, out on the water with Alcatraz in the background, etc. etc. But really, it's just a big, old, loud, rusty warehouse extremely well-suited to hosting giant drunk fests events like wine & spirits tastings & tech company holiday parties. (Witness the concrete floor, many exits, & easy access to the Bay via railings that may be safely leaned over by even the most incapacitated of Marina girls.)

Also, it is extremely difficult to get to via any method of transit other than private auto (particularly from my neck of the woods), and if you do that you better start praying as soon as you leave home that you can find a parking spot less than a mile away that will cost you less than $47 / hour. I had Don drop me at the corner of Van Ness & Bay & just walked through the park & down the steps to the parking lot while he waited in the car.

My expectations for a race expo are reasonably straightforward. Was the packet/bib/swag table easy to locate & get to? Was the wait time not insane? Were any problems rectified quickly? I'd been a little afraid this expo could be a shit show, so I waited to go until around 4pm, hoping it might be slightly less insane. There were definitely still many people there, but I walked right up to the bib & shirt tables with no wait & got my stuff in less than five minutes.

In terms of vendors/booths/etc., well, if you have ever been to the expo for a reasonably big race, just picture that.

Yes, you had to wind your way through a bunch of them to get to the bibs, but I feel like that's just par for the course & they do have to make some kind of effort to get people to buy stuff. Speaking of buying stuff, YE GODS. If you can imagine it, there is SFM merch of it. And it is NOT CHEAP.

Race Challenges:

One interesting thing that happened on my way through the expo to get my bib was that I passed all the "Challenges" table, one of which had a banner that read "SF/Berkeley Challenge." In general I'm not all that big on medals, particularly not thanks for giving us more money loyalty/series/challenge medals, but since both races were already a done deal & I was there anyway I figured I might as well ask about it. The guy at the table said yes, but I wasn't on his printed list, so another woman said she'd just look up my results in the computer.

Ultimately her response was, "Sure, you qualify, but since you ran SF last year, you should have gotten your challenge medal at Berkeley." I told her I'd been registered but didn't run, and she was like, "Huh. That's weird. You're listed as a finisher." This was pretty funny to me because they apparently totally would have given me the medal at Berkeley just because I paid for both races. Still, she put a special stamp on my bib, & after I picked up my drop bag at the finish I went & grabbed my challenge medal, which is I have to say pretty nice.

If you are into challenge medals/other schwag, SFM is your race. In addition to the SF/Berkeley challenge, there's also...

  • The "'Half' It All" challenge for running the two half marathons in consecutive years (check this one out on Jen's blog)
  • The "San Francisco Originals" challenge for running Bay to Breakers (May), SFM or HM (July), the Giant Race (September), and Bridge to Bridge Run (October).
  • The "California Dreamin'" Cup for running both a Long Beach race and an SFM race.
  • The 52 Club, where runners who run all three of the SFM races in consecutive years receive a logo hoodie.
  • Loyal Runners who have run an SFM race 5 or 10 times since 2001 can receive a special award (I don't know what) at the expo.


Start: I totally fell down on the job & did not take pictures of the 2nd half staging at Spreckels Lake, because I really only had time to drop my bag, deal with a sharp toenail/bloody toe situation (oh yeah did I mention that? Fun times!), suck down a gel, & miss my wave. BUT, especially given how late I rolled up, everything seemed extremely clear & well-organized (except for the part about clarifying whether wave x goes in front of or behind the sign for said wave). UPS trucks with signs indicating bib numbers were parked in a line next to the lake, & all you had to do was toss your bag to the UPS guys. There seemed to be many port-o-potties with reasonably short lines. (I did not use them so can't comment much more than that.) I also know that there were shuttles to take people to the start from the full marathon/1st half start, but again, I didn't use them, so can't comment.

This is why we can't have nice things.
Finish: For me, everything at the finish ran smoothly & was reasonably well-organized, considering the number of people trying to do a billion different things in such a small space. It was easy to grab water, medal, heat blanket, food, etc. as I made my way through the chute, with the beer garden located conveniently at the exit. (Priorities, people.) The beer line was quite long, but it seemed organized, people were very nice & orderly, & I felt like 10 minutes was really not very long to wait in a race with something like 15,000 finishers, plus any non-runners. (Also, Sierra Nevada Hef? Not half bad!)

Unfortunately, I heard later that there were some complaints from folks who finished later that due to people taking more than their fair share of food & drinks, they ran out and there was nothing left for the last group of finishers. I've been at big races before where this happened as well, and I find it absolutely reprehensible. If you really want to see the classiest of the classy, let me direct your attention to the screen shot at right. Apparently this Elise Murphy person took an entire case of coconut water from the finish line & posted it on Instagram.

I mean WTF?? It's completely absurd but if grown-ass adults can't behave like grown-ass adults, I'm afraid that SFM may need to think about stationing a couple of volunteers near the finish line spread in order to ensure that people don't pull this kind of crap in the future. It's just deplorable and incredibly unfair to later finishers, who paid the same entry fee as everybody else.

Sweat Check:

It took some time to locate the UPS trucks with the drop bags, but it was only because they were parked a little ways off to the side & weren't in my immediate field of vision when I left the chute. I walked up to my truck where maybe six people were waiting & a dude literally glanced at my number & handed me my bag in the space of 10 seconds. (Although, there was one couple standing there who said they'd been waiting for over 15 minutes for the woman's bag & why couldn't they get more people looking for it. I think they kind of glared at me when the dude handed me my bag & I guess I kind of can't blame them.)

The lines for the higher number bibs looked much longer so I don't know how long it took those people to get their bags. Even so, there's only so much you can do to streamline a process where people have to go through hundreds of bags by hand looking for one in particular. I think that's just called sweat check. Honestly, this was probably the quickest, most efficient, well-run & well-organized bag drop/sweat check I've ever seen at a big race. (Not that I've ever experienced an awful one, either.) Nice job, SFM.

The Course:

The 2nd half is definitely the less brutal of the two half marathon courses. That said, it is not what you'd call flat and fast. There are several good size hills, along with a few sections of gradual sustained uphill. Between that and the late start (8:15), I wouldn't recommend running this race as a PR attempt if you expect it to be anything like a close thing. Some years it's overcast & cloudy the whole day, but like I said, this year it was sunny & warm on the east side of the city with very little shade, and I'm sure race times reflected that.

I had no issue with any of the water stops/aid stations, but I found out later that there were many complaints this year from runners who finished later (mostly marathoners finishing in the 5-6 hour range, but potentially also those in the 2nd half in the 3+ hour range) that the aid stations ran out of Nuun and some came close to running out of cups for water, with some aid station attendants restricting how much water runners could take and in some cases attempting to physically block them from taking more. I'm sure that this was a result of the warm temps toward the end of the race and the faster 2nd half / mid-pack full runners taking more fluids than they normally would have.

I've never organized a race, so I suppose I could be way off about this, but running out of fluids seems to me like a foreseeable and solvable problem. Yes, SF is often cool and overcast all day in the summer, but everyone knows that those sunny warm ones do occasionally happen, and SFM has been around long enough that I would assume they'd be prepared for the worst case scenario in terms of having fluids/cups on hand. It's just not reasonable to expect any of the runners in a race to restrict their fluid intake on a warm day or (as some people suggested) carry all the fluids they'll need, "just in case." Your race fee pays for those fluids & services, and they should be available. (I mean sure, if you know you're an extreme outlier & are going to need gallons and gallons of fluids to get through the race, that's a different matter. But three or four cups of water at an aid station on a hot day is not unreasonable.)


Ain't gonna lie -- parking in SF is tough. And if you're running one of the halves, you'll need to work out your logistics ahead of time since the start & finish are in different places. (There are shuttles between the different starts & finishes, but your mileage may vary in terms of how long you have to wait to get on one at different points.) There are some public transportation options, though the 1st half & full start early enough that those are probably not viable options for getting there. There's also an option to reserve parking ahead of time via an app called GottaPark, so if you're planning on driving, consider it. Also consider getting someone who loves you a whole, whole lot to drop you at the starts--just be sure to consult the road closures page first.


Finishers receive a massive marathon-worthy medal for the full and a smaller but quite classy medal for the half and a nice long sleeve tech shirt. In past years there have been different shirts for the halves & full, but this year I think it was the same shirt with just different event names on the back. (Update: Thanks to Paulette for pointing out that the half & full shirts were indeed different colors this year!)

Also, free race pictures courtesy of Shutterfly, which was pretty darn sweet.

Super-speedy folks, you might consider competing for an age group award. While yes, the winning times were obviously fast, they're considerably slower than at many major marathons and halves (even considering the difficulty of the courses), so you never know.

Overall Assessment:

None of the SFM races are what you'd call easy, but for such a (relatively) enormous race with so many different events going on, it was extremely well-organized (in my personal experience) and made everything just a breeze for participants. It did really bum me out to hear about the issues at the aid stations & finish for later finishers, and I'm glad to see SFM acknowledging the issues and committing to try to figure out what happened and see what they can do better next time. I don't recall hearing about issues like this in prior years, so I hope this was an isolated case.

I am not psyched about the decision to use Nuun rather than an actual sports drink with actual carbohydrates in it, but since none of these are races I would run for a PR, it's not really that great big of a deal for me personally. I just carried my own gels & drank the water & Nuun & was fine. Like I said, the races are not cheap; I can see sucking up the cost if you do it as a destination race & you're spending a lot of money anyway, but personally it's hard for me as an SF resident to see paying $160-170 for a full or $120 for a half. BUT, if you're somewhere else in the country, want to visit SF & make a race-cation out of it, I can definitely recommend the SFM races as fun, well-run events.