I have done this race three years in a row now! The last 2 years I ran a PR, but I knew that would be a stretch this year. Reasons why:
- The longer you are doing races, the more difficult it is going to be to PR as you improve.
- You cannot PR every race (generally). You go through seasons in running like in life and it likely isn’t going to be beneficially for your long term running to expect constant improvement for every distance.
- The first year I was still very new to running, and making beginner jumps in improvements. You can read that year’s recap here (but no judgments, I was very new to blogging haha!).
- Last year I was training for a 3:15 marathon (which did not happen) this year I am training for a sub-3:29 marathon. (You can read last year’s recap here).
Before this race my coach had originally put it down as a workout. Run 2 warm up miles, then do the race – first 8 miles at goal marathon pace, last 5 miles cutting down to finish strong, run 5 miles after the race to finish a 20 mile day. I asked her if it was stupid to try and PR. She said that it wasn’t stupid, but it could be tough because my legs are not tapered at all. This is the highest mileage I’ve been running for any of my marathons. So that may make it tough. With that in mind, I decided to try anyway. I would need to run faster than 1:38:57, so around a 7:25 mile. I fully knew this could mean I could blow up and was ok with taking that risk!
When race morning came around, I got up at 4:30, had coffee and an English muffin with peanut butter and banana, and took Bennie The Dog for a walk. I left to head down to the course at around 5:45. I had two warm up miles to run before the race started, and I wanted plenty of time to stand in the lovely bathroom lines. I thought about running the 2 miles to the start line, but it would have been 2 miles of a pretty steep decline, and sometimes running downhill makes my quads just as tired as running uphill! So I decided to baby my legs and took a Lyft to the start line. I ran a mile away from the start line and a mile back along the flat Embarcadero.
I finished with about a half hour to race time and this left me exactly 30 minutes for a bathroom line. I was able to use the bathroom just in time to dart into my start corral.
As the horn went off I set out feeling VERY good. I made sure not to go any faster than 7:30 for the first mile though, knowing I was testing my limits.
The first mile felt solid and not too challenging, so I carefully started working on 7:25s, taking care not to push too hard on the uphills. Miles 4 and 5 had some smaller hills, so I pulled back a bit, maintaining the same effort level, but decreasing the pace – if that makes sense.
As we came off the hills and ran along through Chrissy field, I was still feeling good, but having to work. I was having some pretty intense stomach cramps which is very unusual for me. I am lucky to have a tough gut, so I am not sure what that was about. I took my first gel at mile 3 of the race, mile 5 of the day. I didn’t feel like I needed it, but I know when I run 20 miles that I generally need gels more often. It was hard to take it down when my stomach was hurting that much.
At mile 7 I noticed the sun was high in the sky and bright. Thanks, San Francisco. Solid FOGust in August until it is time for race day, then its 75 – which is hot for the city. I noticed how hot I was and THIRSTY. Why were there no water stops? Seriously considered asking a group of cheerleaders that were cheering the course for a water bottle. There were a ton of water stops on the way out to Chrissy field, but none on the way back.
By mile 8 I should have been taking another gel, but my stomach wasn’t feeling it. I waited until mile 9.5 when there was some water, took a gulp of the gel (about half) and washed it down with water before tossing it. Mile 10 was when I sort of blew up. I just couldn’t get my legs to keep turning over at the rate they had been. Seeing people passing me that I had stayed ahead of the rest of the race made me really frustrated. Then I started losing focus and beating myself up for being stupid and trying to PR.
I decided to use that opportunity to practice getting refocused and to stop thinking negative thoughts. It didn’t help my time much, but it was good practice. I was also determined not to feel sorry for myself.
The last few miles of the race are going back up along the Embarcadero, and you have to get through the crowds of folks doing the 5k and 10k who are usually walking. The race had tried to designate cone-areas for walkers and runners, but it didn’t really work. I know it frustrates runners who are running extra miles and minutes dodging, and I also know it frustrates walkers and families who are out doing this race at a different pace and trying to get mowed down by runners. I worked very hard and not side swiping anyone and being gracious when going past groups that were walking. After all, we are all out there working toward the same thing.
As you can see, I added a bit of distance over the .1 mile – believe me, if you are running a race, it DOES feel like a big difference lol!!
I am disappointed I haven’t been able to PR in a year. It is really frustrating. I want to feel fast again!! After the Chicago marathon last year I feel like I just haven’t gotten my groove back. But I also feel like I’m getting closer to getting said groove back, and that is a good thing. I am proud of myself for taking a risk. If I hadn’t of tried, I wouldn’t have known. And I felt GREAT for those first 8-9 miles. Even with the stomach cramps. Additionally, I am not training to PR in the half marathon right now. I am training for the marathon.
In the words of my coach:
“I know this wasn’t exactly what we had planned, but at the end of the day, I am really, really impressed with your guts and determination. That is the hardest way to run a race, going out hard and hanging on for dear life and it really does force you to question why you are out there.”
After I finished I met up with Gregg, who is always the best time and knows how to put a smile on anyone’s face. I drank a mini chocolate milk while I waited for him and it gave me life.
Let me tell you, running 5 miles after that race was the absolute LAST thing I wanted to do. I really thought about calling it a day. But I am no quitter. Possibly the only reason I am any good at running races at all is because I show up and grind it out, day in and day out. I was still feeling that burning disappointment of not getting my goal time, but I decided that skipping the last 5 miles and going straight home to drink wine at 10:15am wouldn’t make me feel better – at least not in the long run.
And so I balled up my medal in my hand and ran 1 mile with Gregg, where he peeled off and I continued on for 4 more. I decided to run on the sidewalk, just off the course, and cheer on everyone that was out there finishing. I shouted, I gave high fives to everyone who would acknowledge the crazy woman STILL RUNNING even though she had a finisher medal in one sweaty fist, and I thanked the police officers and volunteers still out on the course for being there. By the time I was finished, I was exhausted. And I would have done just about anything for a Diet Coke. So naturally I finished my final 5 miles at a grocery store.
Or Coke Zero. Whatever – still, nothing has ever tasted so good. Except the champagne that I had later that afternoon 🙂
All in all, a 20.25 mile day and a good learning experience. Running always has lots of surprises for us, doesn’t it? I do really like doing a race as a part of a long run as it really helps break up the miles.
Have you done a race as part of a long run?
Do you have any stories of blowing up by going out too fast – on purpose?