You Only Have ONE First Marathon – The San Francisco Marathon 2015

Bear with me people. This post will be LONG and most likely emotional at points because well..this experience was overwhelmingly amazing…and I am starting this while sitting in the airport with some wine and ample time before my flight.

The San Francisco Marathon.

imageI am so grateful to have been able to fully complete this after dropping down to the half marathon last year due to an injury.  Last year, I felt like I was the only person running the half marathon, I remember feeling a bit embarrassed.  It seemed like I was the only person in the crowd with a half marathon bib while every around me was sporting a Full Marathon bib.  Now, here I was. Round two and FINALLY sporting the Full Marathon bib. My first full marathon bib!

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My nerves didn’t start kicking in until the day before.  I woke up early and made my way to the  shakeout run organized by Dean Karnazes.  The run overlooked the Golden Gate Bridge and I just started took in the scenery, chatted with other runners and did just about everything I could to not let my nerves take over.  It felt great to get my legs moving again after a couple of days of rest.  I tried not to over-stress but of course, every little bit of soreness or twinge immediately set nerves through my body.  They were somewhat alleviated when I was chatting with a runner on the bus and he refered to this sense of over awareness using a specific term (I wish I could remember because it was spot on).  I guess I am one of MANY runners that get super paranoid and borderline in a hypochondriac state of mind in the final days leading up to the race.

After the shakeout run, I so badly wanted to hit up the local Acai cafe  because I have been obsessed with making them back at home.  My world was totally rocked when I saw they come in QUART size.  Why yes, I would absolutely love an Acai bowl the size of my head!

imageIt was probably one of the greatest things I have ever tasted.  So much so, that after running 26.2 miles, I decided it would be a great idea to walk a mile to the cafe and get another one.  People in line started congratulating me when they saw my medal (even let me cut the line a bit!) and asked if the race was hard.  My response (still out of breath from the hilly walk) was “The walk here was harder”.  Ha.

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Quart sized Acai bowl…This time with some bling🙂

Alright, so about this 26.2 thing that I should be talking about.  Oh my.  It was the most memorable, rewarding, and fun experiences I have ever had.  Yes, I was nervous but deep down, I knew I was ready.  I set out my race outfit and fuel the night before.  I wasn’t sure how much fuel I was going to need/be able to fit in my bra since I have only trained with one Vega gel.  I managed to comfortably tuck 2 Vega Gels and a small sample sized Jelly Bean pack in my sports bra.  I am still not sure how it all fit but I do know that when I was standing in line for the Porta Potties chatting with another runner, she asked what “Vega Gel” was and I said, “I would love to show you but right now they are carefully placed in random cracks and spaces in my chest”..which then caused the male behind us to laugh and from then on it became a wonderful group chat that helped pass time while waiting 😉 …and certainly helped tame the nerves.

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After the bathroom, I made it to Wave 4 in time and was ready to rock!

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 I knew I had the potential to be in a higher wave but I also understood that having zero marathons under my belt gives me no right to dictate which wave I am in.  However, I was disappointed because the 3:35 pacers that I wanted to stick with from the beginning were in Wave 2.  Looking back now, despite some frustrating moments of trying to pass people in tight areas, starting further back provided some great confidence boosters throughout the race.  I ended up catching to the 3:45 pacers at Mile 14.  They told me that if I started in wave 4 then I was technically at a 3:35 pace and when I passed the 3:35 pacers at mile 20, I was elated. I was hitting a roughly 3:25 pace!

The first few miles were along Embarcadero and passed Fisherman Wharf.  I had a great view of Alcatraz and allowed myself to focus solely on taking in the scenery.  I self-talked A LOT throughout the race. The first couple of miles were, “It is happening, I am finally doing it!“.  I actually had to stop because there were moments where I started to tear up.  The excitement of starting this adventure was so exciting and overwhelming..in a good way!  As we were approaching the Golden Gate around mile 3 and 4 we hit some pretty solid hills.  Hills do not intimidate me, in fact, they are my confidence boosters.  I am not the typical skinny, no-body fat type runner.  I am a strong and built runner.  I always feel my strength helps me prevail when it comes to wind and hills so whenever I hit a hill, I tell myself that this is where I get the advantage over those skinny mini runners 🙂

Arriving at the Golden Gate Bridge was breath-taking.  It was  tight and the people in front of me were moving slower than I wanted but I did my best to pass without knocking someone off the bridge 😉  I could tell I was getting frustrated and had to remind myself that these are the moments you don’t get back.  Do I really want to look back at the most memorable view of the race and think that I let it go because I was fixated on an opening in front of me rather than the scenery around me.  No.  

There were many times I wanted to stop and take a picture of the scenery but I knew that my taking pictures-while-running skills are horrible and my phone was probably drowning in sweat in my bra.  I almost asked those around me taking pictures to send them to me (and move a little faster) but I don’t think exchanging numbers mid-race is helpful when trying to get a BQ time…and it is probably not very normal.

I had a Vega Gel around mile 7 as we were making the turn to go back over the bridge.  There were some nice downhills after the bridge and before I knew it, mile 11 was approaching.  “15 miles left, that’s not too bad.  I remember the week before my 20 miler, my 15 mile training run was scaling back, it was supposed to be a casual easy distance run. So, I said to myself, I have a casual easy distance left.  I can handle that.

As we were approaching mile 13, the half-marathoners started breaking off.  It took me back to last year where I felt a little ashamed that I was breaking off and was almost done while those around me still had 13.1 more miles to go.  Reliving that feeling and knowing that this time I was not one of those breaking off gave me a surge of energy.

Miles 14-18 were pretty quiet as we ran through Golden Gate park.  I quickly used the bathroom at Mile 16 to ease my stomach a bit but for the most part, I had no GI issues throughout the race.  That was a huge a concern of mine because I had not trained using this much water, gels and electrolyte drinks.

Prior to the race, I googled information about the course and read that Mile 19-20 has a terrible down hill.  Down hills are not my favorite.  They have a tendency to beat up my knees, so much so that I actually run them backwards.  Yes, miles 19.5-20 were run backwards.  I am pretty sure spectators thought I was crazy and the person in back of me definitely thought I was weird as we ran face to face down the hill. But Hey, whatever works.  I didn’t trip and I my knees felt no pain so in my opinion, it was a brilliant strategy.

When mile 20 approached, everything felt so real.  This was the point where people hit the wall and here I was, feeling great. Many people said that miles 20-26 are all mental.  I was ready prove my mental strength and make these final 6 miles nothing but strength and positivity.  I thought about my 6 miler in Ithaca a couple of weeks ago.  The hills were brutal and my legs were sore from the start.  Mel, you managed to get through those 6 miles feeling terrible from the start, you can get through this!  This is nothing. And it was.  Thrill and excitement carried me through those final 6.  With each mile that passed by, I knew I had it.  5 more, 4 more, 3 more, 2 more..each mile followed by the biggest smile.  When mile 25 hit, I was ready to go.  I turned to those around me and said “ONE MORE GUYS!’…they may have thought I was crazy but sometimes encouraging the  person next to me helps encourage me.

 MILE 26. Solid excitement. And of course the saddest and slowest song on my Pandora decided to come on.  I saw the finish line and kicked it in with everything I had..and with the biggest fricken smile on.  Which stayed on my face for quite some time…

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The guy on the ground behind me cracks me up…Doesn’t seem to be on my level.

I still wasn’t exactly sure of my time when I finished because I started in Wave 4 – about 22 minutes after the first wave.  I saw 3:48 when I crossed the line so I figured I was around 3:30.  Finally I saw the results, 3:26!  Boston Marathon 2016 – I am coming for you! 

I have done many things in my life but this was definitely one of the greatest moments I have ever experienced.  I know this is not my last marathon but I also know that not every marathon will be enjoyable and painless as this. I hope that with each marathon I run in the future, I shed some time off but never forget that a marathon is an amazing accomplishment in itself.  In all my past races, I come in a with a competitive edge and fixate on my time and my place.  For the first time in my racing career, I was able to put that aside and just run the miles for me and not for proving my time or place to anyone.  Of course I had a BQ time in mind but other than that, I genuinely did not care about place/time/splits.  Covering 26.2 was gratifying enough.  This distance grew on me.  It feels so refreshing to race for fun and not for proving my speed to others.  With all my past half marathons, 10k, or 5k – I can tell myself a million times that I will not focus on my time and just enjoy the race but I just can’t seem to fully commit to my words – I do care. For the first time, I didn’t care.  I was just happy to be out there living out a dream I have had for years.  

I don’t know what is ahead for me, but I do know that you only have ONE first marathon and I could not have asked for a better first.

A HUGE ‘Thank You’ to everyone for their support.  I saw and read each message and was overwhelmed with gratitude.  I can’t thank you all enough!

You are all so amazing. 

Hello from San Francisco!

Hello from San Francisco!

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As the race gets closer (2 days!!), I find myself more and more excited. I thought I would be super nervous, anxious and a bit stressed but surprisingly I am the exact opposite (for now!) I feel confident, calm and ready to tackle this challenge. The training is done, the work has been put it and at this point all I can do is mentally prepare myself by staying confident, excited and…

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GRATEFUL!

I don’t know what Sunday has in store for me but I do know that I already feel like a winner. Ever since last year’s race where I ended up dropping to the half marathon due to an injury, I have wanted to come back to ‘finish what I started’..and who can pass up a vacation with your best friend from college. Once it was definite my best friend from college was going to be working in San Francisco the same week as the race, I was sold. I had to go back and spend a nice vacation with her and tackle this race injury free and in its entirety.

However, I certainly had my doubts even though my body was healthy and strong.  When I logged on to register, I played around with the idea of just sticking with the half marathon because I truly felt that even if I did register for the marathon, I would just end up switching back over to the half simply because I was scared. I was scared of those high mileage runs in marathon training. I don’t know what it was about the thought of them that just made me scared and convinced I was incapable of doing them. I ended up fighting my first fear and registered for the full. My game plan was to just continue my training after the Boston Run to Remember Half Marathon at the end of May. However, I took a wee off from running after the race and focused on Crossfit. I had a 14 miler planned for the weekend after the race but I wasn’t mentally ready to get back to running. Once I skipped that 14 miler, the mental game really hit hard. I was convinced this whole marathon thing wasn’t going to happen. Not only was I already feeling defeated by the fear of those long runs but I was already bailing out on my first real long run of official marathon training.

8 weeks later from that Sunday that I skipped my 14 miler and was convinced the marathon was not going to happen, I am in San Francisco ready to take on the big 26.2.  So yes, I already feel like a winner before even making it to the start line simply because I conquered my biggest of this whole thing…the training.

Having competed in sports and races all my life, I have accomplished many things I am proud of, but accomplishing this training is definitely one of the biggest accomplishments of them all. I really owe it to a couple amazing females at my Crossfit box. I watched in amazement as they trained for the Boston marathon this past winter. They ran long runs on treadmills, on snowy roads and in the bitter cold weather. I just couldn’t believe it. Not only did 16 miles sounds like a scary and unfamiliar number to me, but IN THE SNOW or ON A TREADMILL! That’s like another level of fear right there. I was just so amazed. Every week I was utterly impressed andI admired what they were doing. When they ran Boston, I was proud but mostly jealous! They were achieving something that I so badly wanted to achieve. When I talked to them a couple days after the race they just kept saying, “Trust me Mel, you can do it!.” The more they said it, the more I believed it. And finally I was able to say it too – you’re right, I can do this. I can’t thank them enough for that and I truly believe that their support from the beginning is what allowed me to conquer my fear and is why I am doing this.

..I think this whole taper thing is also getting me excited for the race. Hell, I just want to workout! Taper week will forever the hardest training week for me. I am someone who just loves to workout and exercise. Whether it be the adrenaline from Crossfit, the relaxation from yoga or the ability to just think and sweat on a long run…exercise is my way of keeping me relaxed and stress free. Of course there are bad workouts that just fuel frustration and stress but good or bad, there is no better feeling than finishing up a workout.

Saturday was my last Crossfit workout before the marathon, Sunday I did a 10 miler and so far while I have been in San Francisco, I did a beautiful shakeout run along the pier..

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..and some great yoga classes!

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I wholeheartedly believe in the taper process and I know my body will be thankful for doing it come Sunday, but it’s no easy task!

On the plus side of this tapering, I get to relax and just enjoy my beautiful surroundings here in San Francisco!

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Off to the Expo!  Everyone have a great day 🙂

Wegmans, Wineries, and Beautiful Runs…Ithaca Done Right!

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I don’t have this beautiful like I did for my last blog post that I finished while I was in Ithaca, but I do have some wonderful memories and a few ton of pictures to show you all.

My legs were extremely sore on Thursday and the weather was rainy and cloudy so us girls declared Thursday as ‘Wegmans and Winery Day’..everyday should be declared that.  If any of you live near a Wegmans, 1.) you must find it strange that Wegmans is our morning excitement and 2.) YOU ARE LUCKY.  That store is amazing.

Once we hit up/spent an hour touring Wegmans, we began our wine tour!  The first Winery really set the bar high.  They paired every wine with a certain food (dark chocolate, peanut butter, tortilla chips…).  $4 for wine and dark chocolate..yes please!  As if that wasn’t enough, they also had a ton of salsas, butters, hot sauces, and olive oils to sample…

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I may have needed about 4 samples of that Banana Butter to help recover from the Ghost Chili Salsa!

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…I’ll take that in my kitchen, please!

There was only one way to end this perfect rainy day in Ithaca..

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Oh Yes. Boggle!  I take it very seriously and do not take losing very well…good thing I didn’t 😉

My legs felt much better on Friday so I set out for a long run before a fun-filled beach day.

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Nothing like tackling the hilly Ithaca roads to prepare for the San Francisco terrain!  Despite the hills, I never have a bad run in Ithaca.  The view is spectacular and you can’t help but reflect on the wonderful things in life.  I couldn’t help but just feel so lucky.  I am so thankful for the ability to run, to be going to San Francisco to run my first marathon in 10 days, and to have such amazing  people in my life.

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This place is just so beautiful.

We had plans to be on the road to Buffalo for a graduation party by 11 so I had just enough time to get in 6 quick miles as well as some strength.  At the end of my 6 miles, I found en empty parking lot and did a short WOD.  10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1  of Push ups, squats and pistols.  The even numbers were pistols and the odd numbers were double squats. (10 push ups, 10 pistols, then 9 push ups 18 squats, then 8 push-ups 8 pistols, 7 push-ups, 14 squats..make sense?)

Fast forward to Tuesday when my mom and I went back and forth debating whether we should sign up for the Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge again..

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..all it took is one look at these pictures from this past year’s challenge to remind myself how amazing this experience is and how unfortunate it would be to pass up another week of memories with my mom.  You never know what the future holds and how long we will be able to do races together so might as well take advantage of the time we have and sign up!

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Easier said then done….I got in a short run and rushed back for 11:45 to get everything set up ready for registration to open at noon.  Despite my efforts, the website crashed at right at noon and everything looked like this..wonderful!

45 minutes later..

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WE ARE IN!! 5k on Friday, 10k Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday

Lastly, I can’t end the blog post without a little recap on what’s been happening on the food front.  While at Wegmans, I picked up an awesome curry sauce that I used to simmer my shrimp in which was then paired perfectly with the Edamame Pasta and melted almond cheese…and my new Pasta White wine that I picked up on my wine tour 🙂

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I also recently found Purely Elizabeth granola +  puffed rice cereal at Whole Foods.

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It adds the perfect crunch to my yogurt and blueberries and has become one of my new favorite breakfast options or  pre-workout snack.

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I have been a fan of the Hope Hummus brand for a while now because of the variety of flavors they offer and their healthy ingredients.  This week I broke away from my favorite Thai Curry flavor I decided to try Jalepeno Cilantro…

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Another great choice!  Nothing like a little spicy kick to add to your snacking..

This last picture actually has a great story behind it. I made Rice Krispie treats for a July 4th party and saved a few for a special someone.  Well last week I got this…”Can you make more breakfast bars  Those were delicious!”….”You mean the Rice Krispie treats that I saved and you randomly ate for breakfast?” I guess I was not aware that if something has cereal in it, then it constitutes as a ‘breakfast bar’! Oops, ha ha.  Lets just say, I don’t see myself adopting that motto anytime soon so I decided to make REAL breakfast bars.  I used the Biscotti recipe from Running On Veggies..

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They were approved!..and were much easier to make than sticky Rice Krispie treats so it was a double WIN 🙂

That is it for now! Enjoy the rest of the week 🙂

IT’S TAPER TIME!!

…..yes, yes it is!  My long-runs are done and now I can go back to focusing on Crossfit and not have to worry about tiring my legs for the long run.  Deep down, that is what I am thinking but I know that this is the time where I need to be the most careful.  I have put in the effort, I have conquered the 20 21 miler and now it is the time where I need to give my body the proper care that it needs and the chance to recover so that come July 26th, I am ready to race strong..and smart!

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Someone please pinch me!  I am still on cloud nine… I just can’t believe I did this and I can’t believe how enjoyable it was.  I ran the first 12 miles alone on the roads and at mile 12, I entered a reservoir to do the final 8 with my mom and a member of my running team.  My running partner was just starting her run  so she was ready to get moving..and by ready to get moving, I mean she certainly set a strong pace.  There were moments where I wasn’t sure I would be able to hold the pace but I did!

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..pretty much!

She was such a great running partner and it was so nice to have someone to distract me from the miles.  Once I start running with someone, my ear buds get tucked away into my bra and I no longer can hear my lovely Nike App girl telling me my miles and my splits.  It is definitely a nice to break away from concentrating on the miles but eventually I get curious.  A couple of times I asked my mom and my running buddy what mile they were on and then calculated what mine would then be.  I must make myself look real good when I ask what mile I am on in the midst of one of the most important training runs 😉  We finished the run at my running partner’s car a little past 2o miles.  I was going to have her drive me home but I knew I had a little more left in the tank and being so close to home, I decided to finish this awesome run strong and ran home! I actually arrived at my driveway at mile 20.87. No way was I going to end there! I turned around, ran the end of my street and back just so I could hear that Nike lady say those two beautiful numbers..2-1 miles!!! She has never sounded so beautiful 😉

I had a solid 45 minutes to relax and get my stomach back to feeling OK before heading to a day full of 4th of July parties.  I tried to hydrate as much as possible prior to leaving so I wouldn’t feel dehydrated and nauseous later.  Lets just say, BBQ food, chips and lots of sitting and talking is NOT proper race recovery.  By the end of the night, my legs were screaming in pain and everything felt swollen.  I even experienced some mid-conversation hip flexor cramps…nothing like gasping for air and grabbing your hip while someone is telling some important story…

I felt a little better on Sunday morning but my right knee was in a bit of pain.  I learned from an injury last year that knee pain is often a result of tight hips, hamstrings, or quads which then tugs on the knee.  Yoga was definitely in my Sunday morning game plan along with this bowl of blended berries.

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There is nothing I needed more after a 21 miler followed by lots of 4th of July junk food than a good stretch at yoga and detoxifying fruit bowl.

During yoga, it was clear that my right knee pain was due to an extremely tight right hip.  Any position that stretched the hip flexors is where I experienced the most pain but thankfully those were the positions that loosened them up and I walked out of Yoga with a much better feeling in my knee.

Lets talk food because since being on summer vacation, I have had time to whip up some pretty delicious dinners around here..but clearly still not enough time to post more blog posts! oops.

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If you are craving pasta but do not want all the gluten or carbs…this is definitely the way to go.  I think it even tastes better than pasta!  1 serving is 1/4 of the fairly large batch and has 20 grams of carbs and 25 grams of proteins.  We are also a fan of the Black bean pasta.  We made a homemade tomato sauce with onions, mushroom and basil with some shrimp.

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It made another appearance later in the week with chicken and brussels sprouts.  This time no sauce, just sprinkled swiss cheese and nutritional yeast.  I am telling you, this pasta is the way to go.  It is so delicious just plain or you can jazz it up with various marinara sauces or avocado sauces.

Last Wednesday I came home from a farm stand with LOTS of Parsley and the last time I did that, it sat in my fridge and rotted.  This time around I knew I had to use it ASAP so the first thing that came to mind was GUACAMOLE.  I used Running on Veggies guacamole recipe that uses a cup of mashed peas.  It is perfect.  You double the volume with less that fat and more vegetables and you can’t even taste the peas.

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Guacamole is not a main course, though it should be!…so I decided to pair the guacamole with some homemade Fajitas using crockpot shredded chicken.

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Easiest meal right here!  Just chicken, salsa, bone broth, carrots, onions and parsley..set the crockpot for a few hours and boom..delicious shredded chicken.

I am currently finishing up this blog post with a nice coffee in my hand overlooking Cayuga Lake in Ithaca.  It is not time to fish a bit and then hit some wineries.  I planned on getting in a nice run around the lake today but my legs are recovering from yesterday morning’s Crossfit WOD…

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This was definitely one of those workouts where you are just fighting to hang on.  The humidity certainly didn’t help..I think I am still trying to catch my breath 24 hours later.  Despite the pain and exhaustion, after 26 minutes of work, I made the Crossfit Board for fastest time!  My 12 mile run around Ithaca will be postponed until tomorrow so I can tackle the hills with rested legs 🙂