San Francisco Marathon Race Recap

Here we go…let’s tackle this race recap and all the feels in Marathon #4!

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My last post was a bit of a pity party and maybe very dramatic as I reflected back on my panicked reactions to the issues I faced before the race.   I would say that this post will be less dramatic but this marathon was an emotional roller coaster so I can’t make any promises!

Lets talk logistics –  the race was very organized and transportation to the race was readily available.  Ubers and taxis were easy to get (even at 4:30 in the morning) and were able to drop off really close to the start line.  There were a sufficient amount of porta-potties and lines were quick and easy.  Getting to the corrale was also easy and signs were clearly labeled.

I stuck my throw-away shirt up in a tree because it actually wasn’t meant to be a throw away…. it was just the cheapest of my nice running shirts that I had in my suitcase, haha. My hiding skills were on point because it was still nestled in the tree after the race! Except this time my legs were not really able to jump and get it so I needed help. haha.

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Going into the race, I was confident with how my long runs were going and was not sure how the race would play out.  My training was nothing like Boston seeing as I decided to run the race 5 weeks before the race date so the idea of getting a PR didn’t seem logical.  However, a part of me felt that maybe the Boston heat impacted my performance even though I did not feel it directly affecting my performance while I was running. I doubt/hope that made sense.  I was very interested to see if my Boston training was still with me and with the additional training and good weather conditions, I could pull off a sub 3:15.  So I guess you could say, I had some goals but no expectations….Basically – My goals were high and were going to be a challenge but I was willing to take the risk because I had nothing to lose and no expectations to uphold. 

The hills.  Yes, I am aware San Francisco is known for their hills but for some reason, I didn’t recall it being that hilly last year.  In hindsight…THAT’S BECAUSE I WAS CHASING A SUB 3:30 AND NOT A SUB 3:15! **Note to self – a 30 second pace difference really amplifies everything.

Now that that’s out there, let’s move forward.  I spotted the 3:15 pacer in my Wave and made a decision – that I still do not regret – to stay with the pacer.  With such a stressful morning, I can’t tell you how relaxing it was to stay with the pacer and let him do the thinking.  My only task was to stay relaxed, keep my mind at ease and move my feet.  I did not have to worry about going too fast or too slow because that was his job.

However, (here is my dramatic line) – the one downfall with a pacer is that it is easy to feel like a goal is slipping away if the pacer gets ahead of you and that can cause some unnecessary stress at random points.  But I guess that is the same as clocking a shocking time on your Garmin ..I wouldn’t know because mine was broken in my bra 😉 haha.  Aside from that one downfall, the pacer was my savior and being with him was the most relaxing part of the day.  For the first time all morning, I did not have to think or worry.  I just had to do what I came there to do…run.

The pace felt great and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge (twice) was a scene to take in.  At mile 9/10 I saw Meredith and Jewel starting their trek over the bridge as I was coming off of it.  I gave them the biggest smile and wave.  At the moment I was the on Cloud 9 and just so genuinely happy.  I was amped up after seeing a familiar and cute face and the pace felt so comfortable even being a little ahead of the pacer.  I remembered saying to myself, “you can do this pace for another 16 miles Mel, this is your pace!”….andddd then we encountered the never ending ups and downs.  The first few climbs I was able to stick with the pacer and remained calm but around mile 13/14 my stomach was not happy with my decision to eat a late dinner.  I pushed that thought to the side, choked down Gu’s…which is totally not my style.  I am probably the only person on the course who just can’t wait for that lovely taste of sugary chocolate to hit my mouth and give me that spike in energy.  But in this case, I just didn’t want any Gu’s and I knew that with each Gu it was making the bathroom look more like a necessity rather than a choice.  (TMI for those non-runners or more proper runners who find this absolutely grotesque)  I started falling more and more behind the 3:15 pacer so when I spotted a bathroom at mile 16ish, I took the hit and said goodbye to my 3:15. I am sure it tacked on at least a minute but I felt physically better and was emotionally recharged despite being a little bummed.

Miles 16-20 were a manageable struggle but I was certainly fighting doubts.  I had to remind myself countless times that I was struggling at Mile 17 at Boston and still put up a good fight and a good time.

Miles 20-26…these miles never feel good but they felt exceptionally terrible this time around.  Approaching mile 20, I couldn’t help but think this was “the wall”.  People talk about hitting the wall and I don’t think I ever really knew what that meant and how that felt because as I said earlier, these miles are not supposed to feel good.  It was 6 miles of repeated doubt followed by positive self talk.  I had to keep chipping away at the distance, one foot in front of the other. I knew I wasn’t going to quit but there were moments I just wanted to.  I remember just stopping around mile 24 for about 5 seconds to shake out my legs but it had nothing to do with my legs.  I needed to mentally regroup.  At mile 25 I tried to push, I wanted to finish strong and I did not want to get passed by any more females.  When I saw the finish line, I was pushing to get there but also fighting tears.  I saw my friend screaming in the crowd and I used that to fuel my final kick. When I saw my time, I was shocked impressed.  I thought I was hovering around 3:25 s0 3:19 was a blessing!  But all I could do was let out a burst of tears at the finish.  I am not much of a crier and I was not disappointed with my time so I still have not been able to process why I lost it at the finish.  The only reason I can come to is that for the last 8 miles I was fighting away those negative thoughts…You know when you bottle up a cry session and then all it takes is something so irrelevant and small to cause you to break and let it go..and when you do you feel 100 times better?  That was this.  I spent 8 miles/over an hour bottling up emotions because I knew that breaking down would just waste energy and do no good.  I fought the tears away and when the finish line came I was finally able to let it out.  Yup.  Dramatic.  But thats the marathon for you.  They don’t call it 90% mental and 10% physical for no reason so I here was 90% of mental craziness! 🙂

So…..

Did I hit the wall or was I just experiencing those dreadful last miles of a marathon?  

I didn’t think I hit the wall at Boston but the final 6 miles were a real struggle so why was this struggle worse?

I think I finally have come to conclusion and can put this to rest.  The crowds and the people.  

In Philly I had Bethany by my side for almost the entire race.  Together we helped each other fight the mental battle.  Just knowing you are not alone is, in fact, extremely empowering.  I needed Bethany and she needed me so we put out own struggles aside and focused on pushing for the other person.

 In Boston, I was struggling but the crowds and seeing my friends helped me pull through.  The energy from the crowd injects you with the motivation and confidence that you would otherwise need to muster up yourself..which can be emotionally draining and add to your already fatigued state.

 In both races, I had others to help me with that 90% mental game.  In San Francisco, that 90% fell on me.  There were not many spectators and no one along the course to help me regroup, I had to stop for a second to help myself regroup.  With Bethany by my side and the crowds in Boston, stopping was never an option. 


Despite all the complaining, this race was HUGE for me. I was reminded of the importance of those final pre-race preparation details.  I realized that my mental game needs to be a little stronger but even being fairly weak, I can still persevere.  Most importantly, I learned that a 3:15 is entirely feasible.

The bathroom stop and some moments of psyching myself out were pretty evident with those over 8 paces but I am extremely confident that those errors and tacked on time can be eliminated and lessons to be learned moving forward!

I still love this distance 🙂

SF Marathon Weekend/Expo

Marathon weekend has come and gone but 3 days can feel like a week when it is filled with making memories with new and old friends and running 26.2 miles.  I planned/started to write this post as one big race recap but as I got writing, I realized that the race itself needs to be separate because this race was a lot different from my other marathons and I have a lot to emotionally and physically reflect on.

So lets recap the weekend…

For being such a ‘chill’ city, the trip did not start very ‘chill’.  I left Massachusetts at 4:45 pm and faced some layovers and delays causing me to arrive in San Francisco at 11:30 (2:30am EST)  By the time I got my bag, found the Shuttle and dropped everyone else in the shuttle off, I made it to the apartment at 1:30am (4:30am EST).  I dove onto the air mattress and tried to be happy and relaxed that I was finally in bed but really I was just overtired and anxious over the fact that I was going to bed so late.  I finally was able to fall asleep and to my surprise, was not even phased by the time difference because I woke up at 8am on Friday morning.  I was refreshed and ready to start the weekend.  I found a super cute, plant-based cafe that became my daily go-to cafe for just hanging out.  I ordered avocado and chimichurri toast on GF chia bread and almond butter and chia jam on a seedy bread.  It was the perfect way to start the day and kill some time before the Expo opened.

The San Francisco Marathon was and still is my favorite Expo to date.  They have such great booths….and by great booths I mean they give great samples.  BUT this year they outdid themselves with the Normatec recovery booth.  I have been eyeing the Normatec recovery system for many months but the $1,5oo price tag is just not in my price range.  However, being at the expo doors when they open so I can literally jog to the booth and be first in line is a little more feasible.

I was hoping to be disappointed so I could put my desire of wanting one to rest but that was the opposite of what happened.  It was heaven.  I stepped out of the boots and felt so refreshed.  Price range even with the $200 off was still not happening so I made sure to get to the front of the Expo line the following day as well.  Even if that meant my shakeout run was going to be more of a sprint…and maybe sneaking up to the front and cutting 100 people! SORRY.

The Expo was also more amazing this time around because I finally met my Instagram friend Meredith and her friend Jewel.  She is just as cute, nice and funny as her profile makes her look!  She invited me to join them for an afternoon of driving around the beautiful city and getting lunch.

We met up again at the expo Saturday morning for the shakeout run with Dean Karnazes put on my FitBit.  Unfortunately, we did not get to run together because I had a date with the Normatec recovery machine and had to get there as fast as I could.  She was very understanding and even did a sneak attack on me to catch me in my Diva status 😉


After the expo I met up with college friend/ fellow Union laxer and her boyfriend.  She is amazing and rented a car for 3 hours and drove us around the city.  We explored all the different areas and the culture connected to each area.  Cruising around with a best friend, catching up on life while touring the city is better than any sightseeing tour.  We dropped the car off and headed to devour some pizza.  We went to Paxti’s restaurant and avoided the wait by getting a seat at the bar which was a smooth move because even with avoiding the wait, I did not get home until 9!  I may have had a slight panic when I got home.  My 3:30 am wake-up call was fast approaching and I still needed to lay everything out and roll out.

Not very picture worthy but getting into bed by 9:30 was more important at that point!  The slight panic continued into the morning when I woke up at 3:30 and realized that I had 45 minutes to get everything done.

In my frantic rush, I managed to snap a quick pic of my oatmeal (oatmeal, chia seeds, almond milk, almond butter and sliced banana) which did not want to go down after still being full from a late dinner.

I also managed to totally dismantle my Garmin which is probably not what most people do an hour before a marathon…

When I went to put my Garmin on, one of the straps just decided to rip off.  I had 0.2 seconds to figure out a plan to repair it which as you can see was an epic fail.  The only solution my flustered brain could come up with was to just rip off the other strap and tuck it away in my sports bra…sorry Mom, even though you have a fancy new Garmin, I have a feeling you just internally said OH NO! when you saw that.  

Everything was all so very different from Boston where I felt like I had so much time. There was good 5-6 hours between waking up and actually starting.  I had so much time to eat, digest, stretch and get mentally prepared during the drive to the Hopkinton and the endless amount of time in athletes village.  Man, I could have used some of that extra time at 3:30am…

I was supposed to walk and meet Mere and Jewel but was running late (shocker) and decided to Uber to them and then have the Uber driver take us right to the start.   The Uber driver was on board with the plan but after 5 minutes of driving what was supposed to be .5 miles, I realized that he was heading to the start line and not to Mere and Jewel.  In a ‘panicked but trying to be nice tone’ I told him his mistake and between the both of us, the car was filled with stress, confusion, panic and fluster.  We managed to get to the girls and Mere did a great job helping me calm down.  We got to the start and had plenty of time to go the bathroom and stretch.

Once I realized I was there and ready, I just had to keep telling myself to relax and just embrace everything.

Reflecting on it now, I think the anxiety I had as I made my way to the start line was from knowing that I made crucial mistakes in my last-minute preparation/fueling and I felt strongly that the 3:15 goal I had and was confident could be attained was slipping away with each obstacle I was facing.  It may/I know it does sound crazy because a marathon is SO much more than the 10 hours leading up to the race but those final hours are also extremely important. I felt amazing Saturday morning and the shakeout run was so relaxed, smooth and comfortably fast.  This relaxed feeling of amazingness was just not the way I felt at night and I knew that  some of the choices I made caused the change in feeling.  Late dinner, a little too much walking and a ton of stress. Live and Learn

I guess this is where I should recap the race but since I am saving that for my next post, I will skip right to the finish line.  I had my amazing friend from college and her boyfriend meet me at the finish.  They were so helpful and literally made me feel like royalty by offering to do whatever I wanted.  I was not very needy but did have one request…

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I guess I felt I had to make it a tradition…or there is nothing better than fresh fruit after spending hours of just Gu, electrolytes and just straight sugar.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out at my friend’s apartment and just enjoying each other’s company and picking up right where we left off.  She is one of those ‘lifer’ friends.  It doesn’t matter how long we go without seeing each other, she will always be in my life because our friendship is too strong.  She had a dinner to attend so said our goodbyes and I found myself back in my favorite cafe for a solo dinner!

I ended the night with a perfect vanilla soft-serve and was curled up in the apartment by 7:00

something I probably should have done on Saturday night rather than Sunday night.  

That pretty much sums up the weekend!  Today has just been spent killing time before my late flight by cafe hopping and trying to cross streets at an expected fast pace that my legs are not fond of. I don’t think I made very many cars happy today… but the effort was there!