Date Of Event: June 16, 2013
Price: My race entry was a gift
After running the San Francisco 1st Half in 2011 and the San Francisco 2nd half in 2012 and completing the “Half It All” challenge, I knew the next natural step was to come back in 2013 and do the Full marathon so I could be inducted into the “52 Club“!
As with the two previous years, the Ginger Runner and I opted to make the drive up to San Francisco instead of flying, we weighed the price difference of flying and renting a car vs. driving up. We decided driving up was cheaper and in addition to that we had the luxury of being able to bring our bikes up with us so we could get in some cycling in wine country on our way back home. So drive we did. We loaded up the car in the wee hours of the morning, caffeinated and made the trek, arriving at the Expo around 1:30pm.
Expo: If you guys have read any of my previous recaps, you are familiar with how much I loath Expos. In the past, the SF marathon Expo has been one that has not been too bad, usually efficient, and laid out well, I don’t really mind it… insert sad trombone sound effect here. The layout of this years Expo was totally changed around, the entrance on the opposite side of the building and the narrow opening to actually get into the expo area created a nice funnel effect filled with anxious runners.
Once we were able to get in to the Expo it was pretty clear that it wasn’t running as the nice well-oiled machine it had been in previous years, there were VERY long lineups, a lot of confused people wondering which long lineup was the one they were supposed to be in, long restroom lineups, the ladies restroom had about half of its facilities out-of-order, and then there was the shirt debacle which I’ll talk about shortly. I got into line to snag my bib, once it was my turn I gave the girl my ID and told her my bib number, as she was leafing through the bibs, she stops on one, looks at me, then back down to the bib, and says in a questioning tone “cake monkey?”. I smiled at her, “yep, that’s me”. To be clear, my boyfriend, who has an amazing sense of humor, registered me for this race and he thought it would be cute to customize my bib name for me, which it was, and boy oh boy did it sure bring a lot of attention to me during the race. 🙂 After getting our bibs, I headed over the 52 Club table, scored my sweet 52 Club hoodie and then we quickly meandered through the remainder of the expo and made our way to our accommodations so we could unload the car before heading to our favorite restaurant, Gracias Madre, for our pre-race meal and my pre-race sangria! 😉
Shirt Debacle: To preface this, I’ve loved the San Francisco marathon shirts the last 2 years, LOVED them, especially the 2011 one, it’s one of my favorite race shirts, so I was really looking forward to the shirt this year. I lined up at the shirt table and as the nice volunteer handed me my xs shirt (I always order xs for my race shirts) I could immediately tell that there was no way that I could ever squeeze into that shirt, and even if I could it would be a belly-baring baby tee, and trust me, no one wants to see that! I asked the volunteer if I could possibly size up, and without any problems I was handed a size small. Once we got back to our apartment I tried on my race shirt and it fit horribly. The sleeves were in an awkward not-quite-long-sleeve-but-not-quite-3/4 length and the body of the shirt was short and boxy. Great, a new shirt to wear camping I thought! Fast forward a week, I did in fact wear my race shirt camping and when I got home, I washed it for the very first time and guess what? Near destruction! I pulled my shirt out of the dryer to find lengths and lengths of bright yellow thread all throughout the rest of the clothes in the dryer, the entire bottom seams had come out of the shirt, leaving a less-than-desirable, hemless shirt with frayed edges…boo! SF Marathon, please bring back your rad shirts from previous years before!
Morning Of: After tossing and turning for a few hours in the bed, the alarm went off at 3:30am. I honestly don’t think I got a wink of sleep, but the race must go on! 🙂 In my typical fashion, I had a very difficult time eating any breakfast at all, I struggle with this before every race, I just can’t get the food in. I did a double check of my KT taping job that I did the previous night for my Achilles tendonitis, calf strain and shin splints, yes, I was kind of a mess being held together by tape! 🙂 Double checked my nutrition supply, and gear, applied my waterproof mascara & lip balm (these two things are my comfort items for racing), packed our drop bags and we were on our way out the door and headed towards the start line.
Start Line: Although it was chilly, the previous years had been much, much worse. We milled about the start area, getting familiar with where we needed to go for our corrals and stayed huddled in our warm clothes as long as possible. We had a chance to say hello to one of our favorite people Jenny, who is also part of the pr team for the race. Ethan was in the 3rd wave and I was in the 7th, so he started a hefty 40 minutes before me.
As it got closer to my 6:22am start time I checked my drop bag and made my way to my wave holding area. As in previous years, the corrals were organized very efficiently. A volunteer checked my bib number prior to me entering my holding area and pointed me in the right direction. Once I was in my corral, the nervous, impatient waiting time started. The announcers kept his banter fun and light and it’s really hard to complain when you get to stand at a start line and watch the sun rise beyond the Bay Bridge. Talk about a beautiful place to be ridiculously nervous in. 🙂 Before I knew it, 6:22 am rolled around and off I went!
Miles 1-5: The Embarcardero, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Marina and Crissy Field. As many of you know, I went into this race a little injured. I have been struggling with calf strains, shin splints and Achilles pain, so I really went into the race just hoping to finish happy and healthy.
The race started at the Embarcardero, you run by the old Ferry buildings and along through Fisherman’s Wharf, at this time of day it was absolutely stunning, the sun had just come up and the morning air was clean and crisp. I felt really strong through these miles and as I was coming around mile 4, in the Crissy Field area over the noise of my ipod music I hear “Hey CAKE MONKEY!”. I turned to my right to see a delightfully, smiling face, who introduced himself as Doug, he had been following my blog for sometime and had picked me out. We ran together and chatted for a short period of time, and boy oh boy, it was such a great pick-me-up to have met someone from my MLL world! 🙂 Thanks again for saying hello Doug! After Crissy Field I mentally prepped myself for the Golden Gate bridge that was soon approaching.
Miles 5-9.5: The Bridge. I’ve run the bridge before two years ago when I did the SF First Half Marathon, so I knew what to expect. A part of me really loves this part of the marathon because the Golden Gate bridge is such an iconic bridge and well-known landmark and it’s such a privilege to run across it and the views, THE VIEWS, they are hard to beat. On the flip side, a part of me gets really anxious when I run over bridges, so when you’re spending over 4 miles on one, it can turn into a bit of a mental game. I hit the start of the bridge feeling relatively good, my Achilles/shin/calf were feeling fine, nothing I couldn’t push through, so I trucked on. As I was beginning on the bridge the sun was out in full force, I was drenched in sweat and debated layering down, which I ended up not doing. I had remembered from previous years to be cautious of the grates on the bridge, I saw a couple of runners trip and fall on them, and many others slip on them. This year however, the majority of the grates had been covered up by black mats, which made a huge difference. I took my time running over the bridge, took a few photos and enjoyed the view, on the opposite end of the bridge I stopped at the aid station to take a salt pill, have some water and stretch out my calf, and then off I went, ready to run back over the bridge! Almost as soon as I got back on the bridge I hear “HEY MILE LONG LEGS!!!!” I look over at the masses of people running the opposite way and I see an excited, smiling face, who I later found out was another fan by the name of Bob! Again, this was a great feeling to have someone take a minute to say hello, and give a wave and a smile! Talk about a boost in moral! 🙂 I continued my way back across the bridge, weaving my way in and out of runners who had stopped to take photos along the bridge. As a side note: runners, if you’re going to stop on the course to take photos, please, please, please, move over to the side, like you would in a car. You wouldn’t dare stop your car in the middle of the freeway would you?
Miles 9.5-12.5: Presidio to the Golden Gate Park. These few miles were pretty uneventful for me, running through the Presidio was beautiful as always. At the first aid station after the bridge I had stopped to re-fill my water bottle, and down a gel when a nice guy came up to me and said “Excuse me, are you that Newton girl? Mile Long Legs?” Shocked to have been picked out of the crowd again, I replied yes. He then introduced himself as Bryan and was running the First Half marathon with his girlfriend. We chatted for a few minutes and took a photo, wished each other well and off we went. I ended up leap-frogging with them for the next couple of miles before the courses split.
Miles 12.5-19: The Golden Gate Park. The entire SF Marathon course is packed full of beauty and great views, although, this particular section is one of my favorites. There is plenty of shady, tree-covered sections in the park and you’re surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of nature. This is also where the First Half Marathon ends and the Second Half Marathon begins. This is the part of the race where I find myself really enjoying the shit out of the course, taking it all in and relaxing a bit. Once I approached mile 18 things took a bit of a turn, my calf pain really started to flare up like mad. Within a half mile my pain level went from a 4/10 to a 9/10, and I still had 8 miles to go, yikes!
Miles 19-23. Haight Ashburty, Mission District, Potrero. I like to call this section the “Holy Downhill, Batman” section, and in this particular race, I also like to call this section the “Please Don’t Puke” section. 🙂
After exiting the park we run through the Haight Ashbury district, and although this part isn’t particularly pretty, I look forward to it because this is usually where a huge onslaught of fans starts to line the streets, although this year was a little different, for whatever reason, there just didn’t seem to be nearly as many people out supporting the race this year, maybe due to the change in date, I’m not sure. As I bounded through the streets of Haight Ashbury, I really had to slow my run down to almost a crawl as my injury did not fair well with the downhill grade. Every step I took caused extreme pain and I actually debated at one point pulling myself off the course for the sake of my health, but made the decision to push forward. This is the part of the course where the violent downhills start, I call them violent because at mile 20, your quads and legs just don’t want to run downhill at all. I carried on at my turtle speed and shortly after passing the mile 20 marker things suddenly changed. My stomach was tossing and turning and I found myself looking for the nearest place to throw up. I walked off the course and took a few minutes sitting on the curb as I tried to figure out what was happening with my body. My head started aching, my calves and quads were cramping and my stomach was unhappy. I was overcome with such a strong wave of nausea that when I tried to get up and run, the up and down motion of running just made me feel worse to the point that the gags kicked in. What’s a girl to do? I did my best to get in a little bit of hydration here and there, but the fear of throwing it back up had over come me. I had been so diligent with my on course nutrition and hydration up until this point, taking in my gels, salt tabs and hydration like clock work. But now I was struggling with even the thought of anything in my mouth although I knew that I should try to take calories in, but the thought of eating a gel just made my stomach turn. So I continued on walking at a below turtle pace, doing everything I could to hold it together. Only a few more miles I kept telling myself.
Miles 23-26.2: These last three miles were the worst of the entire day. Although they are relatively flat, it took all I had in me to keep pushing forward. I ran into quite a few people who were struggling with their own issues, some had injuries, new and old, some were dealing with gastro problems like me, some were just having an off day. We were all in the same boat and it was nice to know we had company.
I knew at this point in the race I was close to a PR, I desperately wanted to run the last few miles to make sure that happened, but I really could not, not even a little bit. At mile 25 I was greeted by the best thing possible, my boyfriend who had already finished his marathon was standing there waiting for me so he could walk me in the remaining 1.2 miles. I did my best to hold back my tears and muster up a smile. It was so nice to have company and encouragement through that last mile, although I’m sure I wasn’t great company for him. 🙂 Finally getting to the point where I could see and hear the excitement of the finish line was an incredible feeling. I was THERE, finally! It had been a long, slow end to the race, and I couldn’t be more grateful for making it to the end!
Finish Line: I finished as strong as I could with a smile on my face, and got my medal and I’m now part of the San Francisco Marathon 52 Club!!! I got my finishers photo taken by one of the friendly photographers and gathered my post-race grub from the awesome volunteers, made my way to the nearest curb and did my best to get some calories inside of me, and keep them in. 🙂
The Aftermath: All in all, it was a great day. Ethan had a course PR and I managed to pull off a PR too. We made our way back to our apartment, cleaned up and then it was beer and pizza time! We went to an amazing pizza place called Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, and it was indeed amazing! 🙂 We spend the rest of the day relaxing and of course drinking beer.
The day after the marathon I had a stellar post-marathon waddle happening. We loaded up the car, made a quick pit stop at a rad running store called the San Francisco Running Company, met the rad guys that run the place, Brett and Jorge, and grabbed some gear. I highly recommend this running store if you guys are ever in the SF area. After that we hit the road, en route to wine country where we had planned on doing some cycling and wine tasting on the way back down the coast to LA. All in all, this was an amazing trip up and down the coast to run a world-class marathon, you can almost guarantee I’ll be back next year!
And as I always say, these races would not go on if it weren’t for all of the amazing volunteers who take time out of their weekends to be here to support us runners. I always make sure to say thank you to as many of them as I can on the course and I hope you guys do the same. Thank you volunteers, you guys are all amazing and your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, I love you all for what you do for us!
- Amazing volunteers
- Organized aid stations/potties
- Great bonuses for the special programs (52 Club, Half It All, SF/LA Challenge)
- Pretty medal
- Beautiful views
- Challenging course
- The shirts, they were SO bad! Please get this right next year SF Marathon
- What seemed like lack of organization at the Expo
- Less fans on the course route this year, it was much quieter than previous years
RACE SUPPORT: 9/10
RACE ORGANIZATION: 7/10
PLACE OVERALL: 1651/1918 out of all females
For a different prospective on the race, you can read the Ginger Runner’s race report here and make sure to check out his video, which you’ll see a little Cake Monkey in too! 🙂