Monday, July 30, 2007

San Francisco Marathon

Yesterday we completed our first marathon. Patty and I crossed the finish line together in 5 hours and 8 minutes. What a weekend!


After collecting our race packet Friday, we returned to the expo site Saturday to watch some of the talks. There was a crazy mix of people presenting, including the race medical chief telling a room full of people that they didn't need to eat before or during the race. The highlight was seeing ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes talk. He was funny and inspiring.

I also managed to meet up with a couple of Internet friends: Steve from the Hal Higdon v-team message boards and Mary who lives in Florida and has been blogging about her marathon training since March.

We went home and ignored the race medical chief and had a big plate of pasta.

The race

We were awake and up by 3:30am. I downed a cup of coffee, drank a last glass of water and ate a granola bar and yogurt (sticking to my standard pre-run breakfast). By 4:30am we were out the door and driving across the bridge. We were beyond ready to go by this stage, no room to feel tired from the early wake up.

We made it over to SF and parked fairly close to the start/finish. People were emptying out of their cars, attaching timing chips to shoes, bibs to shirts, jogging around. We used the potties and ran into one of Kelly's teachers two people in front of us in the line. We walked over to the start line and watched the first wave go off, joined the potty line again, and had basically the perfect amount of time to join our wave, find our pace leader, before we were off.

We decided we'd join the 4:30 pace group. Not because we planned to run 4:30, but because we didn't want to start faster than this. It was fun running with them for a little while, easy running, but staying with a pace group would be hard for the whole race. At the first aid station we slowed, grabbed a couple of cups of water and looked up to see her halfway up the Fort Mason hill! We couldn't believe we were blown away by her so fast through the first aid station so we ran a 9:37 mile to catch her. At the end of Crissy field the same thing happened again and by the time we sighted her she was halfway up to the bridge. We blew her a kiss goodbye, we were on our own.

Up on the bridge it was very foggy. A refreshing wet wind blew through the gate. No view, but it was better to have it cool. The running was at it's most congested here and the walkers who didn't move to the right drove us a little crazy. Really, do they think running 3 across and then coming to a relative halt is helpful to the thousands of people coming up behind them? Half way across I heard "Go Patty! Go Peter!". It was Mary, who'd caught up with us. She was more or less naked (sports bra and skorts). We stayed with her for much of the rest of the bridge and then she was gone.

Also interesting about the bridge was that my IT band started to act up. This is Patty's designated problem and I haven't had any problems with mine in all the training runs. Oh well, if there's one thing we mentally practiced during our training, it was that anything could happen and we'd take it and deal with it.

From there we headed south to the park. We were keeping roughly a 10:30 pace for much of this time. This section was underrated for hills. They are not steep, but they wear you down then you're not paying attention to them. We started to walk one minute every mile too, realizing that we had a long way to go. During this period my foot started to hurt again. Slowly, each mile, it got worse and worse. I knew it would come at some point during the race, but I had hoped for later rather than sooner.

We passed the half marathon mark in 2:20, almost a half PR! I'm looking forward to running another half some time soon and see what I can do when I don't have another 13 miles to run. But back to the business at hand.

The course soon headed back up the park from near ocean beach. This section was where we dived. It's hard to say where 'The Wall' was, but for us this was it. Our pace dropped a minute or two a mile with the long long uphill and never rebounded. My foot hurt. My knee hurt (IT). My hips hurt. And generally, as far as my body went, things were all downhill from around mile 15 or 16.

Around Stowe Lake was one of the low points. We weren't moving towards the finish line, just going around in a circle and my foot was now so troubled that I seriously was considering the nearby half marathon return buses. This is the only point where I started to doubt things. Then something happened. I don't medically know what went on, but around mile 18 the buildup of pain all of a sudden gave way and there was a feeling of having something very cold poured on it, followed by a slightly mushy feeling and dull pain. I could almost feel the internal bleeding. Yikes! But the good news was that it was then much easier to run!

From the park we re-entered the city and ran down the middle of Haight street. This was a highlight of the race and the energy coming from the spectators there gave me a big lift. Mile 20, a point I was looking forward to (and dreading) came and went without us spotting the marker. We ran across Market street and I knew then I'd make it. Finishing sub-5 hours now seemed doubtful, so it was just a matter of getting it done.

This was a much more industrial area of old rundown buildings and bikies mixing the tunes for the runners under freeway overpasses. To be honest, I didn't care for the music by this point, but every spectator gave me lift. One had a sign for "Patty" and yelled "Hey, a Patty. Hey, we made a sign for you!" They put a smile on my face and really helped to keep me going.

But in general those were tough miles for us and there's some take home lessons there. Like have a slow walk-run backup plan for when/if the wheels fall off, don't just start walking with no plan to start running again. We didn't have too many clear thoughts in there.

By the final two miles I regained my focus and actually felt good and strong. The "dog patch" area was the turning point where the course turned to face the ball park and the Bay Bridge. The effect of seeing where the finish line was overcame everything else. I was ready to run the rest but Patty wanted to walk more because of the old IT knee thing.

We passed AT&T park, with a game about to start, there were people everywhere, but we were a secondary attraction to some guy called Barry Bonds I suppose. Rounding the park was the 26 mile mark and the finish line was in sight. I picked up my pace with what I had left and ran strong across the line.

The aftermath

My foot is now a mess. A red-blue bruise now covers half the side of my foot. And of course much of my lower half will take some recovery time.

All in all, we're really happy. When I hurt my foot 5 weeks ago I thought that's it, no marathon this time. Then I got some more running in and hurt my foot again. Again that was it. But I cross trained like a crazy person and did make it to the start line.

"The only way you really fail is to not try at all"

I wanted the experience and was willing to take a cost. I felt like even if I dropped, I would still learn things for the next one. So I did all that. As a bonus, I finished.

Physically, this race was a serious challenge. But I never stopped enjoying being out there and being in the event. Even in the final miles I knew it wasn't going to be the last. I wasn't saying to myself "how did I get myself into this thing?" like I probably should have been.

Was running my first marathon a defining moment in my life? Unfortunately not in the way I thought it might be. It was almost anti-climatic. But it really was living life and that's what it's all about.

We're already deciding what's next, but first I need to see about that foot.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Week 15

The big week. In many ways this week, the highest mileage week of my program, has been the focus of my training, even more than the marathon. I thought, if I can get through to that peak week then I'd be in good shape for the marathon.

The numbers:
  • Running: 32 miles (on a plan of 40 miles)
  • Time: 6hrs 25mins
As you can see, things rebounded some what from the previous forced fall back week and I got some much needed final miles in.

The foot injury held up well during the week. It was ever present as a faint something, but didn't escalate. I ran 3, 10, then 3 miles. The 10 mile run was also one of those focus points of this training cycle. The peak mid-week mileage on the 4th of July holiday. I really enjoyed this run and felt pretty encourage about the marathon outlook after this.

Then Sunday came and we went out for our 20 miler. I felt I needed another long run before the taper so I went for it. If I made it then it would be like week 14 never happened. If I broke I'd have 3 weeks to heal.

It felt pretty good for the first 10 miles, but then fell apart. How can something be fine for two hours and then have a problem? It was right after our half way point where we stopped at our car to fill up on water. Perhaps my foot started to swell at that moment or something. We took off from the cars and I had the same sensation of there being an unusual pressure in my shoe. A couple of miles later the pressure had became more like stabbing pain and soon after that I was walking back to the car. There's no point in pushing through that kind of thing in a training run.

Back at the car I waited for Patty to finish her run. I couldn't locate any sharp objects to kill myself with, so I just had to sit there watching a woman hit a tennis ball against a wall for an hour. When Patty finally showed up she was only 17 miles into hers and had circled back to see how I was doing. She wasn't doing so good either (ITB issues), but she was moving. She suggested that if I needed to kill myself, the BART tracks were close by. I didn't think of that.

Anyway, enough dwelling on the failure of this run. My goal now is to forget it happened and get my foot in shape to take the marathon. I'm fit enough to run it, I have a solid number of miles banked. I just need a working foot. Now almost a week later, it doesn't really hurt anymore so hopefully in two weeks it will be healed enough to not relapse in the marathon.

Here's a graph of my training up until the taper, just for the fun of it:

Time will tell if it's enough.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Well this week was more of a fallback than I had in mind. 
Here are the numbers:

Running: 4 miles (on a plan of 32)
Cycling: 20+ miles (on a plan of 0)
Injuries: 1 (on a plan of 0)

Last Tuesday I headed down to the lake from here on a gentle 5 miler. The first 2 miles went by quickly, a nice run downhill. The next mile I looped around a tree a 1/2 mile around the lake and then headed back towards home. I passed one of the marathon training LMJS guys headed the other way and said Hi. Heading back home, initially, my left foot felt a little funny. Like the tongue of my shoe had moved to an annoying location. Kind of a pressure in the outside of my foot. 

I passed a woman who noted how much energy I looked like I had. In fact, I felt good. I was thinking about how well the run was going after the 17.5 mile trail run just a few days before. It was exactly 300 miles since we began training for this marathon. Pretty good!

Then my foot started to ache. Hmmm. I ran a little further. It hurt some more. I stopped and started to walk. I was a mile out from home. By the time I got home I couldn't put my foot on the ground. Nice.

I took the rest of the day off work. I didn't really know how I was going to get in there anyway. I iced. I Advil'ed (verb). I elevated. I compressed. I hoped around.

Things didn't really get too much better for a few days. I posed to Hal Higdon's message board. He said it wasn't a good sign. I might have to taper. My doctor told me to rest it. It was probably a stain. Since there was no sore spot to touch it probably wasn't a stress fracture. 

So, I've taken the whole week off, my second last build up week. I didn't go to work (they let me work from home), and concentrated on my resting and icing. By Saturday I could walk around. Kelly and I went out to Moraga to crew Patty on her 14 miler. That was fun, but I wished I was out running of course.

The cause of my injury is anyone's guess, but the suspects are:
  1. The 18 miler did the damage, something I didn't feel at the time finished it off.
  2. I was trying to break in new shoes and instead they broke me.
  3. I walked around the lake the day before wearing a pair of sandles.
  4. I only had 300 miles in me.
Who knows?!  


The good news, since I'd like to reflect on the good parts of my marathon jeopardizing week, is that I finally got a mountain bike. It's not a very expensive model, but I like it. In fact Patty had to warn my that it wasn't coming to bed with us.

On Sunday I did two rides. One out on a rail trail we run on (I mean I used to run on, when I was, you know, a runner), and in the evening I did I trail ride in the area of our trail half marathon. Both were a lot of fun.