marathon

How far it goes- Houston Marathon 2019

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It is hard to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line on Sunday. It is hard to explain how far away I felt from the person I was when I ran the Olympic Trials in 2012. When I was running amazing in 2012, I never wanted to let that feeling, that rush go. I wanted to stay at that fitness level and see what I was capable of. And I had a great stretch there in 2012. But as any athlete knows, the highs and the lows last only so long. That time was over in the flash of an eye after a freak fall during a routine trail run in my new, at the time, neighborhood. Then came the bakery. And frustration, trying to run when my life of 100 hour work weeks wouldn’t allow. I stopped beating my head against the wall finally and realized that trying to do the same thing over and over again was unproductive. So I flew to South Africa and ran a marathon and then two weeks later, Ultra Trail Cape Town. It was the hardest 100km I have ever done, but I finished, proud in 3rd place. A few weeks later, I ran Javelina 100 and set the third fastest trail time ever (at the time). I enjoyed immensely the reinvigoration of my ultra running career that had taken a backseat to the life of a small business owner. 2016 brought golden tickets instead of OTQ’s as a realized my head and heart just weren’t into the quest. The fast marathon had become something overly complicated in my mind and I found myself self-sabatoging my races and really not enjoying myself. And so, I raced WS and finished 3rd. My satisfaction immense, my love for ultra running true.

And then came the struggle and the fighting for my running life. To be honest, the last 2.5 years have been intensely hard. I was fighting almost constantly just to keep my head above water. I suffered my first major injury in the fall of 2016 and at the time I thought it would be just a blip on the radar, but instead it became an incessant test of my fortitude and will. Sure, there have been amazing bright moments in the last 2.5 years- two top 10 finishes at Comrades, winning Leadville, 2nd in the 50km national championships, winning a marathon outright for the first time- but mostly, it has just pressed me to wonder if my best racing days were behind me, if feeling good as a runner and sometimes even just as a human, was something I’d feel again. The spiral began when my foot exploded and was misdiagnosed in March 2017, fast forward to major foot surgery and recovery, followed by a swift decline into extremely poor health in 2018. I’ve fought like hell over the past few years. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I’ve found myself lower than I could remember and it wasn’t just because of running or not running. I felt like I was floundering around in the world at times and being kicked in the face at other times. I started to joke that March was a cursed month for me after experiencing major illness and missed races, totaling my car and one other very terrible experience that I still cannot reconcile. When I was knee deep in it, I didn’t think much about how hard it was or the depth and breadth of all that was seeming to go wrong, I simply focused on trying to fix what was right in front of me, what I had the power to change or control. And sometimes, that was just my perspective. A perspective of gratitude and of hope was something I returned to again and again. 

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If I have learned anything in my life, from the very earliest of my days, is that you ultimately need to be willing to do what it takes for yourself. What it takes to feel better, what it takes to heal, what it takes to learn. I never abandoned my faith in myself, I never lost trust in myself that I could weather the storms. A few months ago, I was thinking about the moment in Billy’s movie, Life in Day, when I am sitting in the chair, unsure of how I can keep going. I realized, watching that for the nth millionth time, that I had been thinking about that moment wrong. I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I ended up in the chair. Trying to figure out how to avoid the things in life that stop us in our track. But as I watched that moment, I realized: it’s not about if you end up in the chair, it is what you do after you get out of the chair that matters. 

You get up. You move forward. That is what matters. What you do next is what matters. Its not the faltering or failure. It is what you do with it. It is weathering the storm, it is surviving and coming out the other saying “holy shit, I’m just soaked”. 

That is when I realized that I had to let go of the hurt, the failing, the faltering of the past few years. What mattered was how I chose to proceed. Would I play small and safe or would I again risk it all? It is scary to take risks when you’ve felt the intense disappointments of epic failures. I felt that last year when I tried to go all in post foot surgery on London Marathon. I couldn’t even toe the line I was so ill. Heck, I could barely move off the couch. Watching TV was exhausting. I had been humbled again by the sudden onslaught of a barrage of health problems, a pattern that had played out every few years of my running career, heck of my life. Once in 5th grade, I missed an entire month of school (probably the month of March ;) ) because I was sick. In high school, I spent half of a summer in bed with mono. My college boyfriend called me “sickly D” because I caught every bug that I came in contact with.

But last year really scarred me. And I became afraid to go all in on a goal. I raced sure and did some pretty decent things, but the reality is, I was undermining myself. Not allowing myself to risk too much, put too much on any one thing. While this makes for some fine results, they are pyrrhic victories. After a series of 4 races in 7 weeks of that sort, I emailed my coach Ian and said “I have the next great idea! I’ll do CIM!”. He responded in a way that I cannot appreciate more. He told me that if I want what I say I want (a marathon PR) then I needed to stop all the unspecific racing, traveling, stress and focus. He told me CIM was the wrong choice and I should instead focus on Houston Marathon. He told me that I had to go ALL IN. It was uncomfortable for me because it was true. I know I can perform at a very high level on non-specific training, but I also know I can’t run my best if I am not focused. And so for 12 weeks we focused. I narrowed my life down to this one goal. I set aside the fear. I showed up and did the work, day after day. I didn’t race, I didn’t travel. I just burrowed down into the details of this one goal. I put all my eggs in one basket. And while it terrified me, I knew it was the only way.

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Day in and day out, I was just married to the process. I removed unnecessary distractions. I did all the little extras. I neither stressed the failures or celebrated the successes to much, I just built myself brick by boring brick. When things went suddenly sideways in the first week of December, I didn’t panic. I suffered a crazy nerve impingement in my leg, got sick and then fell over my foam roller and broke a rib. I just stayed with the process and realized one bad week didn’t matter, I simply had to stay focused. And workout after workout, I saw paces I never thought I would. I found myself having to hold back instead of stretch. I arrived to my two week taper excited, confident. I had trained for 12 weeks, run hundreds of miles and only taken one day off. I knew I was strong and ready.

But as tapers do, I started feeling the doubts, I started to question what I had done, I started to question each and every brick I had laid. And then came the weird niggles and my legs #notfeelinggood. I honestly had to make an immense effort to get my mind right in the last 72 hours before the race. I read the book “Mind Gym” after taking the USATF Level 1 Coaching clinic and found these words to be the game changer for me: “Since you don’t know what’s going to happen, why not act as if you’re going to have a good day. When you are not afraid to fail, your chances of succeeding improve”. I stopped wallowing in the idea of “ending up in the chair” and started to embrace the infinite possibility of good. I didn’t focus on the weather report of 10-15mph winds and freezing cold temps, or my leg feeling weird. I focused on eating, resting and calming my mind.

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By the time I toed the line at 7:01am, I was free of doubt and ready to celebrate the fitness I had cultivated over the weeks and months. I lined up with the other sub-elites in the ADP corral and we shivered and finally were allowed our place behind the elites. The gun, the frenzy, I found myself calm among the surging masses. I started my Coros watch when I hit the start line a few seconds after the gun, but I quickly turned the screen to daytime, knowing I did not want the feedback of GPS pace. I settled in and chanted to myself “right effort, right mind”. I knew that if I wanted to run a PR, I needed to run on the more uncomfortable side of uncomfortably hard, but I also knew that I needed to stay calm and patient in the first half.  I floated through mile 1 in 5:45. Oops. There were people around as the half and full went off together, but I was surprised how, within 4 miles, I was basically running alone. Welp, guess I don’t get that CIM type group magic today! The wind gusted and I just hoped that that meant I would have a tailwind on the way back (spoiler alert, nope). 

Finding myself alone so early, I knew that I HAD to stay focused, I had to stay strong and on plan. I followed the instructions I had written on my hand for each Maurten gel. I followed the instructions for my mind. I smiled and remembered that this race was a celebration of my fitness. It is not a test, it is a celebration. At mile 12, a woman was holding a sign for me and I damn near started crying because it feels so awesome to have people out there rooting for me. 

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I hit halfway in 1:18:40, about 40 seconds slower than coach and I had planned, but I barely even acknowledged it (although to be fair, hit the 13.1 mile sign at just over 1:18 flat, but that mat was another 40 seconds beyond the sign). I was focused, focused on running a PR effort, even if the wind meant it wasn’t much of a PR day for me. I stayed calm, I stayed on it. I pushed as hard as I could and smiled as big as I could. I was wholeheartedly determined to have no regrets at that finish line.

I knew with about 12km to go that my goal of a PR was gone. I was running as well as I could, feeling good actually and just not able to take anything back from the wind. I remained undeterred, I would not back down, I was not going down without a fight.

At long last, I made my way back into the heart of Houston. With 1.5 miles to go, I reminded myself that my goal was to “drain the tank” and I pressed harder, unwilling to let go of the sub 2:40 and my fastest time in 7 years. I ran the last 1.5 miles in 5:43/mile pace. I powered to the line, 2:39:37 my 3rd fastest time ever (and my 2nd fastest time is a 2:39:36!). What a moment. Joy, relief, all of it. I ran the effort I came to and am so proud.

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It is what matters what you do after you get out of the chair that matters. Failure, faltering and flops are part of life. We must take lessons from them sure, but we cannot become defined by them. It is a choice where we go from the low points. It is a choice if we let it those things break us or lift us to greater heights. I know that in life I will surely find myself in the chair again, I will certainly cry out “but I don’t know how to keep going”, but I also know that I will get out of that chair and I’ll walk until I can run again. 

The comeback kid

Akron Marathon. September 2014

Akron Marathon. September 2014

It's been almost exactly 2 years since I really raced. This time two years ago I was getting back into phenomenal shape after a brief injury at the end of an amazing 2012. I raced a competitive field of ladies at Chuckanut 50k coming in 2nd, then followed it up a week later with a CR & victory at the Oakland Marathon. I was excited and inspired to see what I could do as a racer. 2012 had given me a glimpse of my potential, but I feel like I had not had enough time yet to truly reach my potential. And then the bakery happened a lot sooner and in a lot grander scale than we had imagined. I knew that my racing would be sacrificed and that I was willing to do what it took to get the bakery rolling. And I haven't raced since. 

You might say, but wait, you ran 9 marathons since then! And yes, I have started 9 marathons in that time but I haven't raced them. I have run them most with just general fitness (I can run a 2:48 like a boss!) or the ones I was in slightly better shape for have had complications due to work stress or health issues. I couldn't really do consistent work over the past two years. Workouts after a 10 hour shift on your feet in the heat of the day are not quality. Stress, anxiety and lack of sleep further deteriorate any chance at quality. For the remainder of the 2013 year after Oakland, I was relatively satisfied just running. I actually signed up for races just to get the weekends off! 

But as 2014 rolled in and the ultra that is opening a "big" small business such as ours revealed itself, my discontent grew. I was not ready to give up my goals. I was not ready to let go of the potential I have. I made a few attempts in 2014 to get things rolling, but the business was not ready. I knew I would not be able to race well until I could get my own schedule under control. Through many frustrations and growing pains, I realized with great clarity that I wanted more than anything to see what my potential as a runner could be. I couldn't let it go. And so, I bided my time, went underground in to my cave and began to plot my re-emergence.

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

Surf City Marathon 2015. Victory!!!!

I began to plot, I began to plan. I began to be able to do the work and workouts that would be required to gain back all the edge I had lost. I knew I needed to be all in. I had to commit. I couldn't do this half way. I had been trying to do that for 2 years and it just doesn't work. I had to put it all on the line. And so, with the support of Nathan, I went all in. I started signing up for races, committing to big hairy scary audacious goals and putting the pieces in play to make this year an amazing comeback for me. I took a really non-restful, back breaking quasi-retirement from racing and now I am on the hunt.

The first two things I did to begin to work towards my goal was signing with Oiselle and starting to work with Coach Jason Koop and CTS. Being a sponsored athlete is a commitment which I take very seriously. I want to be someone for my sponsors and for my coach. Oiselle has been amazingly supportive and made my have a sense of fashion at the same time. Working with Koop for the past 6 weeks has been an incredible endeavor. I have given myself over to the process and enjoyed simply doing the intense work. I don't think I have ever done this kind of work before. I never had the accountability. Now, I am focused, informed and ready to do the work as Coach intends me to do. I am sure Nathan is tired of me chirping "Koop said... Koop thinks...." but the reality is I have a coach now, not just a plan and someone to walk me through every step of the process.

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Napa Valley Marathon 2015. En route to victory #2 of the year!

Now, I wake up on Monday mornings tired from an amazing weekend of hard work and buzzing with excitement for my big races to come. I am hungry for the work and the challenges. It is invigorating to be beginning this process and slowly emerging from my cave after months of toiling in the dark (literally and figuratively as I have been working 7 days a week on the night baking shift for 5 months which will so end). I am excited.

At the beginning of February, after a great month of training in January including some killer workouts while on our "annual days off" from the bakery, I raced Surf City Marathon. I had a rough day due to an over adjustment of my thyroid meds which left me supremely dizzy and lightheaded, but I was stoked to win the race, soloing the whole thing in 2:48. It was not an A race, so I was happy to jump right back in to training and start my coaching by Koop. After a few weeks with Koop, I was slated for another race, this time the Napa Valley Marathon. My big goal races for the year are Comrades and Leadville, my secondardy races are Two Oceans and Pittsburgh Marathon (at least until September after Leadville I am undecided), so anything else is in support of those goals. Napa, as it has traditionally been for me, is a fantastic training race. Beautiful weather, great course, lovely people, I was very excited to get back out there feeling fit. Last year was probably the most suffering I've done in a race in a long time as I was severely anemic and barely could walk it in at the end. I was determined to execute a controlled, even effort. Koop told me that he wanted me to run 6:20s and not let the race atmosphere push me into going faster. The point was to be able to jump back into workouts pretty quickly. I needed to stay smooth, comfortable and reined in. And I did just that.

Rolling with my homies.

Rolling with my homies.

When I woke up race morning, I felt great. I felt no nerves. I just felt bad-ass. I text Nathan "I am going to win. I hope you like wine" (since the prize is 5 cases of wine). From the gun, I took control of the race. I felt in control of myself and it just felt easy. I stayed in easy gear, tucked in with a few guys and just started rolling. I was right around 6:15-6:20 pace and felt like I was jogging. I considered for a moment whether I should push for the 2:43 and OTQ, but decided to trust the plan, execute the plan that Koop and I had decided on. I never looked back. The whole race I felt invigorated. This is me, this is what I want, this is how I want to feel, was all I could think. I smiled and smiled and smiled as the miles rolled easily. Around mile 20, I decided to pick it up a notch and dropped the guys who had given me great company for so many miles. Pick it up a notch at that point of Napa means, run harder with diminishing returns since there is always a headwind, but I did increase my effort. For my final 1/2 mile, I decided to put a little zing in and dropped down to 5:40/mile pace. I broke the tape in a winning time of 2:45:48- perfectly executed on plan for my third Napa victory.

Total elation

Total elation

Two marathon victories in two months? Things are trending well. I bounced back off Napa really well and we are back to work towards Two Oceans on April 4th. Yes, winning is nice, but the reality is, I feel like I am getting back to me. Devon the runner is coming back. That is so intensely important to me whether or not I ever win another race. I just want to feel like I am exploring the limits of what I can do. I can't wait to see how things continue to unfold.

A very special thank you to all of my sponsors especially Oiselle, Julbo and CTS! Thank you for believing in me!

False Starts

I thought 2014 was going to be a good year for me. I had looked forward to the business being stable enough, having enough employees to cover shift and allow Nathan and I some real time away from the bakery. I looked forward to getting my OT qualifier and maybe running a few races actually well trained.

I had hoped Boston would be my great comeback of 2014 after recovering from severe anemia and just under a year after opening the bakery. Instead, I had to DNF at mile 16 due to being severely ill. I was disappointed,  but also knew that sometimes patience is required in a comeback and bad luck happens. After the DNF and a good two months of working myself to the bone with no days off from work, I toed the line at Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon and won! I felt like my mojo was coming back. I felt like I was running happy and excited to sink my teeth into some big goals.

The summer promised for some good training. I ran SF marathon as a training run, easily running a 2:49 with no taper (it felt easy), did some fun adventures in the mountains- Rae Lakes Loop with Nathan and 4 Passes in Colorado with Krissy, got to do a train-cation in Colorado and ran another great training race at Akron marathon in 2:49. I was feeling fit and excited to go after a great time at Chicago which was my next planned A race, closely followed by Fall 50, the USATF 50 mile road championship two weeks later.

But instead of racing Chicago, I found myself at home in bed, seriously ill with what the doctors thought was an ulcer (hence determined not an ulcer). I was unable to eat much of anything for the week after Akron and tearfully had to withdraw from Chicago. I watched my plans, dreams and goals slip away. It was hard, I knew I was ready and my chance did not come. Once I felt better, I was determined to absolutely CRUSH the Fall 50. I was looking to better my 5:59 50 mile PR and felt that dipping under 5:50 was possible. My chance did not come. Things at the bakery became so busy and all consuming in those weeks that there was no opportunity for me to leave and run the race. I was feeling mostly better from my "ulcer", but to fly across the country to race was just impossible with work.

Honestly, I felt crushed. I watched everything I had worked for over the summer slip away. I knew it was not simply a matter of taking my fitness to a different race, I had missed my chance this time. While I did in fact sign up immediately for California International Marathon, I knew that race would be after not having a single day off from work (which I lovingly call Bakery-Cross Fit since it is such physical work) and my training would likely not be what I wanted. My schedule changed to nights and I worked every day with no days off. I did what I could in training, but struggled. My mind grappled with my goals slipping away, I became disheartened by so many runs feeling absolutely awful. There were times when I just wanted to quit, when I wanted to give up. What was the point anyways? I am not becoming a better runner, I am not getting faster, I don't love it anymore, not to mention that I don't have any sponsors and I am not winning races. I was just mad at running. I pondered whether giving up my goals and dreams would allow me to just love running again.

During the summer of training, I had gotten really excited about my 2015 schedule. LA marathon, Two Oceans, Comrades. I was ready to crush it. I was excited. The hard fall wore at me, made me wonder if I should give up those goals. I didn't want to, but I also didn't want to just run those races, I wanted to RACE, I wanted to be in the mix, fighting it out to the best of my abilities. I don't want to just run, I want to push myself to become something better. I want to challenge myself and my limits.

I refused to give up, I refuse to give up. I love to run. I love to explore and challenge myself. Yes, this year has sucked and it has beaten me down, but I have faith I will rise again. I am excited to be in a place where I can just dig in and do the work and have an amazing comeback.

California International was not my comeback. I ran my fastest time of the year 2:46 and felt comfortable at my goal pace through 16 miles until my mind failed me, the doubts crept in and when I needed my mind to say "YES, FIGHT", I had nothing left. I slogged 8 miles in misery before my true self rallied at the end dropping my pace back down significantly at mile 24. This was not my race, but I learned that deep down I am still fighting, still committed to the comeback, still inspired as ever to see what I can be.

This year has been a series of false starts giving me false hopes and challenging my perseverance and fortitude more than I ever thought possible. It has been an amazing test of will and stamina. While I wanted more for my running this year, I cannot say that it wasn't worth it. Nathan and I have built a thriving business. And I have learned a lot. Now, standing here on the edge of a new year, I look forward with hope and commitment that I will be able to pursue my dreams and goals with relentless fervor. I look forward to going into my own little training world and emerging on the other side as something even beyond what I ever thought possible. The fire is lit and I am ready to ignite.

Finding my mojo

After my disappointment at Boston, I felt like there was a monkey on my back. I was eager to race and kick the icky feeling that comes with a DNF. Immediately after the race, I scoured Marathonguide.com and such to find a race that I could jump into quickly and "utilize my fitness" that I had built for Boston. If it had simply been a matter of finding another race quickly and showing up, I think I could have PR'd shortly after Boston.

Unfortunately (and I knew this going into Boston) after Boston, Nathan and I were faced with an unfortunately staffing situation in the bakeshop that meant he and I would be each working 1am-1pm on most days. This did not bode well for maintaining my fitness as I selected a race to pursue in the wake of Boston. I decided on Grandma's marathon which was in mid-June as my comeback race. I figured that I could just maintain my fitness during the tough work schedule and that I would just use mind over exhaustion to get my runs in and stay "training". 



And then reality sunk in. Trying to work those hours and get real workouts in was nearly impossible. My "maintain" mode turned into "just get in as much running as I can" mode. Weekday workouts were out the window as after a 12-14 hr shift my legs are so tired and swollen, it is nearly impossible to run fast. I would muster a good long run every week, usually with 12-16 miles in the mid 6 minute range, but my confidence and feeling of fitness was fading. I managed to run 65-90 miles a week somehow, but I just felt dull. As June began, I started to feel very worried about running Grandma's marathon. The goal at Grandma's is to run fast. That is it. That is why you fly all the way to Duluth. I was not feeling confident at all in my ability to run fast and was worried that if things started to fall apart during the race and I fell off my goal pace (to make the OT qualifier) that my race experience would be intensely negative. What I need was a good race, a good finish and a confidence boost. I needed to get the pack of monkeys off my back.


So in a last minute change of plan, I decided to not run Grandma's. Instead, I decided that it was best if I took my weekend off from the bakery and fly to Seattle for a run-cation. Complete with friends, food, and of course, a marathon! It so happened that the Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon was the same weekend as Grandma's. Even though I grew up in Seattle and lived there a few years ago as well, I never raced in Seattle. I felt like doing a more last minute race on a not fast course would allow me to just run and race and start building back my confidence.

Before the race, I read a great article about Training Your Brain to Run Your Best and I could really relate to the struggle of silencing the inner critic.  Over the past year, my inner critic has gotten loud and I've really struggled mentally in races when things were getting tough. I decided leading into RNR Seattle, that I would "shout down" my inner critic. On top of that, awesome coach Ian Torrence, suggested I use the experience to analyze my strengths and weaknesses so we can build from where I am. It was an interesting perspective to take because I felt more conscious of the thoughts, fears, doubts and criticisms that came up during the race and was able to play with and change my thought process a great deal. I was able to note the things that were coming up and actually take a hard look at where we can improve, where I am selling myself short (for instance by being super negative) and where I am doing well. I am so glad I opted to do a race as a building block, a starting point from which I can grow for my big goals over the next year.


The weekend was a blast. I got to spend a great deal of time with Jonathan (Bestest Everest) and his girlfriend Ariana, who were super lovely to let me stay with them and co-opt all their time. We ate great food, enjoy the awesome Seattle summer weather and got in some running too!

Bitterroot BBQ post-race! The cowboy killer.

I was super happy that the race was on Saturday. I like Saturday races. Sundays just feel like I am waiting around for so long for race day to come. This way, I got to get in the race and have the rest of the weekend to celebrate and enjoy (as my birthday was the Monday after the race).

The race itself? After the first 7 miles, when the half and full courses split, I was running alone. Up until that point, I thought I was very much in second place to 2 time defending champ Nuta Olaru who had taken off at 5:40/mile pace. I was clipping along on the easy section of the race in the low 6/upper 5:50s and had absolutely no inclination to chase her. It seemed suicidal on a course that she had only run 2:50 & 2:51 on. I knew the second half of the course was pretty hilly, so I didn't want to do anything ridiculous. And then it turned out, she had decided to run the half marathon. So from mile 7 on, I was rolling solo in first place.

The course is not an easy one. I headed south by the lake and around Seward Park. As soon as I turned towards the north to head back up along the lake and cross the I-90, I was meet with an incredibly strong headwind. Since I was very much by myself, I had no where to hide, so I fought off my negative brain and settled into an effort based pace. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying the Seattle sunshine, the course, the cheers from the spectators and half marathoners (when we shared the course). It was very lonely on I-90 from mile 16-22 when I was on the expressway going over and back to Mercer Island. I continued to listen to my brain, see what thoughts arose and practice positive thinking.

Coming off the highway into downtown, I nearly started crying when I saw my cousin Erika screaming and jumping up and down cheering at the bottom. I hadn't expected to see her and it gave me such an incredible boost. I was where I wanted to be, doing what I loved. It was a great feeling. I was smiling and laughing as I climbed the last few hills and made my way to the finish.


Coming up Mercer to the finish line, I was filled with joy. I had gotten the monkey off my back. I was going to win a race in my hometown and feel good doing it. I had enjoyed every step, the easy and the hard. I had found a way back to being the racer I know I can be. In the end, my time is no faster than I had run at any other marathon in the past year (although to be fair the course/wind were much harder than any other course- Check out my Strava for the race), but it was an incredibly different experience. I feel like my goals for the fall and for 2015 are within my reach and that this race experience means that I can toe the line with confidence instead of trepidation. I am excited and inspired in running again and that means more to me than anything.

Plus winning is fun. Really fun. 
Cheers to that!

Streak of luck


 Sunset over Santa Cruz on our week of vacation!
I have been incredibly lucky this past year. Since Memorial Day 2013, Nathan and I have built a thriving business, pushed ourselves to our limits and created something awesome. During that time, I was able to squeeze in a few races and even get to the point of training seriously again after Portland Marathon. Its been an unbelievable ride and I cannot complain.

Ironically, it has also been one of the worst stretches of running I've had in my short career. When I switched off the baking shift shortly after Portland Marathon in October and was able to run in the morning again, it made an immediate world of difference. I felt lighter and springier than I did after a 12 hour baking shift and I felt focused on my running. I entered the Boston Marathon and felt inspired to go after a PR. That feeling last about 3 weeks. Then I started moving backwards, I felt like I was getting slower, even easy pace felt hard. I had two below average half marathons and then capped off the year with a painful DNF at California International Marathon due to, what I thought at the time, was incredibly calf cramps brought on by the extremely low temperatures. I not only didn't accomplish my goal of making the Olympic Trials qualifier, I didn't even finish the race.

I felt like crap no matter what I did, rest, run, change my diet, adjust my medicine (including iron) sleep more, etc. I figured it was just working long hours at the bakery on top of training hard. I was ready to really focus on Boston. I wanted redemption for my CIM DNF and knew that I had it in my to really a great showing at Boston. I wanted a PR.

Happy to be at the top of the highest peak around Big Sur!

After our lovely "stay-cation" to Santa Cruz and Big Sur, I lined up for the KP Half Marathon in Golden Gate park. In my head, I wanted to see if I could pull off a half PR even though I was feeling bone tired. I figured, I had been doing the work to get faster, putting in the miles, that I should be able to challenge my pretty soft 1:18 pr.

It was an ugly, cold, pouring down rain day. I was not feeling confident as I jogged to the start. I lined up, the gun went off and within a mile I knew something was wrong with me. I shouldn't be struggling that much. I shouldn't feel like I am sprinting when I am not even running my goal marathon pace. I backed off, backed off again and practically jogged in the most miserable half of my life. It was demoralizing after a disappointing end to 2013 to be feeling worse than ever.

Thankfully, I had gone to the doctor to discuss how I was feeling a few days before the race and the day after the race I received my bloodwork back. I was severely anemic! That explained why I felt like, after the half, I was about to drop dead. That explained why I struggled all fall and had such a hard time with the cold at CIM. I actually considered going to the hospital a few days after the race I felt so bad. I was truly anemic and my ferritin was 7 (the lowest its ever been before was 13). I immediately started getting iron injections and went through a battery of tests to figure out why my anemia was so bad. I am a red meat eater and take iron so it was a mystery how I could become so anemic.

The road to recovery began. With each iron shot, I started feeling light years better. I went from feeling dead and miserable on every run to starting to see all that training I had been doing shine through. I started recovering faster, being able to hit my splits in workouts and load more mileage into my weeks. And that is just by bumping my iron up to 13!

I started to feel like I was on track to make the Olympic Trials qualifier at Boston. I was feeling so good some days that I even considered that if I had a good day I could PR. I was getting excited. But most of all, I was excited because running felt good again. I was just happy.
 Happy face. Best workout ever!

Boston was soon upon me. It was a fantastic trip that even got to include Nathan, my sister, my in-laws and all my nieces and nephews! It was special to me that the whole family got to come together and see each other since it has been incredibly difficult (read impossible) for us to visit in the last year.

The day after I arrived in Boston (Saturday), I noticed that I was not feeling good. I felt like I was coming down with a cold or worse, a flu. Just the edge but enough to scramble for Emergen-C and every vitamin I could find. I said positive mantras for health and wished it away. But by the time Monday morning rolled around, I knew I was in the grips of it. I had hoped that I would be able to race faster than it could take me down. I figured I would get hit hard after but hoped that adrenaline and sheer will would be enough.

Needlesstosay, I was wrong. I was flying for 8 miles, clicking off sub-6 pace and feeling pretty comfortable doing it. But I could feel the energy draining out of me rapidly, my mouth was dry even though I was drinking at each aid station, my stomach was in knots, and my lungs were rapidly congesting. I backed off the pace and hope that slowing down to my original goal pace would help save my race. I pulled back and downed a gel at mile 10 only to nearly gag and practically throw it up. My body was having none of it. The end came quickly after that. My body couldn't handle the illness, I was done. I pulled out at mile 16 and sadly took a seat in a med tent. Everything I had worked for since Portland, everything I had endured and I was still without my redemption.

It was bad luck. Getting on sick right before a race is every runner's nightmare but it happens and there is only so much you can do to protect yourself. In the end, I cannot be distraught over what happened. I can't lose confidence or start thinking that I'm a bad runner or my time to race well is over. That would be unfounded nonsense. Instead, I look at the last few months and think how lucky I am. I am lucky I've got to do some seriously fun training with some great friends. I am lucky that I found what its like to feel good on a run again. I am lucky that I have a supportive husband who will do everything in his power to help me reach my goals. I am lucky to be remind of the lessons of patience and perseverance in the pursuit of my goals. As I move past the hurdles of the past few months, I know, soon, my luck will change. I will just continue to get ready and perhaps my chance will come.

Oakland Marathon Race Report

At the start line with speedy friends. Caitlin, Penny and I.
Photo by Chris Jones.

When I couldn't run Napa Marathon a few weeks ago due to overwhelming stress with opening our business, I quickly changed my plans to run Chuckanut 50k last weekend and after the race hop in the car and help my sister and her husband with the drive from Seattle to San Francisco (they moved down which makes me so incredibly happy!!!). I also signed up for the Oakland Marathon when I signed up for Chuckanut. The way business has been going, I am never certain which race start line I will be able to show up at. So I wanted a back-up plan, just in case. Chuckanut went really well and I was very satisfied with my run and had a fun little road trip Bin-Yanko style.

My legs didn't feel bad after Chuckanut except for a little niggle in calf/ankle/foot that sent me running to Psoas Massage to see Scott, not once but twice this week. While my legs felt pretty good, my body in general didn't feel right. I had a laundry list of symptoms including massive water retention (like 15lbs) while not peeing. Coupled with all the other symptoms, I made a b-line for my doctors office on Thursday morning to make sure that my kidneys weren't shutting down. My doctor advised that I not run the marathon if we didn't get the bloodwork back. It would be dumb to run a marathon if I was having acute kidney failure. Obviously.

Thankfully, my bloodwork came back the next day and my kidneys were fully functional. The bloodwork did however reveal (especially when compared to my bloodwork from 6 weeks ago) that my symptoms are due to my thyroid swinging from hypothyroid (which I have been medicating for 6 years now & had dropped my TSH too low) to a more hyperthyroid state. This explains why I have been struggling to feel great since the beginning of the year. While my iron levels have improved, giving me more energy, I haven't felt right for nearly 3 months. I have had insomnia, been hyper emotional, intolerant to heat and extraordinarily hungry. I just figured that some of the symptoms (insomnia, anxiety, being emotional) were because opening a business is stressful. But after hearing from my doctor and understanding what hyperthyroid (even a temporary hyperthyroid like mine- my meds just have to be adjusted) means for my body.

After receiving clearance from my doctor, I decided last minute that I would run Oakland Marathon. I figured it would be an awesome way to see Oakland and even better, it would be a chance to hang out with my mom (who just moved to Oakland) and have her see me race! I didn't taper at all for this race. Yesterday on my 11 mile run, I pondered whether or not this might just end up being my slowest marathon ever. I was/am still retaining water weight (which makes you feel kind of gross/heavy), but I decided that I should give Oakland a go. After all, a week after racing a 50k and not tapering really put me in the mindset of "come what may". Given the nature of the course, I figured I could just run it as a workout. I knew it had the potential to be a long ride on the pain train, but I also knew that with no expectations, I might just have a flipping blast. And I did.

 Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News

I spent the evening in Oakland at my mom's house and made pre-race dinner for the two of us. The usual: greens, chicken and lots of sweet potatoes. Her new place was perfectly located to roll out of bed after a nice long sleep (9hr!!!) and run less than a mile to the start line. I ate a pre-race banana with sunbutter, lots of coffee and headed out into the perfect morning. It was clear and cool without being cold. I jogged over to the start line where I ran into Caitlin who was also running. I was excited to see her as I hoped it meant I might have a workout partner for the race. I knew from previous years results that the women's winner often ran the entire race alone. Knowing how speedy Caitlin is, I knew that I would have to have a pretty good day to bring home the win. As I warmed up with her and then with my good friend and training partner Liz (who was running as part of a relay), I wasn't sure how I felt. I didn't feel bad, but I wasn't sure how 6:xx pace was going to feel.

I had spent the evening before the race figuring out what 2:45-2:50 pace looked like and I hoped I was going to be able to muster then 6:29 min/mile average it would take to run 2:50. But I really wasn't sure.

I lined up a few rows back with Caitlin and my darling friend Penny (who wins pretty much every trail marathon in the entire bay area). It took me 3+ years to convince Penny to run a marathon, now she crushes dozens a year!

The gun went off and off we went. I went out comfortably, but was also well aware that my pace was ridiculously fast given my goal time. My first miles were 6:01 and 6:00 respectively and I knew that I need to pull back a little. The first half of Oakland Marathon contain pretty much all of the near 1,000 feet of climbing for the whole race and I wanted to be conservative until I was done with the hills at mile 11. The course pretty much goes uphill from mile 3 until mile 11, so it was unrealistic to maintain that pace, but I went with it to get my legs spinning. After two miles, I settled in to closer to 6:20 pace and made my way along. I was feeling good and happy. Just content to be "feeling" it. My body was allowing me to clip along without protest, despite all the demands I have placed on it over the last week.

I really wanted to negative split and have enough for a fast finish style long run, so I did not push too hard on the hills. I went comfortably through the Oakland hills, chatted occasionally with my two bike pacers (as the lead female I had a bike pacer) and tried not to get run over by any cars or miss any turns.

It was a strange thing, everytime we came to an intersect it was a question of whether or not the cops were actually going to stop traffic or if I was going to play a dangerous game of frogger. Thankfully my bike pacers did a good job getting ahead of me and making sure I didn't get creamed. But there were a few times when I literally was weaving through cars. The turns were not well marked as there were often cones in every direction. Again, thankfully my bike escorts showed me the way, but it was awfully strange to have the course be so unclear. In fact, with less a half mile to go we came off Lake Merritt and neither I nor my bike escorts could tell which way I was suppose to go! There were no race marshalls at the turn and I ended up back running traffic, scrambling to figure out which way the course went. Thank goodness we went the right way!

For much of the first half, Caitlin was about 20 seconds behind me. I knew she planned her workout to also be a fast finish long run, so I pressed myself to not let off the pace. Miles 7-11 averaged in the upper 6:40s, but I was feeling really comfortable and looked forward to flying down the hill on the other side. Mile 12 was a nice 400 foot loss of elevation and I picked up the pace dropping a 5:44. I let it out a little but didn't get to crazy as there was a lot of race left. It got my legs spinning again and I was able to drop 4 more miles at sub 6:10 pace.

By mile 20, I was feeling tired, but not anything worrisome. More like tired because I raced a week ago and didn't taper and was at mile 20 kind of tired. I resolved to just continue to maintain my pace and not worry about pushing it too hard. Around mile 21, one of the bike pacers told me my lead had grown to 2:20 over Caitlin. I knew that I couldn't let off the pace or do anything that would cause me to blow up, so I just dug in and maintained.

The last 4 miles seemed to take forever, but eventually I made my way around the Lake and closed in our the final stretch. Fittingly, the race finishes up a hill, so I pushed myself up the final hill and waved my arms to pump up the crowd as the announcer called my name. It was thrilling. I had started the day not even knowing if I would have the strength to finish the race strong and instead, I won. Even more satisfying, I set a new course record in 2:47!!

Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News

I think the most thrilling part of it all is the fact that this is the first time my mom has got to see me win a race. It was awesome to be able to give her a big hug just after the finish and see her so proud!

I am very pleased with how the race went, how I felt and how I handled the ups and downs of this week (heck of this year). It makes me very excited for the races to come this year and to see what I can do!

Wasn't/Was: a tale of two races

A few months ago, my friend Ian Sharman sent me a message suggesting I run Carlsbad Marathon on January 27th. There was great elite support and a good prize purse/incentive structure that could make a good training run worth my while. I was in! Since I hadn't raced since Kauai Marathon in early September, I wanted to jump back into racing and use a race as a good training run.  I signed up and worked it into my training schedule with my coach.

Finally celebrating our honeymoon!

After a great first week of January, I was feeling confident in my training. I had rocked out a fun adventure run with Larissa and completed that week with 113 incredible miles feeling healthy, strong and fast. The week after that it was off to Mexico for our belated honeymoon.


Mexico was amazing. We surfed and did yoga with WildMex, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and still managed a daily run. My mileage wasn't great in Mexico as there were not a ton of great places for me to run, but I didn't mind since we were so busy doing all the other activities. I finished each day exhausted. It was awesome to get away after such a hectic 2012. 

I felt pretty tired over the duration of our trip and on the last day had a really bad stomach ache. We returned on January 16th, back to work, life and the hecticness of trying to get MHBB off the ground. The fatigue and stomach ache persisted. I didn't have any other symptoms other than excruciating pain after eating, but consulted with my on call doctor brother in law for some answers. Thankfully, after 5 days the pain went away. Unfortunately, the fatigue did not. I ran over 80 miles that week, but just felt dead the whole time. I started to worry that Carlsbad was going to go extremely poorly. Race week came and flew by but I still felt weak and tired.

For some reason, I decided to fly to Carlsbad anyways. I hoped for a late miracle burst of energy or something. I hoped that I could simply train through the tired. I was wrong. I should have listened to my gut. From the moment the gun went off, I just felt dead. I was able to push myself into the low 6 min/mile range but was fighting myself the whole way on the very tough course. At mile 14, I simply stopped. I was digging myself into a hole and I wasn't enjoying myself. I was cooked. I had said that this race was suppose to be a workout, so what would I have done if it were a workout not a race? I would have stopped. It was a bummer, but it was clear to me that something was wrong.

After assessing the weeks leading up to the race, it was quite clear that there were two things going on. First, I likely had come down with something in Mexico and secondly, my iron was low again. I hadn't taken my iron supplement for nearly three weeks and whilst in Mexico didn't eat much iron rich food. When I returned back from Carlsbad, I immediately started back on my Floradix and scheduled an appointment with my doctor.

Coming on the DNF at Carlsbad, I wanted to go back to training but wanted to ensure that I wasn't simply going to pile on more fatigue and exhaustion. I decided to listen to my body and run when and for however long it wanted. By mid-week, it was actually turning into a good training week. On Wednesday, I was at San Francisco Running Company's soft opening to help Brett and Jorge out. The evening was capped off with a fun group run and a great turn out at the store. It was so much fun to see Brett get his doors open! Go check them out in Mill Valley. While there I was catching up with my friend Peter and frequent training partner when we still lived in the City. I knew Peter was going to run the KP half marathon on Sunday and was suddenly struck with an idea: running it with him. I inquired as to his pace/race plans and he said he wasn't sure since he was coming off a cold. I said, "I don't know sounds like a good plan to me, want to run together?" and promptly signed up. Although I was inching my way towards a 100 mile week, I decided that putting myself back into a race might help dissipate some of the bad feeling coming off Carlsbad. I didn't expect to PR or even be able to manage my marathon pace, but I wanted to run a race again before Napa, which is a race I want to do well at.

On Saturday, I went out for the grand opening of San Francisco Running Company and ran with a huge group of folks that showed up for a celebratory 10 mile jaunt with 1700+ feet of ascent in the Headlands. I was feeling better than I had been and hoped that Sunday's race would at least be a slight improvement over the previous week (aka not wanting to just lie down in the middle of the race).

Nathan dropped Peter and I off at 7:15 in the park. We collected our numbers, did a little warm-up, discussed our race "plan" and deposited ourselves near the start, greeting many friends along the way. Our race "plan" amounted to somewhere in the range of 6-6:20 min/mile pace. Or more like, just start running and see how we feel.

The gun went and off we went. As we made our way east out of the park, I felt surprisingly good. I felt like I was super comfortable and cruising. I was also afraid to look at my watch for fear that that feeling was because we were running more like 7:00 min/mile than the low 6's we'd talked about. Thankfully, when I finally plucked up the courage to look, our pace was actually 5:58 for the first mile. Sweet! I felt a smile creep across my face and I knew I was going to have a strong run. I still wanted the race to be a workout paced run, I didn't want to over-reach, so I settled into the slightly sub 6/6 min range.

I don't generally run shorter races such as this, but I have to say, it was a blast. I am hooked! I had an easier time pushing myself and playing with my paces because I knew that the race would be over before I even had a chance to think about it. I was having so much fun. 

Going into the turn around just before mile 10, I could see that I was in 8th place. I was pretty close to a few other ladies and so I decided to push the last few miles and go one gear beyond the easy cruise I'd been in. I was just happy to feel like I had another gear, I was just happy to be flying. I powered back down the Great Highway into a strong headwind and caught three ladies in rapid succession. I flew back into the park and crossed the finish line in 1:18:57.



After the race, Nathan, Peter and I did a nice cool-down through the park and I finished out the day with 23 miles. I was tired, but happy. To me, the place/ time were not the important thing, the important thing was feeling like myself in a race situation. What was lost at Carlsbad was found in my own backyard. Needlesstosay, what a difference a week makes.

Comeback or move forward

Second run back, marking the Firetrails 50 course
Photo by Brett Rivers

Six weeks ago I was in the best shape of my life. Workouts were going great. I was coming off a good training run at Kauai marathon feeling hungry to go after a PR in the low 2:30s at Chicago. Fit as a fiddle and ready to roll. 

I was excited and motivated to keep pushing. But then I fell and then I was injured. A month ago, I was still hoping to be able to run on our wedding day. Instead, I had to watch from the sidelines (and shed some tears) about not being able to join my friends for some wedding weekend running. I had to withdraw from Chicago, cancel my trip and miss out on seeing my sister PR in the windy city on her birthday. The last six weeks have been filled with the best of times (getting married!!!) as well as some very rough times (it is not in fact just me that is injured, Nathan has a stress fracture in his foot). 

With an injury like mine, there comes a point when you feel like you are no longer just trying to bridge the healthy running with intense cross training and instead are struggling to hold on to your goals. You come to a point where no matter how hard you workout in the pool or on the bike or on the elliptical, that you just don't feel fit anymore. It took me four weeks to get back to running and naturally, I went out of the gate pretty hard with it. The first week it felt blissful to just be back out on the trails again. I felt nervous and tentative about pushing my foot/ankle too far. But that blissful caution wore off pretty quickly with the reality of my upcoming goals. I am slated to do NYC marathon in less than two weeks. Last week I pushed myself like a crazy person and took risks that I might not have if I was simply focused on my healthy return. I was focused on the comeback, not moving forward. 

The funny thing about the idea of a comeback is that it is not very forward thinking. It is a focus on getting back to a place of something, in this case fitness. Moving forward means letting go of where you were and focusing on creating something new; better, strong, faster. Because I have a race rapidly approaching, I have had a comeback mentality which ultimately a very short sighted approach. I could ready myself enough to run NYC in two weeks, but I wonder if it is worth it. I struggled really hard to let go of Chicago and am now faced with making the same choice again. I wonder if I will be fit enough to deserve to stand on the line with the elite women. I wonder if I will get dropped quickly and be bringing up the rear of the elite women's start. I wonder if I will wheezy and lumber myself through an embarrassing performance. I wonder if my ankle will flare up or if it will hold steady. I don't know the answers, but I know that I would make different choices if I had no races on the immediate schedule. It is a complex thing to decide whether to come back or move forward.

I want to make the right decision for my health, for my running, for my racing. Ultimately, I simply love to run and I love that my body has allowed me for so long to push it this way. I want to respect it and take care of it so I can do it for a long time.

Lucky few

Injuries are part of the reality of running. We put an extraordinary amount of hurt on ourselves through hard training and it is very hard over time to get it right all of the time and stay healthy. A lot of the runners I know have laundry lists of various injuries, niggles and problems that they have faced over the year. Back when I was a basketball player, I seemed to be constantly battling something- three stress fractures then a debilitating back injury that ultimately forced me to quit playing all together. As a runner, one might assume that I would face similar issues and struggles.

But injuries have not been a big part of my reality over the past 7 years since I ran my first marathon. In the past 5 years, since I started ultrarunning, I have only had one injury that was of real concern and I was back on my feet and running in less than 10 days. I am one of the lucky few.

I am in fact injured right now. I have been diagnosed with retrocalcaneal bursitis, possibly triggered by my epic trail crash two weeks ago that landed me in the ER with stitches in my arm. I may have thrown off my left side and gotten everything out of whack. For the past week, I have been unable to run, unable really even to walk without severe pain and a "hiccup in my giddyup" as someone so cleverly put it.

I have not sat back and done nothing to fix this. I have charged at it with a team of doctors, PT and massage therapists to rid myself of this as quickly and permanently possible. Medicine, ice, rest, taping, massage, ART, graston, stim, ultrasound. If I can't run, I will use that time to heal. Yes it is frustrating, yes I have cried and been a crazy person (sanity was not easy to come by while on the steroids my doctor prescribed). I have been killing myself in workouts in the pool (doing pool running) and dripping with sweat in the garage on my bike trainer. I feel like I am doing everything I can to get better.

I am a bit disappointed that I will likely not be able to run worry free on our wedding day in just 9 days. It is becoming decreasingly likely that I will toe the line in Chicago and go after the low 2:30 I was ready for. And still I feel lucky. This is not old hat for me, this is a new situation for me to be in. I have no idea how long this injury will take to clear up and I am still learning how best to handle it, but I am thankful that I have gone this long without anything quite so serious. 

I look forward to when I can run pain free again and really understand how vital running healthy is to my entire life. For now, I will do my little pool running laps with my floaty and dream about the day I am free again to run for miles and miles and miles.

And to catch you up on everything else.... pictures from all of the madness from the past month!
Our new rental in San Anslemo!

Fun training run at Crystal Springs 20 miler.

Getting licensed to wed.
MHBB coffee purveyor tastings

Breakfast deliciousness in Hopland for Brett & LP's wedding!

The beautiful bride getting ready!

Awww we are so cute

My sister helping with the move by entertaining us.

Leaving the way it came in.

Weirdo.


Our entire lives in a truck

Run ferry run commute

Golden gate in golden light.


Practicing fancy wedding makeup

Kauai for a marathon, 5 days after moving-ugh!

Kalua pork hash with sweet potatoes.

I could stay here forever


Prerace meal

Round two of sweet potatoes!

2nd place x2. Jorge and I after the race (we both were 2nd)

Winner Brett Ely and I receiving our awards

All things consider. Moving, travel debacle, no energy, no taper-
I am really pleased with 2nd place & a 2:49 on a course with 2,000 feet of ascent!



Post-race rewards


Our new favorite past time- BBQ!

Epic trail crash.



All stitched up. Thanks Healdsburg Hospital!

Sarah's bachelorette party!

Therapeutic shoes for my ankle injury

Nathan's epic trail crash one week after mine.

Getting stitched up in the KP San Rafael ER.

His and Hers suture removal kits!

The SF Marathon- race report

photo credit Tony Medina

Heading into Sunday's Wipro San Francisco Marathon, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to win. I have run this race twice before and neither time was the my primary objective. The first time I ran it, I paced my sister the whole way through as it was her first marathon. Last year, Nathan and I ran it together and I used it as a training run leading up to WC100k.

Despite really wanting to win, I also was not sure I could. After Comrades, I took the month of June easy and once I started back training in July, I was doing more base building and moderate mileage than peak training. I did one track workout and one tempo workout before SF Marathon, with the later happening Tuesday before the race (you know, since it is such a great idea to run sub 5 min pace before you run a marathon). Needlesstosay, I had no real basis for judging what kind of shape I was in. I felt like I was running well, but had no training indicators to buoy my fitness.

So I did what anyone would do in my postion: go for broke and see what happens.

 photo credit SFM

Before the race, I familiarized myself with some of the competition and looked at marathon PR's across the board to carefully consider the capabilities and speed of the field. Knowing SF is a much harder course than most, I knew the times would be slower but wanted to be mentally prepared if I was going to have to go out on PR pace practically. When I got to the starting line, I knew I had the fastest PR in the group by nearly 11 minutes. While I didn't necessarily think I was in PR shape, I knew that I would likely be looked to dictate the pace and lead the field.

photo credit SFM

Anna Bretan (sister of my fellow ninja Jonathan Bretan) is a two time winner of the Oakland marathon. She is tough on a tough course. Before the race she told me that Jonathan told her to keep an eye on me and stay with me. Standing on the start line, I decided on my strategy. If the field was going to look to me to dictate pace, then I was going to take the race out hard and splinter the field early, after which I could settle into the pace (2:45) that I thought it would take to win.

The gun went off and I just went for it. As I started running, I considered if it was a smart strategy. My legs didn't feel warmed up and I knew that taking the race out on 2:37 pace was risky for me as well. I could blow up hard later. I didn't want to be scared though. Part of learning to race marathons for me has been learning how to get in the pain cave and relish it. To hurt and keep pushing. I figured that this race was a perfect opportunity to practice racing and hone my skill.
photo credit SFM

I clicked along at around 6 minute pace and charged towards the Golden Gate bridge with a little pack of ladies and guys tucked in behind me. The first 6 miles only have one real kicker of a hill, so it felt good to get the legs turning over. I wasn't sure how many ladies were with me as we headed up the steep climb to the bridge. I was pretty sure that at least a handful had backed off from my kamikaze of a start. I felt really good though and knew that I was going to have a solid day. I just felt strong. Not necessarily as fast as I've felt, but just felt able to maintain the pace all day long.

photo credit SFM

I run back and forth and back and forth across the bridge for training all the time. I know its curve, I know how hard to push when. By the time I was headed back to the SF side, I knew that my strategy had paid off. A quick glance over my shoulder registered that I was gapping the field and pulling away. I fell in with a group of guys and worked my way towards the park. I rolled with the hills, not throttling back too much on the few challenging up and hit the park feeling good. I was excited to feel so good heading into the park because I knew that the second half was faster and if I was feeling good I might be able to even or negative split. I passed through the halfway point just around 1:22. 

To the beach and back is one of my bread and butter runs (speaking of Bread and Butter, have you checked out our Kickstarter campaign yet?!?!), so I locked in and got my legs moving fast as the course slopped downhill. I was running with a guy named Gavin who was doing his first marathon. It was nice to have the company and we caught another duo shortly thereafter, whom I helped coach through a bad patch, reassuring them their race wasn't falling apart because they felt crap. That instead they just each needed to take a gel. I spent a few miles with them and then decided to push on ahead. I got onto the Stow Lake loop that is next to the 1st half finish and was excited to see Nathan, Georgia and Larissa (with the whole Strava crew).

 photo credit Tony Medina
I was on my own then. Just pushing along, managing my time and my energy. I apparently had not been running tangents well because my mileage vs. the markers was off, so I just resolved to stay locked in on my 6:11min/mile pace and focus on that. Loping down the Haight the cheers for me changed from "yeah 1st woman" (in the park) to suddenly "you are second woman!". Wait, what? I was confused and told the leader bicycle pacer that people were saying I was second. There are two places on the course where it is possible to get confused and cut off significant mileage. I figured that someone had turned left going into the park and skipped the bottom section of the park (which friends later confirmed). The bike pacer took off after the woman and I decided to turn her into a rabbit instead of being frustrated by the situation. I knew I was winning, but I also wanted my moment. If I am going to win, I want to come tearing into the finish line and break the tape. 

I pushed the pace on a few downhills into the mission and turning on to 16th spotted the lost lady. Her pace was significantly slower and I ate up ground and passed her quickly. With less than 5 miles to the finish line, I was starting to smell the barn. I wasn't sure what my gap was on the field, but I knew that if anyone was going to catch me, I was going to make them earn it. I just locked in and went. 

 photo credit Tony Medina

I never felt bad. I felt like a machine. I did work through the Dogpatch and crossed the bridge to ATT park flying. I looked at my watch and saw that even with the extra .25 miles I had run that I was going to be able to run sub 2:45. I pushed myself towards the finish line. Hitting the mile 26 sign I looked at my watch (marathon split 2:42:44) and pressed forward. The finish line announcer was saying that they had word that I was at ATT park a few minutes out, but I was flying down the finishing straight. The announcer caught sight of me and the crowd started going wild. I soaked it in. This is what I came for, this is what I had earned. I came to represent for my home and I protected my home turf.


photo credit Tony Medina

Victory. I have to say that this is one of the more satisfying wins I've had. It wasn't just about the fact that I won. It was that I ran the race I wanted to, I took risks, I pushed myself. I came to win: mission accomplished.
Photo from SF Gate

Thanks to The San Francisco Marathon for inviting me as an elite (and putting me in bib #2 for motivation!), North Face and all of my other sponsors!