Nike Women’s Half-Marathon: Running a Race for Training is Weird

I ended up running the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon on Sunday sort of last minute — like Saturday night decision. Primarily, I wanted to go over to the race to interview some people and feel it out for a story. (Which by the way, you should all go over and check out my story about how races profit off free labor at Beacon Reader. It’s a new journalism platform where you can subscribe, get access to all the reporters on there and the money goes to straight to the writer — me!) But, also, I wanted to get in a long hard, marathon pace type run.

I know people do races for training all the time. But, it’s not really my thing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it. I’ve done races where I didn’t expect to PR because it wasn’t a target race, but I still put everything out there on that day. When I race I race. Probably my number one skill in sports is being scrappy/bringing the race face. I’m not saying I’m super fast, but if we just measured the difference between how you perform in training and how you perform on race day, I’d probably be at the top.

So, I don’t usually waste that.

AGH, so many people and lights and speakers.
AGH, so many people and lights and speakers.

And, I guess, well, I didn’t. I definitely did NOT bring my race face to Nike Women’s. I got to the parking garage, about a half-mile from the line, at 6:08 for a 6:30 start. My regular race panic kicked in and I started bolting down the street before I remembered I was going to use the first few miles to warm-up. Also, everyone around me looked at me like I was crazy. Evidently, among the majority of the 30,000 racers there is less of a sense of urgency than I usually feel. After I got my bag dropped at bag check at 6:20, I spent the next 14′ scouring fancy hotel bathrooms for feminine products.

When I finally walked out of the St. Regis at 6:34, I realized we still had 6′ until my corral was scheduled to cross the start line. Because the bib I got from a friend of a friend came with a pace bracelet, I was in the 9:00-9:59 pace corral. It was interesting. I didn’t realize this is what the race looks like to most people doing it: more casual, more photos being taken, more stopping to talk and gossip.

Even running relatively easily, I had to weave like I was drunk. Lots of people did, though it is downtown San Francisco, so it’s possible some of them really were drunk. In the dark, nobody was out yet, so most people just jumped up on the sidewalk to run. This policeman was trying to shoo everyone back into the street, but it was a losing battle.

I sort of enjoyed the scenery and ran 8:23, 8:00, 7:48 for my first three miles. Then, my plan was to pick it up for the next mile (7:18) and run marathon goal race pace (7:00-7:05) for the last nine miles. I think I managed one mile actually in that range.

Since I didn’t bring my race face, I hadn’t really looked at the course. That meant I didn’t really realize, or I only sort of realized, I would be running my marathon pace miles over this:


I did a 6:55 mile along the water and then a 7:15 mile that included the big climb up from Crissy Field. Then, there was a 7:55 mile while we were going up and a 6:45 when we were going down. Somewhere around then I started to worry that this was really hard. Should it be this hard? It did not feel easy. And it definitely did not feel marathon pace-y. Then I did like another 8:00 while we ran uphill and a 6:35 down to Ocean Beach.

At that point I started to get really worried. My legs hurt and I just wanted to be done. I’d been hungry since mile 4. I was going, in theory, 45″ slower per mile than my half-marathon PR. But, it wasn’t easy. What the hell is that about?

I even had to buckle down, zone out and grit my teeth for the last three miles. Since they were flat-ish — up through the park and then back down and into the finish, I was the closest to the actual pace I meant to go: 7:15, 7:00, 6:50. But, when I finished in 1:36:47 I realized I didn’t feel wiped out at all. I felt fine and completely coherent. I changed clothes and started interviewing people.

So, I guess that’s the difference between a training race and a race race.

Running up, up, up.
Running up, up, up.

The race is really well-done, but also totally weird. It caters specifically to women runners — or rather a caricature of what women are supposed to be. They had chocolate at one aid station. What am I supposed to do with a chocolate bar in the middle of a race? (I stuffed it in my sports bra.) They were handing out baby wipes at other aid stations. I think to wipe off the sweat. Did no one tell anybody that women are supposed to sweat when they run? There were actual firefighters dressed in tuxedos handing out Tiffany necklaces at the finish. If that doesn’t scream me, I don’t know what does.

And, that’s how I ended up deciding to run Nike Women’s tomorrow…

Somehow, I had convinced myself that if I just got through the week everything would be ok. Like, then, the kitten wouldn’t be dying anymore and I’d suddenly be untired. That’s not really how things work though. And, when you find yourself telling the cat it’ll get better, who are you really trying to convince?

I was supposed to get up at 6:30 a.m. this morning to go to high school cross-country. But, last night, when I finally got home and then went to the other house to check on the dying cat and then was eating dinner at 9:45 p.m. and trying to figure out how I would get down to Nike Women’s Marathon to do some interviews for a story and make it work with my workouts, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I slept for over 11 hours.

Your day gets really messed up when you sleep for over 11 hours.

You end up deciding that the best way to do some research/interviews at Nike Women’s and get a run in would be to run the race. A friend of a friend was offering up her bib, so I said sure. Sure, why not. My new plan is to run the first 3-4 miles warm-up, do 9-10 miles at marathon pace, just do the half-marathon (obviously, I’m not THAT stupid) and then scope out the scene for my story, take some notes and be back at home — or one of the homes, with one of the cats — by late morning, ready to wrap up some work.

What could possibly go wrong.

PS. The story I’m working on is about races and volunteers and money and it’ll be up on Beacon on Tuesday and you should get excited.

Boston non-finishers will get to race Boston Marathon 2014. I kept emailing BAA back and saying I didn’t count as a non-finisher, because my lack of finish had nothing to do with anything that happened — and I didn’t want a finish medal or time or special treatment. It looks they got it, since this only applies to those who reached the halfway but couldn’t finish.

Despite CNN saying otherwise (and what hasn’t CNN gotten wrong), interest in running Boston 2014 is actually at an all-time high. [Because I may need to take six months off or get surgery to fix my foot, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to qualify for Boston before September. And I want to go back next year and finish what I started. Then, I realized my Chicago time from October qualifies me (!), so that’s one problem solved.]


Boston Marathon explosions

I am fine, FYI. If you were following me in the race, you didn’t get updates because I dropped out. In the wake of what has happened since, that freaked some people out.

I caught a bus back to the finish and had just walked out of the area to meet a friend when the explosions happened. We didn’t hear anything in the noise and crowd. When we went to get on the subway, it was being evacuated.

Things are crazy now. We walked away from there as fast as possible. Everyone is holed up in bars and restaurants waiting to find out what’s going on and waiting for the subway to open and waiting for the lockdown to end. But the more news that comes out the worse it sounds. They found more devices and there’s a number of injuries.

It’s chaos and a tragedy and unbelievable someone would do this at a race like this.

More later. I’m OK. Not everyone is, though. Let’s all hope for the best.

What Should I Wear for Boston?

I’m about to shower and head to the airport and get into Boston at midnight tonight. When I booked the ticket, I thought ‘oh, getting in at 12:50 a.m. won’t be bad, that’s like 9:50 on the West Coast.’ But, then I realized by the time I get to the hotel, it’ll be like 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning and then I have to be ready to be on East Coast time by Monday morning. Clearly, I thought this through.

My foot is actually better since the cortisone shot. It’s not hurting anymore. But, when I ran 4.2 miles yesterday, with a fast mile in the middle, everything else started hurting. My left hamstring feels like it’s ripping out of my ass. My right IT band is pulling on my knee. The whole rest of the day yesterday it felt like I’d run a really hard race at that pace, not one mile at that pace. Another 22 miles on top of that is going to be interesting.

The really important question, though, is what to wear for the BOSTON MARATHON on Monday? I need opinions.

Originally, I planned to wear my new Nike shorts that I bought last month. But, the first time I wore them was the track workout where I hurt my foot. So, they have bad juju. If I wear those shorts, then I’ll also wear the new Northface race tanktop I bought on my shopping spree last week (which is bright yellow – not white like it looks in this picture).

My planned, new race outfit.
My planned, new race outfit.

However, I have bad feelings about these shorts, because obviously they caused my foot injury. So, the other day, I bought some new Oiselle shorts when I was checking out a new running store. Everyone keeps raving about Oiselle, but the first time I picked up cute long-sleeve shirt, it was $76! I just set it back down and backed away slowly. But, these shorts were regular priced ($44). Only problem is they’re bright orange, so I’m not going to wear a bright yellow tanktop with bright orange shorts. I’m not ridiculous. If I wear the new Oiselle shorts, then I’ll wear one of these older white tanktops I’ve worn billions of times — which is why they’re not really that white anymore.

The shorts are actually completely orange, they just look all splotchy, because they're wet. I think.
The shorts are actually completely orange, they just look all splotchy, because they’re wet. I think.

Thoughts? Suggestions? I’m taking both outfits and will just decide there.

I will also, obviously, be wearing gloves, but I haven’t decided between the super fancy running gloves, which if I get too hot I’ll have to shove into my sports bra, and a regular cheap pair of cotton ones that I can just dump at some point in the race.

Fancy running gloves.
Fancy running gloves.

And, just in case you thought I had something figured out, I also haven’t decided which shoes to race in. I was originally going to race in my Nike Lunaracers, because they’re awesome, but they’re also the shoes I was wearing during the track workout where my foot started hurting. So, again, bad juju — also they may have actually contributed to my foot hurting. I’ve been wearing my Mizuno Precisions for all my Alter-G running, because they’re the loosest of my shoes and didn’t rub my toe joint. So, I know they work, but they’re kind of heavy and not race shoes. I could also wear my Saucony Virratas, which I know I like, but I haven’t been running in them, so I think they could hurt my legs.

Agh. Thoughts?

Stuffing all these into one carry-on was interesting.
Stuffing all these into one carry-on was interesting.

Clearly I am super ready for this shit.

LA Marathon

I'm not smiling because that way you can't see my dead tooth. I'm working on a new photo face.
I’m not smiling because that way you can’t see my dead tooth. I’m working on a new photo face.

In the end, I did not run any part of the Los Angeles Marathon. Yesterday, I couldn’t even run two minutes without throbbing pain at the base of my toe. Oddly, running without shoes back and forth in the yard didn’t hurt my foot, so I briefly considered doing my runs barefoot, then decided even if that was my thing (and I wasn’t worried about stepping on lots of glass and feces in the streets of LA) I couldn’t really start doing that as a long run randomly.

Natalie did, however, do the race, even though she’s been hurt the last four weeks and hasn’t run in three. We weren’t sure how it was going to go considering, so finishing is definitely a victory! Especially when you run it without being able to bend your left knee, like she did.

Since, instead of running I rode around and stopped at bars, I got a birds’ eye view of the race. This is my opinion:

LA Marathon Race Review

Cute. Fine. (Oh, you wanted more…)

The Expo: Who cares about the expo? You should be back at your hotel with your feet up anyway. They had what expos should have.

The Goodies: They gave everyone a race shirt I’d actually wear that was fun and bright green. Though you didn’t get anything else in the goodie bag, unlike the 10K where I got a jar of “peanut butter.” And, the people who pay attention to these kinds of things also informed me the medal was cute.

The Course: I’d say the best part of the LA Marathon is the course. It goes from Dodger Stadium (but not actually on the field) to Santa Monica via lots and lots of landmarks. You run down Rodeo Drive and along the beach and through Hollywood. I don’t typically pay attention to landmarks or vistas, but it’s a pretty flat (with a few rolling hills) course without being boring — and isn’t that what we all want.

There’s also a decent amount of entertainment and cheering and community support. I’d say it’s not the most I’ve ever seen, but not the least either. There was a community pop-up beer station and sushi station and chili cheesedog station. There was also a lot of TV cameras and people trying to interview runners while they were running. Very LA. Miles 20-25 looked like they were pretty dead, which can be rough when you’re like shuffling and dragging.

And, they didn’t have tons of amounts of food — I always hate when the only nutrition station is like at mile 20; newsflash: that’s too late! — but they had lots of water and drinks and aid/medical stations. Most importantly, they didn’t run out.

The Organization: Sort of a shitshow.

Now the caveat is that I don’t watch a lot of marathons and, to a degree, they all are sort of shitshows for spectators. And, to a degree, that’s fine, because the important thing is that it’s not a shitshow for the participants.

The biggest problem is that LA doesn’t have great public transit, which isn’t the race organizers’ fault, but it means a lot of people had to drive a lot of places. And, the major roads were shut down, but without clear directions for alternatives or traffic control to make it run smoothly, so there was lots of sitting in traffic or trying to bike through traffic if you were me or being yelled at by traffic cops. And, then once you did get down past the finish to find your runner (where there was no cell service, as a side note), you had to make your way through this whole other shitshow and the runners had to walk and walk and walk to get to anywhere where they could get home. It wasn’t smooth. And, the drunken St. Patrick’s revelers did not make it any smoother.

Grade: B

Runners coming around the corner of Rodeo. With this really annoying blaring video message thing behind me.
Runners coming around the corner of Rodeo. With this really annoying blaring video message thing behind me.