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This was my third year running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, my first half marathon of the year and my 18th half marathon overall.

All of the Finish Line girls (me, Andy, Evann and Angela) stayed at the Hilton located on O’Farrell St. so we were a little over a block away from Union Square. I had set alarms for 5:00, 5:10 and 5:15 and finally got out of bed around 5:30 (actually I just sat in bed and ate my larabar and banana breakfast). By 6:00 I was finally dressed, and by 6:15 Fit Andy and I headed out the door. We arrived to the start of the race around 6:23, with about 7 minutes to spare. Andy and I were seated in the first wave, however, the entry to our area was for both the 7-7:59 and 8-8:59 waves which made lining up a little bit hectic.

With the sound of the first alarm, we were off! However, we spent the first 2 miles bobbing and weaving through the crowds. We were off to a slow start and even had to walk a few steps within the first tenth of a mile because it was so congested.

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One of the eerie things about this race is running in the dark for around 50 minutes.  By the time we entered Golden Gate Park (around mile 4/5) it was starting to get lighter. If you followed the @finishlineusa Snapchat account, you would have seen that I tried to take a picture of the waterfall. But because I was running (and the fact I hadn’t mastered the art of taking pics while running yet — something I finally got the hang of around mile 8/9) it was blurry 😛

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We entered the Richmond District around mile 8, which had a fairly steep hill lined by typical SF style homes. But the sky was so pretty with a flurry of pinks and blues, and clouds resting on the horizon.

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Around mile 9 we reached the Presidio, and somewhere around here I lost Andy.  At mile 10 we were faced with the biggest and longest hill of the race.  This hill lasts around 1/2 a mile to 3/4 of a mile. However, at this point I felt like I began to experience a runner’s high. I started to get chills from the excitement, the breeze and the view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The one thing I couldn’t wait for was the downhill. At one point I looked down at my watch and I was running sub 6….I remembered that last year I felt like I should have excelled during this part of the race, but had issues with my knee. Unlike last year, I didn’t run a marathon the week before and felt fairly energized through this part of the race. I paid extra attention to my form, and just kind of let my legs roll. It helped to pick up speed during the downhill and return to a normal stride that ended up being faster than normal pace just because of the momentum of the downhill.

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I think one of my specialities is pacing myself and leaving some reserves in the tank. For the last 2 miles I felt like I killed it. These miles felt effortless and like I had so much left in the tank to sustain a fast and exerted effort. It was so much fun to run pass people that were trudging through the last couple of miles. Usually I feel like I’m really forcing the pace, but this time I felt smooth and mentally strong knowing that I could do and hold anything/pace for ~1 mile.

One of the most deceptive parts of this race is the finish line. You can’t really see it as you’re approaching the end. It’s a straightaway followed by a left turn and a right turn immediately into the finish line. This was something I learned from running the course last year.

I would summarize the course as a mix of street and greenery, with an equal number of hills to downhills.  The scenery is always changing which makes the course seem to fly by quickly. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first-timers course (unless you’re properly trained for it), but it seems to be a favorite amongst all walks of runners.

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Andy and I did not set any goals for ourselves. Our plan was to just have fun and run by feeling. I knew I wanted to run around a 1:45ish safely, and I ended up just doing that.
Towards the end of the race I thought I saw a 1:39 pacer (don’t know why this pacer would exist) but it was actually 1:50. I think my mind was just playing games, mixed with a little bit of wishful thinking.

Although not a PR, I ended up getting a course PR for this Nike Women’s Half Marathon.

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:44:25):
1 – 8:50
2 – 8:32
3 – 8:17
4 – 7:54
5 – 7:54
6 – 7:33
7 – 7:38
8 – 8:03
9 – 8:06
10 – 7:42
11 – 8:06
12 – 7:00
13 – 7:06
Last .28 – 1:37

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Thanks again to Finish Line for the opportunity to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in SF! #FNLrunsSF!!!

See last year’s recap // See 2013 recap

And we’re off! This morning we’ll be taking the streets of San Francisco. Make sure to follow along on Snapchat as Fit Andy and I will be taking over the @finishlineusa account!  Here’s the gear I’ll be wearing (and don’t make fun of my Hokas!!!).

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–Larabar
Skinfix  Rash Repair Balm
–CLIF Shot Blocks
Garmin 620 Forerunner
–Ipod shuffle
Stance Run Threshold Crew
Body Glide
–Lululemon Turbo Run Shorts
–#FNLRunsSF tank (similar style here)
Hoka One One Huaka

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I seriously cannot believe how fast this year has flown by. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago a few of the Finish Line Women (me, Fit Andy, Evann and Angela) found out we’d be running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. In reality, it was around June, and I felt like I had all the time in the world to get back on the training wagon. And while I’ve still been running (around 15-20 miles a week), ideally I’d like to (at the very least) get back into consistent 20-30 mile weeks.

Even with my best intentions of sticking to a plan, lately I have been “the worst.”  So I’m going to put it out in public… here is my training plan and goals for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on October 18th!

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Training Plan —
Mon – PM run
Tues – PM run
Wed – PM Yoga Sculpt
Thurs – AM run + AM Yoga Sculpt
Fri – Rest or AM Yoga Sculpt
Sat – Long run
Sun – Rest

Goals —
A goal – Overall PR, sub 1:40
B goal – Course PR ~1:45
C goal – Finish strong in the 1:40-1:50 range.

This will be my first half marathon of the year (yikes! when did I stop racing?!). With this increase in running activity, stay tuned for more running focused posts! (yes this might actually return in a “health and fitness” blog 😛 )

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Thanks to Finish Line for the opportunity to run this race again, as well as Nike and GoPro for hooking it up FAT!!  Stay tuned, hopefully I can share some training runs captured on my new GoPro Hero4 Session!

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So…I didn’t realize the race course had changed until Saturday morning. Instead of running out towards the Embarcadero, it basically goes the opposite direction. I really enjoyed the course last year, and I didn’t know how I would feel about a new one. But I ended up loving the new course even more!

Fit Andy and I stayed at Hotel G located on Geary St. so we were literally a block away from Union Square. We woke up around 5:30am, ate a simple banana and Luna Bar breakfast, got dressed, and at 6:20am we headed out the door.

The corral situation is always difficult. We probably should have left the hotel a little earlier due to this, however, the starting line was also set up differently this year due to the new course. We entered towards the back of the 9-10 minute pace and tried to make our way up to the 8-9 minute corral but only got so far. This left us weaving through the people that had already started walking within the first mile(?).

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The race ran through the city streets first, while it was still dark. When we entered the Golden Gate State park it was light, hazy, and misting. I was worried how warm it was going to be due to the bright and sunny weather the day before, but once again, we received perfect running/racing conditions.

One thing I noticed this year was that there were more notable hills, specially at mile 2, between 8 and 9, and mile 10. However, I felt like I moved effortlessly up the hills (save for mile 10), which then presented some downhill portions (my specialty) to really let the legs roll. For the hills I made sure to keep moving up them, and then crested once I got to the top. I learned that not only running, hills, but running them diagonally, weaving through people, is really something in itself (haha).

I brought a Gu with me for the hell of it and started to feel al title hungry at mile 9 so I took it (plus salted caramel is so good, how could you not want to just eat it?).

Mile 10 was a BITCH (through the Presidio). There was a sign that said only 1,000 more yards until the top of the hill, yadayada, and I thought to myself, wow, this is the big hill? No big deal. WRONG. It kept going and going and just getting more and more steep. At least we were welcomed with a downhill to flat finish, but at some point, right before mile 11, my knee started to really hurt and felt like it was turning out in the wrong direction. So I stopped briefly to try and stretch it twice. I wondered if I would be able to finish, but when you have a Tiffany’s necklace waiting for you at the end, THAT IS NOT AN OPTION! I just tried to focus on my form and just running, and it started to feel better.

By the last mile I had picked it up to a 7:30 pace and felt like I was cruising.

The race went by really fast and I felt good throughout but was worried that I might crash out of nowhere (kind of like mile 24 of the marathon). However, I think after the marathon, I’ve increased my willpower and have realized I can push my body a little more than I think, and just overall, endure more pain.

Takeaway points: loved the new course, it was very scenic, especially when it starts to lighten up (dark start due to 6:30am start time). More hills, so definitely train for them (both up and down). And no firemen to give high-fives at the finish line so no tripping hahah. Nike races are always so special and I’m looking to do this race again next year!

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Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:46:52):
1 – 8:06
2 – 8:00
3 – 8:28
4 – 8:00
5 – 8:01
6 – 7:39
7 – 7:30
8 – 8:05
9 – 8:03
10 – 7:51
11 – 9:14
12 – 7:50
13 – 7:32
Last .37 – 2:27

My chip time was 1:46:48.

Thanks again to Finish Line & Nike Track Club for the opportunity to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in SF!

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Ah! Today was such a fun race, with a new course and perfect weather.  Full recap to come later this week.  A little late, but here are the race day essentials:

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-Ipod shuffle
Gu: Salted Caramel
Body Glide
C9 by Champion sports bra
Nike Lunarglide 6
Nike Dri-Fit Knit tank
Garmin 620 Forerunner
Sol Raiz Organics maca capsules
Lululemon Run Inspire Crop II

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I can’t believe it’s almost October! That means a big month of racing coming up for me. Not only will I be running my first full marathon, but I’ll be running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in SF the following weekend. Kind of crazy, but when I was offered the opportunity to run the sold out Nike Women’s Half, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Last fall I ran my first Nike race and I was hooked. It’s amazing how they can take a race with soooo many participants and make it feel so special and personalized (goes for both SF and DC!).

In order to prepare for my busy racing month, I’ve been keeping up with my training. This usually includes 5 days of running, and at least 2 days of cross-training (recently I’ve been doing Pilates). I also make sure to take 1-2 days off a week to fully rest and recover.

A typical training week looks something like this:

Monday – cross-train + tempo run (~6 miles)
Tuesday – easy morning run (~4-6 miles)
Wednesday – cross-train + speed work
Thursday – easy morning run (~4-6 miles)
Friday – cross-train or rest
Saturday – long run
Sunday – rest

Since the Nike Women’s Half will be the week after my first full marathon, and I have nooooo idea how I’ll feel/recover, I’m planning to take the race super easy. I plan to listen to my body, take the hills as they come, walk through water stations, etc. The only goal I have set is to finish within the 3 hours and 17 minutes allotted for the course. AND to finish on my feet this year (and maybe get that Tiffany’s necklace…) 😉

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It’s official. I’ll be running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco this October!

Let me back track now.

On Monday night, Andy and I made the 2 hour drive over to Torrance to participate in the “14 Ladies Night at Nike Track Club.” The Nike Track Club store is an extension of the Finish Line Store at the Del Amo Fashion Center. It’s a really cool concept, totally geared towards the LA Runner.

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We left San Diego at 3pm and only hit a slight amount of traffic. We had no idea what to expect for the Nike Track Club event. We arrived early, but luckily the event was at a mall so it wasn’t too hard to kill time ;-).

We checked in around 6:30pm, got taped up with Muscle Aid Tape, and waited for the event to officially begin at 7pm. All of the attendees were able to try on a pair of the new Nike Lunarglide 6’s for our 2-3 mile run.

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The run was intended to be easy, at a conversational pace, but that quickly changed as we hit the ground running at a 7 min, sometimes sub-7 minute pace.

It was hot and humid, and what most likely was supposed to be a light jog turned into a total 2.85 mile sweat-fest! The Lunarglide 6’s worked really well, and I completely forgot I was wearing a brand new pair of shoes!

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As we returned to the store, we ran into a table filled with Nuun (YES! – grape), Nuun bottles, brownie brittle and Suja smoothies. If this wasn’t enough, we were told the real surprises were about to begin. My first thought was that we would be able to keep the shoes on our feet. However, the surprise ended up being even bigger and better than that.

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In true Nike style, guys in suits came out with the new Lunar Max 1 on silver platters…that would soon be shipped to each of us!  Next flutes of Suja Spark were delivered to toast what would soon be revealed as the big celebration…

We got entries into the sold out Nike Women’s Half Marathon!

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Ecstatic, Andy and I spent the rest of the night on Cloud 9. With massages that made us fall asleep, and other special gifts like swag bags and Nike outfit styling, the night was a complete treat.

We ended up leaving around 9:30pm, and honestly, I was so hyped on excitement and adrenaline I could’ve easily stayed there until midnight! I keep reliving Monday night in my head, it almost seems too surreal!

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A big thank you to Nike and Finish Line for an amazing event and for letting me be a part of it!

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Checking off thing three from my October “Three Things” Bucket List: Take a mini fall vacation.

So this month I ended up having one planned race-cation, and another impromptu race-cation.

How to plan for a race-cation:

  • Arrive early – give yourself some time to settle in.
  • Resist walking – or over-exerting yourself.
  • Race first – play later.
  • Hydrate – h20 and nuun. Save the celebration drinks for after.
  • Wear compression socks – to avoid swelling and promote circulation (especially for flights).
  • Plan your meals – know what kind of food you can eat and where you’re going to eat the night before.
  • Get a hotel close to the start – we stayed at the Handlery for NWMSF and Hotel O for RNRLA race.  Both were walking distances to the start.

Troubleshooting:

  • Bring backup music (iPhone & iPod) – I didn’t check my music until the night before and discovered “voice control” never turns off with music.  Luckily, I had my iPod for backup.
  • Bring alternative clothing – if the race is in an area where you’re unfamiliar with the weather, bring some options.

Have you ever done a race-cation?
If so, what do you make sure to prepare?

Thing One l Thing Two (coming)

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What would San Francisco be without a zillion food pictures and a play-by-play of every place we went to eat? I also went so far as to claim my pre-race dinner was “the perfect proportion of protein-to carbs-to lightness.”  See what went down and into my belly.

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Saturday lunch – After checking-in to the race expotique, we went down Maiden Lane (a little side street off Union Square) to this small little Italian place with outdoor seating.  We all had the seafood salad that was very light–perfect for our plans to eat an early dinner.

Mocca – 3.5 stars $$ Italian
175 Maiden Ln
(between Grant Ave & Stockton St)
Neighborhoods: Financial District, Union Square

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Saturday dinner – Around 5pm we had dinner at Sotto Mare (one of the many places on my list).  This ended up being quite a feast, but still light.  From a whole cracked-crab appetizer, to eating family-style — a pot of cioppino (me), linguine with bay scallops (dad) and sautéed scallops and prawns (bf) it ended up being my best pre-race meal.  The cioppino was so good!  Actually, everything here was so good! The sauces on everything just complimented the seafood in the best way, and were far from over-powering.  With the ambiance (family-owned, hidden gem, long-standing establishment) and everything combined, it was a very good meal.

Sotto Mare – 4 stars $$ Seafood, Italian
552 Green St (between Columbus Ave & Stockton St)
Mon-Sat 11am-9:30pm
Neighborhood: North Beach/Telegraph Hill

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Sunday brunch – Originally we were going to go to Mama’s at Washington Square, but by the time we made it over to North Beach, it was 11:30am and Mama’s had a long line out the door.  So we ended up at Park Tavern (again, one of the places on my list).  We shared a warm baguette with 3 homemade nut butters and banana coconut fritters as brunch appetizers (I don’t know if I’ve ever had brunch apps before?).  Then I had the roasted pepper and burrata tart that was oh so perfectly flaky.

Park Tavern – 4 stars $$$ American (New), Breakfast & Brunch
1652 Stockton St (between Union St & Filbert St)
Sat-Sun 10 am – 11 pm
Neighborhood: North Beach/Telegraph Hill

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Sunday dinner – Dinner at Mission Street Oyster Bar, aka cioppino round 2.  This place had the best garlic bread for dunking; it had the perfect crust with a soft interior excellent for soaking up juices.  Instead of king crab claws like Sotto Mare, it had dungeness crab shredded into the bowls (perfect for the lazy man, or the lady who doesn’t want to get her fingers dirty – I’d classify myself as both). This cioppino also had a little more heat (spicier than the night before’s).  It’s crazy because without Yelp we never would have found this place!

Mission Street Oyster Bar – $$ Seafood, Fish & Chips, Seafood Market
2282 Mission St
(between 19th St & 18th St)
Neighborhood: Mission

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Sunday dessert- The only thing I had to have was ice cream from one of the 3 places on my list (Humphrey Slocombe, Bi-Rite and/or Mitchell’s Ice Cream).  Bi-Rite was the closest to Mission Oyster Bar (which we were kind of skeptical to walk around after dark).  A couple blocks over in the Mission Dolores district, the crowds followed us to Bi-Rite.  I had a single scoop (option 1 or 2 flavors) with brown sugar and ginger swirl and ricanelas (cinnamon ice cream with snickerdoodle cookies).  I love unique ice cream flavors/shops.  If we had one of these in San Diego I would always choose it over Yogurtland (yes, I just said that).

Bi-Rite Creamery – 4.5 stars $ Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt
3692 18th St (between Dolores St & Oakwood St)
Mon-Thu, Sun 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
Neighborhood: Mission

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Monday breakfast – I woke up and was hungry.  My bf wanted to run (and I was in no shape to/nor did I want to), so I took my dad to my favorite coffee shop that I unfortunately had not visited yet this trip – Blue Bottle Coffee Co.  We both got mocha’s and shared a pumpkin buckle (I love crumble toppings!) and a waffle.  I love the mocha’s at Blue Bottle because they have a bitter chocolate taste (made with TCHO chocolate) and are made with Whole Jersey Milk. So while they’re rich, they’re not overly sweet.

Blue Bottle Coffee Co. – 4 stars $$ Coffee & Tea
66 Mint St
(between Jessie St & Mission St)
Neighborhoods: Union Square, SoMa

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Monday brunch– We checked out of our room and drove over to Mama’s at Washington Square which ended up being closed on Monday’s.  So I did a quick Yelp search and found Sweet Maple (a name that seemed familiar from our July trip).  It had a lot of options—omelets, scrambles, benedicts, pancakes, breakfast pizzas.  I ended up getting  the Athenian omelet (arugula, mushrooms and light goat cheese) made with egg-whites, that also came with an herb potato medley (I LOVE POTATOES) and levain bread.  It was a delicious meal and I realized how much I enjoy/love goat cheese.

Sweet Maple – 4 stars $$ American (Traditional), Breakfast & Brunch
2101 Sutter St
(between Steiner St & Pierce St)
Neighborhood: Lower Pacific Heights

On Sunday, October 20, I woke up at 5:30am after having a scary dream that I drove off a cliff. I was driving my car but it was like 3rd person vision in a video game. As I was hovering hundreds or thousands of feet above a body of water, I was so regretful and just wanted to turn back. I was jolted awake and happy that I was in my hotel bed, still alive. Mantra/song for the day: (“No I don’t even know if I’m alive. Oh, oh, oh without you now” from This Is What It Feels Like).  If a scary almost-death dream doesn’t make you excited to run a half marathon, I don’t know what does (*insert sarcasm*).

We stayed at the Handlery Hotel on Geary so it was literally a block from the start. Unfortunately I booked us a double bed, which feels like the equivalent of sharing a college twin XL bed. Next time I need to keep in mind King size or no size. **note: stay in Union-Square. There was no host hotel (maybe for TNT [Team In Training]) and no runner discounts.

This was the earliest race I have ever run (6:30am), but the longest I’ve ever slept in. Usually I have to wake up super early to drive and chill out in the parking lot for several hours. I also wasn’t hungry when I woke up (very unusual for me). So I snacked on some ProBar chews and finally ate my Quest Bar.  My dinner the night before (SF eats post to follow) was the perfect proportion of protein-to carbs-to lightness (no scientific backing for this claim).

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I didn’t have to deal with the porta-potties or lines with our hotel so close to the start. Around 6am we went out to check it out, then I went back up to the hotel room to pee and was back out by 6:15am.  I had a hard time getting into my corral originally, probably because I should’ve gotten out there a little bit earlier. They didn’t have an opening in the line-up for 7:00-7:59 pace wristbands to enter, so I had to enter from the 8:00-8:59 corral and push my way up to the front before the race started.

It was a fairly chilly morning, but after the adrenaline/panic of almost not getting into my corral, I was warmed up and dropped my throwaway jacket before the start. I decided to pin my bib to my shorts in the chance that I would run with my sweatshirt for the first couple of miles.  The corral panic made me realize that I have a lack of self-motivation– basically, I was ready to give up from the beginning (but I didn’t!).

Also, did you know Shay Mitchell was running this race (#PLLFanatic…mildly just kidding)? Of course I did after stalking her Instagram. I was partially on the look-out and thought I saw her within the first half-mile. I contemplated sticking around and running by her before I realized it def was not her!

There were some smaller hills around mile 3 (near Ghiradelli Square) but I moved up these seamlessly, and made sure to take 10 good steps after reaching the top which helped refresh my legs and kept me moving (got this tip from the November Runner’s World I read on the plane ride over!).  The biggest hill was around 6-7 through Golden Gate Park, but it was definitely nowhere near the difficulty level of Torrey Pines.  I didn’t think the course was as hilly as people made it seem (or maybe compared to La Jolla nothing will be as hilly).  There weren’t any of those “signature SF hills.”

Around mile 9 I was starting to fatigue and there were some small hills through residential areas. At mile 10 I felt really good, but by mile 11 that feeling started to fade off.  At mile 12 I finally gave it my all, especially around the 12.5 mile mark.  Once I turned the corner towards the finish line, I came in fast with my knees driving (6:25 finishing pace). Then I flew and ate shit. The worst part was that the fireman looked at me unapologetic like it was all my fault (okay, so maybe it was). But by the time I registered, high-five, no high-five, I had already fallen flat on the ground. Today my right knee is pretty poorly bruised and I have rug burn all up my forearms. This was probably one of the most embarrassing incidents of my life. But I guess it makes for a great story (too bad there’s no finish line footage).

The spectator shuttle system was pretty messed up, so my dad and boyfriend didn’t arrive until 45 minutes after I finished. They were dropped off at the 11.3 mile cheering station and was told it was the end, so they ended up having to walk the 2 miles to the finish line (thank god for the Verizon “call your friends” tent. I didn’t run with my phone so it helped to have some way to contact them).
I realized I got blood on my finishers t-shirt and that my arm was scathed. So I made my first ever trip to the medical tent (which was also just very warm). I also drank my bodyweight in nuun while I was waiting. I probably had close to 8 cups I kept walking back and forth to drink.

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Throughout the race I only stopped for water twice (around mile 4 and 7) and only walked through these stations (I have a hard time drinking from water cups and running/not choking). I didn’t walk anywhere else which is a small victory in itself since for the past 3 half marathons (AFC, RnRSD and La Jolla) I’ve felt the need to walk at least a few strides. Especially after AFC, I feel like I’m back on the right track.

Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:45:18):
1 – 7:56
2 – 7:54
3 – 7:58
4 – 7:43
5 – 7:49
6 – 8:05
7 – 9:15
8 – 7:37
9 – 8:45
10 – 7:39
11 – 7:45
12 – 8:06
13 – 7:02
Last .25 – 1:36

My chip time was 1:45:07.

From my perspective, I thought this was a well-organized race (except for the corral thing). Of course there is going to be chaos with 30,000 women running (and shopping everything Nike).  From my dad’s/bf’s perspective, the spectator shuttle was a nightmare. It basically took them 2 hours to get the finish line, from waiting, to taking a detoured bus route, to walking to the finish line. They didn’t even make it to see me finish. However, I thought Nike did an excellent job of personalizing the experience.

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The Niketown exterior window had every runner’s name listed. And as you entered the “expotique” after checking in, your name went across a big digital screen “ASHLEIGH YOU INSPIRE US.” They also had a wall where pictures hash-tagged with “werunsf appeared.  Overall, I thought it was a good race with a fun and refreshing course. Even though it was a new course (to me), I think unintentionally running part of the route during our July trip helped familiarize certain places. The only thing I would change would be training a little bit more for the hills. Mentally I felt good and I would probably like to run it again next year.

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