The SF 1st Half Marathon – July 2015

So, I ran my 5th half marathon (4th technically, considering one of them was a DNF thanks to the organizers not calculating the distance correctly.), and managed to improve my previous time by quite a bit – roughly 6 minutes I think. And considering there was more elevation involved than my previous runs, I think I had a fairly decent run. The last two miles could have been better, but that’s always a pain point.

The Preparation:

Preparation is always a problem. With busy schedules, and outside weather, it can become difficult to stick to a nice regimen where you feel confident with each passing day. After running the Austin Half Marathon in February, (on Valentines Day, no less 😉 ) my activity levels dropped to like sub-zero levels, thanks mostly to a maddening work schedule. It wasn’t till mid May that I felt I had enough time to start running again, and by then I felt both sluggish and the constant left knee pain. By now my plan was to substitute runs for bike rides to get the cardio in, but keep the knee from getting over-strained. I enjoy biking anyway, so it isn’t such a bad trade-off.

By end of June, I was feeling pretty good about myself, when thanks to either my posture at work or my sleeping posture, or my stupid mattress which is supposed to be “Extra Firm” but is anything but that, I developed a very bad lower back pain. I do not like seeking medical help for minor issues especially if I feel those will go away with rest. Initially I tried biking and running with it, and it seemed ok – the pain did not get exacerbated. Then one nice run, the pain was intense and shooting pains along the lower back lead me to take it easy and stop all forms of physical activity with 2 weeks to go for the event – not good. I was hoping I’d be able to at least complete the race by walking instead of running in the worst case. While I was trying to manage the pain, running again was pretty much out of the question.

I did try a couple of practice walks the week before the event, and those went ok. So going into the event, I hadn’t really run in two weeks. Yikes!

Pre Race Day:


Race Day:

Me, a friend (Shyam) and a friend of his, went late to the event. I was supposed to be in wave 4 and he was in wave 7, and by the time we got to the start line, everyone but the last Full Marathon wave was gone. To make matters worse, I didn’t fill my bottles with water, and now had no way of doing it before beginning the run. Considering the SF Marathon organizers screwed up the aid stations last year, this was not comforting.

We started the run behind almost everyone, and the initial couple of miles, my back was singing to me – I was being cautious and didn’t want to overdo it, so was trying to pace myself to 10 min/mile. Miles 1-5 were pretty alright, with me stopping once for water/electrolytes. At this point, I was roughly averaging roughly 10 min a mile.

Mile 6 is a 200ft climb, and I managed a 12:20 mile.

By mile 7 when I was on Golden Gate, I was beginning to get hungry – I had eaten nothing in the morning and had drank half a bottle of Naked juice. I generally eat a bagel or a banana before starting a run. Golden gate is pretty packed with runners and finding opportunities to get past slower runners can be slightly annoying.

Mile 8 was again slightly slow owing to the water stop, and eating the gu gel while walking at a comfortable pace, so that I didn’t choke on it. I also took the opportunity to fill one of my bottles.

Miles 9,10 and 11 were also pretty neatly done in spite of some more climbs and down slopes – you cannot go as fast on the down slopes as you’d like because your knees get pounded pretty bad.

The last 2 miles was roughly another 200ft climb, and this was pretty killer. I hadn’t really prepared for this – I hadn’t looked at the elevation map, and tried planning my run based on that because I figured it is what it is. At the end of mile 11, I was 1:55:15. I figured with 2 miles to go, and not feeling all that weary, I’d make 2:15:00, which is a personal goal for me. But if you factor in the 200 ft climb, that pretty much kills you. Also considering my left knee was beginning to act up by now, I was a little doubtful. I think I held out till 12.5 miles – finishing mile 12 in 2:06:26 (ok, 8:30 last mile was going to be hard even on a flat) and doing 12.5 miles in 2:11:40. The last 0.6 miles took me , well, 8 minutes and 20 seconds – you guessed it – pretty much walking pace. Roughly a 100 ft climb in the 0.6 miles is pretty sucky! By then I had run out of steam, and didn’t care. My left knee was also beginning to let me know it wasn’t happy. I did manage to finish in 2:20:07, which is ok, considering the elevation, but a 2:15 would have been nice nevertheless. I did run conservatively for the most part, and even after the event wasn’t all that tired except for the left knee giving me a lot of pain, and my back also beginning to chime in.

To be fair, I think running with someone also gave me some extra impetus to do slightly better. Whenever I saw Shyam ahead of me, I’d at least slowly try to catch up, and he was right there with me till about mile 8 after which I lost him.

Post Race:


Next Steps:

I’d like to do a 2:15 then a 2:10, then a 2:05 and finally break sub 2:00 – hopefully before the end of the year. 🙂 I also don’t think I’m going to be running any more paid half marathons for now. I don’t much care for the finisher medals, and I am not fast enough to consider it racing. Maybe when I am close to a 1:30 finish, I will pay to run again. I might based on my timing run one more in India if I happen to visit later this year.

Running my first Half Marathon – Going the distance – Peoria – 04-19-2014

I graduated from Grad school in the Spring of 2013. The last 6-8 months of courses + internships + job search meant, I had pretty much given up on all physical activity. That coupled with the fact that I was stuffing Subway subs down my face and eating out of vending machines (yum, that dinner consisted of chips and snickers bars) on stressful days, meant that I had become a sloth. I took a much needed vacation for about half of May and the whole of June, and going back home after so long meant I was treated to some excellent food and a lot of rest.

By July, I had joined work, and because July can be scorching in Phoenix. coupled with some Jet Lag after a long vacation back home to India, I was pretty much tired most days, and slept in. August came, and although sill hot, I renewed my commitment to physical activity. I just wasn’t feeling in shape – and that’s a terrible feeling when you have been physically active all your life. So, one fine day in August, I decided to go cycling in Tempe. One thing lead to another, and I found some nice canal paths that I liked riding on, and fueled that interest more. Pretty soon, I was cycling regularly. I kept on till December when it starts to get cold (well, not that cold, but still). Somewhere during this time, I decided to enroll in the Phoenix Half Marathon – you know, so I could have a goal and hopefully train towards it. Also, since December was cold, I had to give up cycling, and run on a treadmill instead. I haven’t run distances since I was in my 8th grade, and so it was nice to have the cycling going before I attempted to run 13.1 miles. While I was doing my undergrad back in India, I had a decent walking routine that took me to a beach and back daily. After that, I guess sports mostly kept me fit. Of course running is painful initially- your body hates it, and forces you to give up. I started slow – running at about 5mph. My goal wasn’t to complete the half in any specific time – which is what most people will tell you their goal was when they ran their first.

The Phoenix half marathon was on March 1st, and I decided to register for it. I thought with a couple of months to go for the event, I should be prepared. I did some running and cycling in December, followed by more running and cycling in Jan’14. I think I got some kind of a training plan online – it was a very simple plan, with breaks two days a week, long distances on weekends, and getting miles in on weekdays.  Training was going pretty well into February, and by 2nd of Feb I had managed a 11 mile run, feeling confident of the race, when I caught a cold and knew I wouldn’t be able to make the race. I requested the organizers to defer my race to which they kindly obliged. I was also bicycling 32 miles to and from work, so ya, the training was definitely not going bad. From 20th of Feb to 14th of March all my workouts were pretty much washed out. (It’s nice to be able to see that kind of data from Endomondo. Of course I recollect I had cold, and didn’t want to risk it.) Taking breaks always sucks when it comes to running, and restarting was again going to be painful – so I again started with hiking, walking and cycling. (well, you know, everything but running. 🙂 )

As soon as I missed the Phoenix half, I was on the lookout for a next race that followed soon afterwards so that all my training (in spite of what I will claim was a fairly busy work schedule.) didn’t go to waste. I found this race in Peoria, and although a drive, it was still something I wanted to do. In hindsight, this was probably a good first race. The participants were limited, the event was well organized, and I wasn’t overwhelmed. March was a bad month with respect to the amount of training I got, but hey I got some. By the first week of April, I was back running and even did a run of 11 miles in ~2:08. Not too shabby. But once again, work struck back, and I had to miss workouts 2 weeks into the event. Somehow managed hikes on weekends, and a few walks and runs here and there.

Race Day:

Anyway, the D-day arrived, I woke up in decent time, and drove to the start point at Rio Vista Community Park. It’s a beautiful if you happen to stay close by and haven’t visited it yet. Google maps did slightly annoy me by making me drive in loops even after I had reached the venue, but that frustration was soon over.

Anyway, here’s the endomondo data of the run,

There was some elevation gain, but not too much. I also had to take a pee break somewhere in there 🙂 yikes – over-hydrating. (somewhere in the middle of Mile 8 as evidenced by the lap time.) The last 2 miles were hard. I had run 11 miles and some schedules advice you to keep the 13 for the day of the race. WORST ADVICE EVER! I would have much preferred having done 13 miles a couple of times before the race. Anyway, I struggled through the last 2 miles, and tried sprinting at the fag end to be within 2:30, but as luck would have it finished a few seconds late. (I don’t remember the official chip time, but it was better than what Endomondo showed.) Not the time I hoped for, but not too bad either. I could have gone faster initially, but wanted to conserve some fuel for later in the race – unfortunately having that fuel didn’t help later in the race. By April, Phoenix was beginning to get warm, and though the weather wasn’t bad at all, it wasn’t ideal.

There were bagels and bananas at the finish line – yay! After I got home, I had bath, treated myself to a nice big lunch and a milk-shake, and slept like a dog while also wincing in pain. I somehow managed to hurt my left knee either during the run or immediately afterwards, and that’s been a niggle for a while now. All in all, a good first race.