Sunday, July 26, 2009

The San Francisco Treat!!!

Wow!!! What an experience that was!!! I just had the most enjoyable 3 hours and 50 minutes of running that I have ever had..... and coming from someone that pretty much enjoys every run he does, that is saying a lot! Let me get you all caught up on the trip. If you don't want to read all the details, just scoll down to Race Day

We left the house at 9:05 am, in order to catch a 10:35 am. flight. The only issue was that dumbo (me) didn't read his emails and find out that the flight got changed to 10:20 am. Oh crap!!! We were so close to missing the flight, and obviously were the last group of people to board. To make matters more complicated, my wife and I brought the 3 kids with us, so it was quite unnervy to say the least. We flew from Tampa to Dallas, with a 1 hour layover, and then a 3 hour and 40 minute flight to San Francisco. Total travel in the air was 6 hours (7 hours with the layover). The kids were wonderful. Kerry and I were pretty nervous that we would have a tough time with Arjay or the baby, but everyone was on their A game!!! Once we got into SF, we got our rental car, and headed towards our condo. Once we got settled in, we went out to a local pizza parlor, and had some of the best pizza I have ever had! Good stuff!!! By this time, we were exhausted... it was 8 pm PST, but our bodies thought it was 11 pm... since we are on the East Coast. We gave the kids a bath, then showered up, and off to bed.

Expo was at the Embarcadero Center. It was nothing spectacular, but it served its purpose. With 3 kiddies, I wanted to get the essentials (Bib, shirt, etc.) and get the heck out of there.... and that's what I did.
We then drove to Sausalito (Marin County), and to go there, we had to go over the Golden Gate bridge. That wowed everybody... but then it was reality for me that I was going to run this bad boy in less than 24 hours...sweet!!!! We had lunch at a restaurant on the water, and the kids loved it... and the view!! But the highlight of the day was when we were walking around Downtown Sausalito and a lady was walking her dog.... Arjay and Adryana thought the dog was "Delgado" from Beverly Hills Chihuahua, so I asked the lady if we could take pics with her dog.... the kids think they just saw a movie star.. I don't want to rain on their parade, so it's all good.
After that we went to Contra Costa County (Richmond, Oakland) and went to the mall, and then took the Bay Bridge that connects Oakland to San Francisco. Once we got back to our pad, we went to a local Italian restaurant, and had a nice dinner. Arjay smooth talked the waitress a bit, and was blowing her kisses... he's such a playa!!! I had Alayna in the baby carrier, strapped to my chest, and she slept the whole time... and stayed asleep for over 4.5 hours... so when we got home, I just slept with her in the carrier for a few hours. Once she woke up, I showered got the running gear out for tomorrow, and went back to bed.

Race Day

I woke at 4 am. Even though we rented a car, I decided to reserve a taxi to pick me up at 4:30 am, because the Downtown area was going to be very crazy with the closure of so many roads. That was a smart move, and I got down there by 4:45 am. I decided that I should run with my long sleeve running shirt, because this was just to darn cold for my liking. I talked to some people before the race, and tried to get my mind focused on what I was about to do.

Miles 1-4: Embarcadero, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39.
I started about 2 minutes after the gun went off, and tried to get into a comfortable groove. I was able to successfully do that, and was running at a comfortable pace in which my breathing was very controlled and not labored. These miles were completely flat, and I had a big smile on my face. I knew what was coming ahead.. just didn't know exactly how bad it would be.

Miles 5-10: Crissy Field, Golden Gate Bridge (out and back):
This is where things started to climb... hills, HR, etc. I purposely wanted to hold back here, and many people passed me, but I knew that was the smart thing to do. When I trained, I would do anywhere between a 4%-6% incline on the treadmill for a 1/4-/1/2 mile. The first major climb was 15% (according to a local runner). Holy shiznit!!! So, even though it was for a little less than a 1/4 mile, it would level out for a minute or so, and then climb again. I had slowed to a low 9 min. pace, and still my breathing felt comfortable, but the legs were working quite a bit. This climb was to enable us to get close to the GG bridge, and truthfully the bridge wasn't that bad compared to what we just went through. But the bridge..... absolutely unbelievable!!! It was a bit foggy, and all you could hear was the ferry going under it. At this point, I actually just took a step back (not running, but mentally... the running would come a bit later) and thanked God for allowing me to experience this. Three years ago, I never thought I would be a runner, much less traveling to a state (that I have never been to before) to run a marathon and take vacation with 3 kids (6 and under). It's sometimes so amazing where life takes you, ya know? So after I soaked that in, we came off the bridge made a U-turn about a mile down the road, and ran the thing again.... I love it!!!!

Mile 11-15: Presidio, Golden Gate Park

Once we got off the bridge, my legs were starting to feel a bit fatigued... but I was holding up fine. Presidio is absolutely beautiful, and I felt as though this area had more downhills than uphills. This was really good, because I was just cruising and at one point, I looked down at my watch and saw my lap pace in the low 7's... I kinda got concerned, because I didn't want to go that fast, but I couldn't help it.. and was such a steep decline. I think I hit the split in 1:42:xx, but I didn't know that because my Garmin watch got water on the bezel and it wouldn't let me change screens.... oh well, I was just running on feel anyway. Golden Gate Park was beautiful also... but this is where the legs were starting to weaken a bit. We would climb up a hill, and then level off, and then climb again, level off.. you get the picture!! Again, the heart was behaving but now I think that my legs were starting to misbehave... but just a little bit. I tried to spark conversations with a few people, and they would talk to me, but they were working quite hard, and were labored in their breathing... so I just left them alone, after awhile.

Miles 16-20: Golden Gate Park, Haight Ashbury
So this is where the fun began for me today. I was at mile 16 and I'm climbing another hill and bam!!!!! I cramp in my (L) hamstring. I had two GU's in my back pocket and I took out both of them, and ate them... I had passed a water stop about a 1/4 mile back, but I sure as hell wasn't about to go back. So that was fun... 2 GUs and no water. Good times. Well, the good news is that the cramping went away... for about 2.5 miles, but by mile 19, the cramping onslaught was well in force. Oh boy... my calves, hamstrings and quads were just seizing up like crazy!!! If you have ever been through that, it is nearly impossible to run, because not only is it painful (I can deal with that part), but if you keep going, it just gets worse, and it can bring you to your knees or make you fall over... no joke!!

Miles 21-26.2: Franklin Square, Third Street Bridge, AT&T Park, Finish
At this point, the race starts to get ugly for me, because there are no more uphills or downhills... it's just flat. Unfortunately when I tried to run, I could get to around 1-2 minutes before I had to stop. The cramping started to travel down into my toes and that really hurts bad... running on your toes after you have run 20+ miles is... well, let's just say I would rather have a foot rub...not running on my damn toes!!! LOL! Believe or not, I probably had the most fun during this span... because I really used the people to my advantage... I told them, "if you cheer, I will run fast!!!", so they did, and I would do a sprint for like 20 seconds, until I would nearly fall over... it was so funny!!! At mile 24, I met a local who I ran with in the first part of the race, and he had the same thing happen to him with the cramps, so we ran together for the rest of the race. I pushed him, he pushed me.. it was groovy. The last mile of the race was so cool... we ran right next to AT&T park, and I got to see the whole field, as it has an open back. We ran on the Boardwalk, and looked at the beautiful views again. At this point the crowds were getting bigger, and I got people to laugh quite a bit, when I saw the Marathon photographer, and had him take a picture of me posing for the Heisman... you would've had to had been there... funny thing is that as I got into the position, I cramped violently again... LOL!! The last .2, I tried my best to pick it up, and I high fived the crowds as I ran in. It never gets old to finish a marathon... it's the only running distance that makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you finish.
Finish time: 3:50:50

After I finished the race, I got my medal (huge and beautiful) some water and a banana. I went to pick up my bag that had my cell phone in it, and while I was waiting in line, I started to feel I was going to pass out. I came out of line, and sat down next to a pole. A Medical Volunteer came by me, and gave me some electrolytes and salt... I felt better within a few minutes and got back in line. Called Kerry and the kids (who sang on the phone.... Go Daddy!!! Go Daddy!!!! you know??? the way black people say it!!!I hopped into a cab, and....

Post race recap: I have 99% positive emotions about this race. I will sort out the positives and the negatives.


1.I have earned a PR (personal record) at the marathon distance by 46 minutes from my previous effort in Chicago.

2. This was by far, the most beautiful, scenic and challenging course I have faced so far... at any distance.

3. The crowd support was better than I expected... obviously it ain't no Chicago, but Chicago ain't no San Fran when it comes to scenery, etc. The least scenic aspect of the race was probably still better than the most scenic aspect of the Chicago Marathon (sorry Walter and Paul, you know I got love for ya'll!!) BTW, Tampa is a joke compared to this!!!

4. This was by far the most enjoyable training season I have had. I am much faster, and 4 months ago, I was extremely concerned about what role running would have in my life... not even considering that I would be running 4-5 days/week, and completing my 4th marathon.


1. I know I could do a better time in the marathon. I'm glad for the 46 minute PR on a challenging course, but I know I had a lot more left in me today, if my body would not have had a hissy fit during the last 6-7 miles.

2. I need to figure out my nutrition. As I look back at my previous marathons, nutrition has played a negative impact on my racing times. I never have a problem during training, but I noticed today that the cups were very small, and not filled up even halfway. I think that played a role in my cramping today, because I was pretty dehydrated, even though I have been training in much tougher conditions than this.

Where do I go from here??

Do another marathon of course!!! I plan on doing a few half marathons first, because I want to see how much I have improved on my time since last November. I think I would like to do a local "practice" marathon this fall 1st; maybe just simulate it as a long run and see if I could get this perfected. Once I do that, I think there's gonna be another big PR waiting for me.

I also think I can still go for a BQ race later this year. But this will be the first time, that I am running specifically for a time... meaning I get that "time" or it's a bust... I don't dig that too much... I like to stop and smell the roses a bit.... but I do want to eventually run the Boston Marathon, and next year would be nice because I know a few of my peeps that are going, and would love to hang with them... but if it doesn't happen, no sleep lost on my end.... but it probably will ;)

I just wanted to say thanks to a few groups of people. First, my wife... who has gone from "Greg, why don't you just run less and run only 5ks around the area" to... "Where is the next marathon WE are going to, sweetie?" Homegirl loves her vacations!!!! LOL! She is absolutely wonderful and so understanding of my training, and she completely gets it. She realizes how much I love this, and I realize how much she loves me for letting me do this!

Chris and Julie... yesterday, as I was getting nervous about the race, you both texted me very calming words, because you know what makes me tick.. and you said the right things to me yesterday. I thank you both for your friendship and being my running pals.

3:20 crew: Gang, thanks for following me today!!! You all say the right things, and always tell me to do the right things, even if I don't want to listen... much appreciated, and I hope I get to meet you all in Beantown. P.S. For those of you doing, Boston 2 Big Sur... bring the treadmill grade past 4-6%, ok???