4 months = 18 weeks…

…  = 126 days = 3,024 hours = 181,440 minutes = 10,886,400 seconds to crossing the finish line on July 25, 2010.

Even as you read this blog, those numbers are already shrinking. Scary, isn’t it? How time flies, especially when you’re running!

Since the 26-week SF Marathon Training Program began 8 weeks ago, I’ve run up to 200 miles of San Francisco roads, sidewalks, paths, trails, hills and stairs with the trainees in sunny, rainy, foggy, windy and pre-daylight savings time weather. I’ve seen their eyes open wide and jaws drop, and heard joyful hollers as they ran on the Golden Gate Bridge (some for the very first time ever!) on a clear San Francisco day. I’ve felt the tightest of calves, IT bands, quads and hamstrings get stretched as they prostrated to the foam roller gods for salvation. We’ve debated whether running downhill or uphill is harder (jury is still out amongst us on this one, folks!), and discussed the consistency of GU Chomps over GU Energy Gels (I’m a fan of the GU Chomps). I’ve overheard them talk about RICE referring FINALLY to Rest Ice Compression Elevation, and not Chinese take-out! I’ve gotten to know everything I ever needed to know about “luge” pants (the Winter Olympics were a “haute” topic of conversation amongst the trainees), seen them confidently conquer hills with the skill of a Spartan warrior (and hills we have many, in San Francisco!), and even heard some highly entertaining stories on the quickest way to enter an ice bath without having to feel that 4-second shock from the ice cold water (my advice… just jump in!).… and all this in just the first 8 weeks!

So, as the 18-week SF Marathon Training Program Kick-Off dawned me, I took a moment to reflect on the past 8 weeks. I felt immensely proud of the trainees for all the effort and hard work they put into their workouts, and for their dedication to the SF Marathon Training Program! And as I looked to the next 18 weeks, I smiled for I was reminded of one of my favorite quotations, “Success is a journey…not a destination.” – Author Ben Sweetland. The next 18 weeks were going to be just that kind of journey!

Workout: Saturday Long Slow Distance (LSD) Run
Distance: 3
Time: 32 minutes 10 seconds
Route: Crissy Field, Fort Point

Come the morning of the kick-off, I was up and about and did a couple of sets of planks, side planks, bridges, push ups and lower back exercises, to get my core muscles firing and ready for the run ahead. I find doing this really helps my body maintain proper running form and enlists the use of my core muscles easily and quickly during the runs (and takes the pressure off my lower back muscles). Pre-run breakfast done and running gear on, I was now ready to head out and welcome the new trainees to the 18-week SF Marathon Training Program!

Being the first run after Daylight Savings Time, it was still quite dark at 7AM as I drove to Crissy Field with fellow blogger and runner Sabrina (she’s awesomeness personified!). The weather was pleasant with a slight chill in the air, a lazy breeze, foggy skies, a solitary runner in the distance, a couple of cyclists heading to the Marin Headlands, a poddle running amock – yup! Perfect running weather! As we parked the car, I looked west at the Golden Gate Bridge to see the top of the bridge shrouded in fog but I could see the span below, and looking east, I could see Alcatraz Island lit up by the rising sun. It was breathtaking!

The Golden Gate Bridge at 7AM... magnificent, isn't it!

The Golden Gate Bridge at 7AM... magnificent, isn't it!

Alcatraz Island in the distance

Alcatraz Island in the distance

Once all the pacers and coaches arrived, we got a quick talk from the head coach on what to expect as the 18-week SF Marathon Training Program progressed, as well as details of the 3-mile run for that morning.

Coaches and pacers do a huddle... or maybe it was really chilly!

Coaches and pacers do a huddle... or maybe it was really chilly!

Soon after, the trainees (both from the 26-week and the 18-week training programs) began to arrive in droves. Some were seasoned runners adding the SF Marathon to their long list of marathons, some were occasional runners looking to get back into the running game, some were alumni from the 2009 SF Marathon Training Program whom I had trained and run the marathon with, and was truly overjoyed to see again (this is a testament to the amazing SF Marathon Training Program!), and some were newbie’s who had never run before in their life and had decided to take on the challenge to run a marathon – my hats off to each and everyone one of you!

Trainees from both the 24-week and 18-week training program arrive

Trainees from both the 26-week and 18-week training program arrive

Amidst welcoming the new trainees, guiding them to checking in, and getting to know each and everyone of them, as well as reconnecting with the current trainees, it was 8AM and time for the coaches to speak. The speakers included the head coach of the SF Marathon Training Program as well as the coaches from both the San Francisco and East Bay training groups. The topics ranged from introductions, format for track workouts, trail runs, Saturday runs, Monday runs, training times and locations, the optional Boot Camp workout, proper hydration, the importance of stretching, good running form and of course, proper pace, all the way to the weather in San Francisco and the East Bay (told you, we like talking about the weather), getting to know fellow runners and pacers, entertaining tit bits about the course and of course, a round of applause for all the runners, especially first time marathoners! (APPLAUSE!).

Coach giving a talk to the trainees

Head Coach giving a talk to the trainees

Coach gives a talk to the trainees

Track Coach giving a talk to the trainees

Saturday Run Coach giving a talk to the trainees

Saturday Run Coach giving a talk to the trainees

The trainees then got to select the pace group that best fit their training goals and final marathon finish time, and after my fellow pacer and I got our pace group together, I gave a quick description of the route we would be running that day and we were off on the first Saturday LSD run of the 18-week SF Marathon Training Program!

It doesn't get any better with the views!

It doesn't get any better with the views!

The route was a simple and short one that took us from the Presidio Sports Basement (great shoes, great gear, great everything!), running alongside Crissy Field (under the auspices of the Air Mail Service, it gained fame as the site of many early aviation milestones), on a section of the actual Full and 1st Half Marathon route between miles 4 and 5, all the way to Fort Point (built before the American Civil War to defend San Francisco Bay from hostile warships), and right under the southern side of the Golden Gate Bridge where we all touched the “Hopper’s Hands” plaque (a pair of copper hands on a metal plaque dedicated to the iron workers who risk life and limb each day maintaining the Golden Gate Bridge, and if you have a pet, there are a set of “Hopper’s Paws” below it as well!) and made a silent wish (I wished for an injury free 18-week SF Marathon Training Program for everyone!). All along we had the Golden Gate Bridge as our backdrop and that made the run even more pleasurable! It was a treat to talk to the new trainees and get to know where they came from and what motivated them to run the SF Marathon. Some did it to get back in shape, some to break a Personal Record (PR), some to fulfill a New Year’s Resolution, some to keep running, some to satisfy their curiosity, some to test and push their limits and some to just see if they could. But all through, the one thing that brought them all together was their love of running.

Always in the backdrop... the Golden Gate Bridge! AWESOME!

Always in the backdrop... the Golden Gate Bridge! AWESOME!

As we turned around at Fort Point and started to head back, I shared with the trainees some insights into running that I found have helped me become a smarter runner all around:
1. When running in a group, I try and run 2 or at most 3 abreast, especially if the route is shared by cars, cyclists, others runners and walkers (that means no running 5-10 abreast like they did in Chariots of Fire!)

2. When running in a group, and if the route is not wide enough to accommodate running abreast, I run single file until the route widens (its helps prevent overcrowding and people tripping and colliding)

3. Regardless of the kind of weather, if I know I’m going to be running 6 miles or more, I bring my water belt, GU Chomps, ID, some cash, and a protein bar with me (I TRY not to forget my house keys… but I have more often than not!)

4. I find running at a warm up pace (a slow jog where I can hold a conversation very comfortably) for the first 10 minutes, and then doing a set of dynamic stretches (focusing on both my upper and lower body) for 5 minutes greatly improves my running form and reduces the initial soreness I feel as my body warms up (otherwise my run becomes a symphony of “eeks” and “ouches”… not pretty)

5. During my runs, I keep distractions at a minimum (no cell phone, no ear phones, no mind wandering) and simply focus on maintaining proper pace, proper running form, an efficient stride, and of course, taking in the scenery (running through Golden Gate Park is my all-time favorite route!)

6. During my runs, I stay alert looking out for cars, cyclists, other runners and walkers. I also look down every now and then to spot any irregularities in the path that could cause me to trip (I’ve sprained my ankle twice because of irregularities in paths I was not looking out for)

7. During my runs, I take a swig from my water bottle every 15 minutes to ensure I stay hydrated (I sweat like I were running in Death Valley!)

8. During my runs, as much as I am tempted to run faster as my muscles warm up, I constantly monitor my GARMIN to make sure I’m running within the pace range I have selected for that run. I focus on conserving and efficiently using my energy if the run is longer than 6 miles and especially if there are hills involved

9. Once I’m done with the run, I’ve made it a habit to do static stretches immediately, followed by the use of my yoga band for more assisted deep stretches, then the foam roller followed be the stick and then finally, of course, my favorite – an ICE BATH! Post-run I always do an ice bath followed by R-I-C-E. It is not only my way of treating my body to some R&R, but also a great preventive measure for muscle soreness and damage in the long run

10. Whenever possible (if my run is not far from my home), I try to eat a post-run meal rich in proteins and carbohydrates (complex and some processed) no later than an hour after a run, for that is when my body needs the most resources for recovery and is also the most efficient at absorbing nutrients. If I know I’m not going to get home in time, I keep a protein bar and a banana in my backpack

Once back at the Presidio Sports Basement, it was a great feeling to see how excited the new trainees were. So proud that they had completed their first training run in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, made some new friends and took their love for running a “stride” further! Me and my fellow pacer then guided our group through a 15 minute session of static stretches, answered any questions they had about the training program and then we all headed our own ways to get our weekends off to an even better start now that we had all completed our workout for Saturday… all for that HEAVY “guilt-free” brunch! 🙂

New friends, new strides, great runs!

Trainees and pacers mingle after a good session of static stretching... stretch and the world stretches with you!

Stretching, yoga band, foam roller, stick, ice bath, RICE and post-run breakfast done, I headed to my favorite spot (can’t tell you, it’s a secret!) in Golden Gate Park, spread out my mat in the cool, green grass and just lay in the warm sun, under clear blue skies, watching the trees above me lazily sway in the wind, the dogs chase each other (and some their tails!), families out walking, a game of Frisbee being played, a father teaching his daughter how to ride a bike, people doing yoga and tai chi, and amidst it all… a content runner relaxing and looking forward to an amazing 18 weeks!

As always… peace out!

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4 responses to “4 months = 18 weeks…

  1. where and when is the next place that runners will be running? i have yet to register (plan in April) never ran a 1/2 marathon before, – started running on sunday. hoping i can do this.. interested in gaining some tips and info. am i able to tag along on training runs w/o registering for the training program? any advice is helpful!

    • @ coonkitty: That’s awesome that you are planning to run the Half Marathon! I understand your hesitation (its natural to feel that way), but with the proper training and the belief in yourself that you can do it, crossing the finish line is a reality!

      Regarding training and registration, you can either:
      1. Send an email to info@thesfmarathon.com and they’ll be more than happy to answer your questions
      2. Visit the SFM website at http://www.thesfmarathon.com
      3. Put up your questions on our Facebook page – “The SF Marathon”

      Keep checking my blog posts for advice and tips as the weeks progress!

  2. How do you exactly do the RICE?

    • @ julia: EXCELLENT question!

      Here is what I have found works great for me when I’m doing R-I-C-E (I do this is after my ice bath):
      REST: Post-run (may it be LSD or track), I make it a point to rest the parts of my body that I feel are sore (for me this ranges from my lower back to glutes to quads to hamstrings to calves to shins to my arch, depending on the nature and intensity of the run). This means I don’t set off on a long walk, a bike ride, a jog or a hike soon after my run. I just rest for a few hours.

      ICE: I apply ice packs or a bag of frozen peas to the parts of my body that I feel are sore. The ice reduces any possible swelling or pain. And I typically ice 2-3 times a day for about 10 minutes each time.

      COMPRESSION: I wrap the ice pack snugly around the parts of my body that I feel are sore to decrease any possible swelling or pain. Some people use ace bandages in place of ice packs for the compression part.

      ELEVATION: I make it a point to elevate my lower body above my heart as much as possible to decrease any possible swelling or pain. I do this by lying on my back and placing my feet on cushions or if at work, I place it on a stool or my cubicle desk (I know! It looks weird but it really helps me!).

      Of course, I do the above after my weekend runs since I have the time. During the week, I do it once before I go to bed and for the next day, at least try to Ice and Compress any sore parts.

      Happy running!

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