Author Archives: Libby

Sand in the yoga toes

One of the best fringe benefits to working in the running industry is that working out during the day is pretty much a given. In the marathon office the staff typically runs, goes to the gym, walks or takes a yoga class some point each day. Yesterday was on a fast downhill slide, so Sabrina and I decided to break free of the confines of small office space, continually ringing phones and the “count down to race day” tally I have on the white board (88 days in case you are wondering) and head to a yoga class in Cow Hollow. Stretching and relaxing would make the rest of the day enjoyable and productive.

We signed up on line for the killer first visit package, grabbed some mats and headed to what would be a new class for us both. After spending 20 minutes to find parking we arrived with only minutes to spare and realized:

1. We must not be the only people with accommodating “do as you please” work benefits and;

2. Getting to this class early is mandatory if you actually want to be able to place your mat on the floor.

I told Sabrina to get in line to sign us in and that I would do what the rest of those searching for inner peace were doing: try to snag some hardwood floor real estate. I quickly found a spot for Sabrina’s mat and then turned to look for my own space. It was packed! Meditative music was playing loudly and the room was warm- almost stuffy. A few lit candles released the scent of jasmine.  I scanned the room wondering if there was at least one fellow yoga-ister who would move a few inches to one side or the other so that I too could enjoy this setting.  I was met with blank stares by those who were bold enough to actually make eye contact with me.

Typically I’m bold. If it were a new running class I was joining I would have no problem making small talk with fellow runners, asking about how they like their shoes, what they were training for or if I could join their group that was stretching out. I’ve been known to make running friends by asking people what to do about black toe nails or how to best stretch my It band. Runners are welcoming like that.

This class, however, was not about warm and fuzzy. Everyone seemed to be in search of enlightenment, but they wanted it all for themselves. These people were not going to move. They watched me struggling to sort out where I could make this work and no one would budge. It was almost as if they were challenging me to ask them to move. What has happened to common courtesy? What happened to embracing life and goodwill and peace that Yoga inspires? Not this group.

Taking a deep restorative breath I headed out the door muttering about how rude people can be and met Sabrina at the front desk. I explained the situation with my voice reaching a frantic stressed out pitch. I told her where her mat was and asked the gal at the desk to make sure I wasn’t docked for the class that that I clearly wasn’t going to partake in.

Sabrina gave me the look she gives me when she’s thinking that I remind her of her mother and made her own attempt at getting me some downward dog space. Moments later she returned with a wide smile. “I found you a spot! Come on!” She had gotten someone to move and had placed my mat on the floor.

Between the time she had left the room and brought me back in (oh, about 45 seconds) someone had MOVED MY MAT and placed theirs in its spot! Are you kidding me??!? I am still in shock at the audacity. And it wasn’t moved into a nice wide place, but pushed off to the side where I wouldn’t be able to stand on it, let alone find the peace I was intending for this practice.

Infuriated and not wanting to make a scene (okay, I did actually want to make a scene, but did not want to embarrass Sabrina) I grabbed my mat not waiting to hear the reason why this person chose to be so brazen.  I asked for my money back as I was not intending to come to this studio again. Sabrina was suddenly behind me asking for the same thing. The girl insisted it wasn’t this crowded at the 8:00pm class and that we should come back. No Thanks!

Back out on the street I pondered what to do. I promised Sabrina (and my husband) I would go to Yoga and it was looking as if this wasn’t going to happen.  Now, in some ways, Sabrina is the child of our office. She’s a young pup, 20 years my junior. But she is often times more resourceful, more balanced, more pro-active than I. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, she joked with a smile.

We found ourselves, 10 minutes later, on East Beach next to Crissy Field.  Laying my mat on the soft white sand and kicking off my shoes I stood to feel the wind whip through my hair. I took a deep breath of fresh air as I gazed at a wind surfer under the Golden Gate Bridge. The sun was bouncing off the waves and warming my skin, a shadow was cast on the hills of the Presidio, small black birds were pecking at sand, and a small dog was chasing a ball along the shore. There was no meditative music to be heard, no soothing voice of an instructor telling me how to bend, no candles burning in the room. Instead I found a renewed sense that couldn’t be conjured in a dimly lit studio. I held child’s pose a bit longer that I would have in a teacher led class. I skipped the poses that hurt my knees and I focused on stretching my IT Band. I found that half moon pose is much easier to hold on the sand.

I know I won’t be going back to that particular yoga studio in Cow Hollow. But I will return to the amazing “studio” by the San Francisco Bay, very soon. And, if you want to lay your mat down next to me, I’ll make room for you, running friends.


My own Julia/Julie challenge

Sabrina loves to cook so for her birthday last month I bought her a copy of “The Athlete’s Palate” a cookbook compiled by Yishane Lee and some editors at Runner’s World. Its filled with over 100 recipes from chefs who also run. Cool idea, ‘eh? I must have been hungry – the cover picture of pasta and veggies calling to me: I bought myself a copy as well.

After flipping through the book, I was inspired. The ingredients sound so good and the directions are short (read: won’t take a great deal of time to make). I immediately decided I would do my own “Julia/Julie” thing and make all of the dishes, desserts and drinks in the book. I texted Sabrina my plan and she replied that she had already read all of the stories and recipes in her copy and was planning to do the same thing… Cook off on!

I am addicted to carbs – so I gravitated first to the Zucchini Muffins (Beth Pilar and Ellen Sternau) recipe. 20 minutes to mix up/25 minutes in the oven, easy enough! I followed the recipe to a T – except I added golden raisins instead of the other dried fruit options and I sprinkled in some orange rind that I get from the San Francisco Herb Company. (You can order online from them or go into their shop in The Mission.)  Result: delicious! I served them up to my husband for breakfast and then the next night with dinner. Really yummy!

The only change I would make to this delicious recipe is the amount of vegetable oil it calls for- they were just a bit “oily” on the bottom. I would cut back to just 1 cup and, if the mix was dry, I might add some applesauce.

Next up: Either Bridget Batson’s Quinoa Cookies or Rick Mahan’s Potato Leek Soup with Steamed Clams (They are both SF based chef-runners.)

The SF Marathon isn’t built in a week, but it can be cleaned up that fast!

People are always asking me if I work for the marathon full time. “Does it really take a year to plan The San Francisco Marathon?” Usually, I say “No, it takes 51 weeks to plan the Marathon and 1 week to clean it up!”

This very question was posed to me Sunday at the Emerald Across the Bay race and I realized it was time to share with runners all that goes into pulling off a 26.2 mile road race that has a 6 hour time limit for 24,000+ runners running on 42 streets (crossing through 3 times as many intersections that necessitates police or volunteer support), 12,000+ gallons of water at 12 aid stations, 1,500 volunteers and staff, 40 shuttle buses, 3 finish line tapes and a 2 day Runner Expo in a world class city that has multiple events each weekend.  It is a daunting task, but in the Marathon office we thrive on this sort of activity. It helps that we are all dedicated runners and have high expectations of any event we attend. We are striving to make our race the best in the country.

Planning a marathon is very similar to training for and running one. As a runner you carefully select which event you want to participate in and then search for the perfect training schedule. In the Marathon office this pre-planning stage is composed on applying for city, park, port and police permits. Runners love to run on The Golden Gate Bridge and The San Francisco Marathon is incredibly fortunate to be the only foot race in the City that has approval to close down lanes of vehicle traffic so that participants can escape the sidewalks and run on the road bed of this glorious landmark. We are thrilled to have the support of our city officials.

Once permits are underway we start thinking about marketing our event. Creating ads and promotional materials, researching other races we want to promote at, formatting our newsletters, designing a new website and planning our social media encompasses the early Fall. We have an incredibly creative staff and we spend a great deal of time brainstorming what we want our race to look like. (Sometimes too much brainstorming when we should be creating, designing, planning, and…. I digress.) If you haven’t been to our website lately check it out. It’s fantastic! You can see our ads in Runner’s World and iRun Canada and our postcards are strewn about (err… logically placed) businesses around the Bay Area and other running stores around the country.

We also spend the fall and winter thinking about merchandise. This is probably one of the best parts of working for the Marathon. What should our finisher’s shirt look like? What items would our runner’s like to purchase when they come to our Expo? What’s new and cool and exciting? This year we will again have the recycled Green Layer shirt for all runners. We are finalizing the design now and, I have to say, it’s pretty great. We are super excited to “unveil” it at our Runner Expo on July 23 and 24.

Our mascot (and my dog!) Dublin Moon picking his favorite T-shirt design!

The final part of the “pre-planning” is to look back at last year’s race to discuss what went right and what needs improvement. We sent out a survey and received a tremendous amount of feedback that we are using to help guide us with the 2010 race. This year we are working very closely with our shirt manufacturer to ensure the order comes in perfectly! We are looking at our water needs throughout the course and outlining ways to ensure all runners get what they need while discouraging others from taking more than they really need.

Making sure runners understand our time limit is a priority. With the industry wide growth of half marathon participation, we want to make sure that anyone who registers for one of The San Francisco Marathon events understands the time constraints placed on us. We start our Full and 1st Half Marathon early so that we can get all runners over the bridge and we end in 6 hours so that our City can have their streets back. It does require participants to be a bit “speedier” than other races, but we think finishing our event is a well earned accomplishment for runners who chose to participate!

Alright, back to planning!

Libby’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

It’s starting to pick up in The San Francisco Marathon office: There are 144 days until 25,000 people descend on our streets in search of marathon or half marathon glory.

Yes, 144 days.

The thought sends my head spinning and my heart racing. So, there is very little time for cooking a big dinner. While most of you are not planning a racing event, you are certainly consumed by workouts, your training schedule, long runs, and oh, yeah, the rest of the things in your life. That’s where this super easy Chicken Tortilla Soup comes in. It takes very little time to make, is healthy and is great for a post race lunch or evening dinner.