Fitness Swellness: Nike Women’s San Francisco Half-marathon race report

post Nike Women's San Fran Half

“So maybe I should go see a shrink like Coach Bennett said to…”

Yes, Bennett (the Nike+ coach in NYC) straight up told me to see a psychologist when I told him I was running the Chicago Marathon aaand the Nike Women’s Half in San Fran one week apart. I believe he said it in jest…or maybe it was one of those jokes you make but you’re really trying to tell someone the cold-hard truth.

And I’ll admit that this definitely ran through my mind in the week after the Chicago Marathon. Especially as I ran 10k on the Thursday (as recommended by Coach Bennett) four days after Chicago–I wasn’t horribly sore, but I did feel a bit weary and tired and definitely was grateful to take it mega slow and easy as he’d recommended. Given how this run felt, I skipped running on Friday, even though he’d suggested another one-hour run that day. The only other run I did was a 3-mile shakeout run in  San Fran with Nike, which started near the Golden Gate Bridge on the gorgeous Saturday morning.

morning shakeout run in San Fran with Nike

If you’re not a runner — well, know that it can take quite some time to recover  after a marathon or a half . There are some that say that it takes as many days as the number of miles (ie. I should have spent the 26 days after Chicago just recovering, and not running 13.1 miles seven days after). Some say it can take up to a month to recover after running a marathon.

What was my goal for #werunSF, you ask?

So in the two months leading up to the Chicago Marathon and San Fran half, I told a few friends that I wanted to PB in both races. And, yes, everyone more or less thought I was crazy. But…I needed something to feel in control of, and strong about, and so, my lofty goals. ” First focus on Chicago and then see how you feel after that,” said my running buddy. I knew she was right.

Then,as you may have read in my race report, the Chicago Marathon went really, really well for me. But I’d worked myself into such a tizzy leading  up to it, I just felt spent mentally in terms of setting a goal for San Fran. And so I was less goal-oriented right after completing it. What I did know was that I ultimately wanted to run a personal best, but I also knew that:

(1) my body and mental state was tired after running the full in Chicago

(2) I’m now conditioned and trained to run a marathon distance, not a half-marathon distance. The past three years I’ve been training to run marathons (and have run a couple of Around the Bay 30k races, too)

(3) it’d be smart to look at the San Fran half as a fun race to complete, rather than one for my record books

And yet, still, that inner (crazy) runner voice told me, “No, you should try to PB.” My previous fastest was 1:54 and that was several years ago–I haven’t raced a half in at least three years. Looking at my most recent marathon times, I could see that I ran the first 21.1k in about 1:52, so I set a goal of 1:51.

Nike Women’s San Francisco Half-marathon — race day!

Talk about perfect weather conditions: foggy (so it was almost like we were being sprayed by an Evian atomizer the entire race) and about 10C at 6AM and warming to about 15C by 9AM. Not so ideal was the rest and sleep I was getting; what with the travel, time change, dinner with the Nike team and a bit of sightseeing in  San Fran, I could’ve used more sleep and time off of my feet.

pre-race the morning of werunSF

Because I’d been so focused on Chicago, I’d done little research in advance about this Nike race. The route was new, but I didn’t study it heavily. I knew from the elevations map to expect more hills than the previous route. I’d never found the old route to be too strenuous, so I told my fellow runners in my Nike Toronto crew (Sasha Exeter of, Justine Iaboni of Kenton Magazine and Melissa Greer of Best Health) that the hills should be very manageable…that is, until I took a good look at the route map the night prior to the race and noticed we were running through the centre of San Fran (which I know can get hilly — whereas the previous route brought us along the flat Embarcadero to start). Uh oh. (Plus, I was so unprepared that I had also completely forgotten to print out a pace band for myself, so I scribbled down my splits onto a piece of paper the morning of the race. But at least my nails were race-ready — did you see my marathon mani?)

And sure enough, the race started with a nice long incline, and it only got steeper from there. Culminating in a killer hill at the 10-mile mark. “What the–?” It was a very long and very tough hill (at least as tough if not tougher than the horrible hill in Around the Bay 30k) and my pace had slowed so much on this hill that I figured walking would be the same pace, and so I walked up about a third of it. I was not a happy camper and I knew that Sasha was likely cursing my name for being so adamant the hills would not be terrible. She and I started the race together and pretty much ran most of it together or within steps of each other. With about a third of the hill to go, I gave her a thumbs up, she nodded, and we started running again.

With so much fog, it was hard to enjoy much scenery (and disappointingly, there seemed to be very little spectator support this race — but I loved the marching bands and all of the cheerleading squads — former cheerleader myself and all, I have a soft spot for the sport).

That said, I was likely huffing and puffing too much to take in much of the foggy pretty views anyhow. To run a 1:51, I had to maintain a 5:15 pace…and I was having a rough time with that. I think I might’ve been able to do so on a flat route, but these hills were kicking my butt. I thought several times during this half-marathon how it was feeling way rougher and grueling than the Chicago Marathon (in fact, not once during Chicago did I think “I would reaaaaaaallllly like to not be running right now,” which is a thought I’ve always had when running a full.).

I knew, though, that I’d likely run a PB, and changed my focus to simply running faster than a 1:54…

And sure, enough, I did! I ran 1:52:14. I finished 1,132nd overall (I believe there were just over 20,000 runners) and 106 out of 2,924 in my division (ie. in the top 5 percent of my division).

With Sasha Exeter after Nike Women's Half-Marathon 2014

I was happy at the finish line, and even happier when I saw the doughnuts, full bar and breakfast spread in the very posh VIP tent located right by the finish line where I was hoping to see the rest of the Nike Toronto crew cross the finish line. And I was super thrilled when I found Sasha in the finish area and we celebrated together with mimosas — she ran a fantastic half, her very first, and I’d seen her struggling in the last few kilometres (thanks to a knee issue) but knew we had finished very close to one another. She’d talked me out of my stressed-out mode pre-Chicago Marathon, so I hope I was there as a support to her for this!

doughnuts in the Nike VIP

And with that, my 2014 race season is over. A big, big thank you to Nike Canada for hosting me to run this incredible race. Training with my fellow media girls has been an incredible experience, and, well, as always the gear is totally on point and this has only made me more fond of running (remember, it’s not true love for me). So now what? Onto setting goals for 2015! Oh, and yes, the pretty medal for #werunSF, yes, it’s from Tiffany & Co. as always!

Nike Women's San Francisco Half-Marathon medal 2014


Leave a Comment October 24, 2014

Fitness Swellness: Chicago Marathon 2014 race report

at the race expo

“I got this.”

This is what I told myself as I started the Chicago Marathon on Sunday and throughout the race.

And whaddyaknow? I killed it.

I don’t mean to sound too boastful…although I am proud. To be honest, even three days after running the race, I’m still rather stunned over how this race played out.

As I mentioned earlier, training was going quite well up until about a month and a half ago. I was often doing an additional fourth short training run, I’d incorporated a tiny bit more crosstraining (by regularly attending NTC classes once a week). Then a few curveballs threw me for a loop, and while I continued with three runs per week, my heart wasn’t into the race anymore and my focus was off and I even found myself regretting having registered for this destination race…

I became more and more anxious. And even in good times, my sleeping habits are poor; now, being stressed out, I lost a ton of zzz’s. I got a prescription for sleeping pills, but was wary of trying them and then didn’t want to be experimenting with them so close to the race.

With my growing anxiety came a growing need to do really, really well in the Chicago Marathon. With a lot going on in my life that I felt I had little control over, I needed something to feel strong and good about, so I became fixated on running a personal best. I felt it was something I could control and be in charge of.

Could I have chosen something I could have even less control of?? So many minute factors have to be aligned to have a great race. From the weather, to my stomach/appetite, the other runners, etc. etc. So even though my rational self knew I’d chosen a silly thing to feel in control of, I couldn’t help it. Friends I spoke to and interviews with running coaches kept stressing that all you can do is your best at that given time in a race. And yet, still, all I could think was “PB or die.”

I tried to remind myself of that but still remained a big ball of stress leading up to race day. Given that I’d also traveled to Chicago four days before the race, I was eating foods I was unfamiliar with, and drinking a decent amount, and walking probably more than I should’ve. All things not conducive to running a great race.

my pace band

I’d printed a pace band for what I thought was the best I could run: 3:57. That is two minutes faster than my personal best of 3:59 in Philadelphia last fall. This works out to a 5:37 min/km pace.

The morning of the race, I could tell conditions were going to be ideal in terms of the weather. Blue skies, and 9C at the race start, warming to about 15C by midday. I was buoyed by the happy and excited runners at the race start and just tried to focus on running my best race.

I have a habit of starting out too fast, so I’d  promised myself to try my best to stick to my 5:37 pace dictated by my pace band. So I took it easy for the first few kilometres…and then I realized I was actually slower than my pace band. Doh! So I focused on speeding up a bit. I also decided (a bit on a whim) to run steady (without a one-minute walk break) for at least the first 15k or so.

And, then, as I often do in races, I broke the rules I’d set for myself. I was feeling good, and didn’t feel I needed the walk breaks just yet, and had settled into a 5:21 pace, which was very comfortable, so I just decided to keep going as is.

As it got further into the race, I realized taking a walk break at that point might be tough–stopping to walk would allow me to realize how my legs were feeling tight, so I made the decision to keep going as long as I could into the race without a walk break.

I remember being about three minutes ahead in terms of total time. Then it grew to seven minutes, then nine minutes. But even up until about 25k, I fully expected to crash and burn for the last part of the race. Like when I ran the Goodlife Toronto Marathon in the spring–I was strong and too fast for the first half, and then slowed down a lot for the second half of the race.

But in Chicago, I forget what point of the race I was in but I saw that I was a solid 10 minutes ahead of my pace band. I remember triple checking the numbers as I was so stunned. This was also when I realized that my finish time would be verrrrry close to what I need to qualify for Boston, and I was shocked. I already knew that no matter what I would have a personal best, but a time close to my BQ qualifying time was blowing my mind.

The crowd support and entertainment along the Chicago route is phenomenal. There were very few spots without a steady stream of people cheering. A sign with Grumpy Cat saying “I tried running once. It was horrible,” made me laugh, as did the one of Justin Timberlake.

In a less charming, more desolate part of the route, I followed a tip I’d read in Runner’s World about dedicating each mile to someone. So I thought of everyone who’d ever wished me good luck in a race, or liked my Instagrams of running; of my good friend who’d traveled with me to Chicago, who’d helped distract me from driving myself crazy about the race, made sure we weren’t doing too many tiring activities, hunted down some carbs for me to eat for breakfast; of friends at home who I knew were cheering me on and who’d dealt with my stress-y texts in the weeks before the race; of my running partner who did nearly all of my training with me, and who I knew wished she could’ve been in Chicago to run me in, so I envisioned her beside me; and I thought about how lucky I was to be able to run and take part in this race.

As I crossed the finish line, I was beyond thrilled as I knew I’d likely run sub 3:47. And sure enough, my running buddy had already texted me congrats and told me how proud she was of me. I couldn’t log onto get my finish time, so she texted me:


Which places me 384 out of 2,953 women in my division; and 2,082 out of the 18,389 women who ran that day.

post Chicago Marathon

Everything, from the mostly flat route and fun spectators, to the weather and my mindset must’ve all aligned Sunday. And I ran my best marathon so far.

Now, onto a bit more recovery, before tackling the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco this Sunday. FOUR days from now! Let’s do this.


1 Comment October 15, 2014

Beauty Swellness: It’s Beautylicious time again in Bloor-Yorkville

Pure + Simple products

It’s that time of year again — Bloor-Yorkville’s Beautylicious is taking place October 23 until November 2, 2014. Not familiar with it? More than 60 spas, salons, skin, health and wellness businesses in  the Bloor-Yorkville hood take part and during the event, you can book treatments at prix fix prices (at $30, $50, $75 or $125).

I got to test out (again) one of my faves in advance of Beautylicious — the facial at Pure + Simple. I swear it is one of the most relaxing facials I’ve ever had — try to see Shari Hodgins if you go, she can work some magic with your skin (I left with a glowing complexion and even though my stress is at an all-time high, I was able to relax and let go of some of the anxiety I have about the Chicago Marathon I ran on Sunday). Above are the products she used on my skin (my masque was a combination of three masques to help prepare my skin to take on the colder weather here for the fall season), but the skin experts at Pure + Simple will customize according to your skin’s needs, obvi.

I’d get booking if I were you — I’m sure appointments for treatments such as the facial at Pure + Simple and mud facials, enzyme facial treatments, and haircuts and more in the hood’s top beauty spots are filling up fast.

Beautylicious runs Oct. 23 to Nov. 2. You can find more details on the business and services available during the event here.

Leave a Comment October 15, 2014

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