The San Francisco Marathon: My First 26.2

SF marathon elle curtin penner

It’s not every day you get to check something off your bucket list. Entire years have passed without crossing anything off of mine––but after nearly 120 days of training, 15 long runs totaling 199 miles and dozens upon dozens of carbohydrate-heavy meals later, I can officially say I’ve checked running a full marathon off of my bucket list!

I know this recap is long overdue, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

PRE-RACE DRAMA

If you’ve ever known a marathoner, or have run one yourself, you know a marathon rarely happens without at least a little bit of pre-race drama. Well, about 30 minutes after posting my 3-day countdown post last Thursday afternoon, I pulled my right calf on an easy shake-out run.

It happened so fast at first I pretended it didn’t happen at all. With a quarter-mile to go I hobbled home, stretched, foam rolled and tried not to think about it. That actually worked pretty well until I stood up to get out of bed on Friday morning.

Yowza.

I spent the rest of Friday in a silent panic which ended in a mini-meltdown later that night. All I could think was, “After all that training…”

Thankfully, 24 hours of rest, ice, compression and elevation had me feeling a bit better on Saturday. Not perfect by any means but good enough to give it a shot.

MILE-BY-MILE BREAKDOWN

Miles 1-4: I’ll be honest––I spent the first mile waiting my calf to give out completely. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and eventually my focus redirected from my right leg to the beautiful views and the excitement around me. By Mile 4 I had settled in to my run. Things were looking up.

Mile 5: No really, things were literally looking up. Mile 5 marked the start of the massive uphill to the Golden Gate Bridge… And unfortunately, my calf made sure I felt every step. Despite the discomfort, I pressed on and remained focused on just making it to the top.  For a few minutes I thought it might be the beginning of the end but, as soon as I made it to the top and the hills leveled out a bit, I suddenly didn’t feel anything anymore. Not a twinge. Nothing.

By some small miracle, my calf never bothered me again for the rest of the race. WOOT!

Miles 6-17: This part of the course brought me across the Golden Gate Bridge (and back), through Park Presidio, the Richmond and then through the winding paths of Golden Gate Park. Holy rolling hills, but much to my surprise, I felt strong! The hubs greeted me in the park at Mile 15 with a big smile and encouraging words. He followed me by bike from that point on, snapping photos and cheering me along every few miles for the rest of the race.

Miles 18-22: Mile 18 is where things started to get tough. I tried to enjoy the long downhill from Golden Gate Park into Haight Ashbury but by that time my quads were shot, the sun was out in full force and I could feel my body temp inching up slowly. The rolling hills continued and the water stations seemed sparse, neither of which helped my dropping energy levels.

So, when things started getting really tough around Mile 21 I did what any girl would do––I texted my girlfriends who were tracking me along the way. Their replies:

OMG. Texting from the marathon. Bad ass! Keep goingggggggggg ––Katie

 

Just think about how great your bum is going to look after this race thanks to all those hills.    ––Libby

 

Start deciding what you want for brunch. ––Anne

 

You’ve made it through the hardest part (the middle miles) too! … Also, keep planning your cartwheel across the finish line. :) Go girl!!!!!!! ––Lauren

And thanks to those girls, I trudged on.

Miles 22-26.2: Man-oh-man. If you look at my splits, it’s obvious this is where things got rough. The sun was taking its toll, not just on me but other runners too. I counted three people down in the span of one mile and, at one point, prayed I wasn’t the next one to crash into the cement.

Mile after mile though, the hubs was there to cheer me on, the inspirational texts kept coming in and before I knew it I was stepping across the finish line!

Total Time: 4:13:23 // Average Pace: 9:39/mile // Elevation Gain: 1,450 feet

FINISH LINE FEELINGS

For efficiency, I’ll just sum up the 30 seconds of emotions that ensued after crossing the finish line:

Wait, I finished? I finished!!! !!! !!! Um, that was hard. But, holy sh*t! I did it!!! Gah, I forgot to stop my watch. Husband! Nope, you’re definitely not my husband. She better not try to give me a Half Marathon medal. God this thing is heavy. Full Marathon medal, check! Wait, is that…. milk? Nope, it’s water. In a box. WATER!!! Wait so, that’s it? It’s over? Um, I can’t possibly be sad about that. Did someone just say ‘beer’?

POST-RACE RECOVERY

So, I spent the rest of Sunday pretty much endorphin-wasted. If you’ve never experienced this level of “runner’s high”––you must because it’s absolutely hysterical. After a long shower and an even longer nap, the boys took Erin and I out for Mex & margs to celebrate.

I’ve been living in high waisted skinny pants since Sunday because, well, they feel amazing. Kind of like a compression sock for my whole lower body. Monday was slow going and going up and down stairs was absolutely dreadful. But after a few days of rest with some light walking mixed in, I’m feeling about 90% recovered at this point. I haven’t felt up to running yet but I’m getting there and am most looking forward to adding strength workouts back into my routine!

FINAL THOUGHTS

How’d it go? Awesome. I loved it. Training was tough, but the race itself was completely amazing. I’m now more in love with running than I ever have been before.

Would I ever do it again? I promised my mom I wouldn’t… but… Well, let’s just leave it at that.

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Marathon Training: 3-Day Countdown

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It’s hard to believe the San Francisco Marathon is just 3 days away––and even crazier that I’ve been training for nearly 4 entire months now. Here’s how the 2nd half of my training went down, and some details about how I’m prepping for my first 26.2 on Sunday!

HARDEST LESSON LEARNED

The first 8 weeks were were somewhat of a roller coaster between experimenting with different kinds of fuel and running distances farther than I had ever run before, including a soul-crushing 16 miler.

I’m not going to lie. That run left me hating everything about marathon training and wanting to quit entirely. Afterwards I turned to my marathoner gal pals for some words of wisdom and they all seemed to agree that my body wasn’t fully recovering between training sessions––cumulative fatigue was the culprit.  It was Jacquelyn who convinced me to take an entire week off from exercising altogether, with the exception of one yoga class and some light walking.

Boy am I glad I listened to her. That recovery week made all the difference and allowed me to refocus on what was important: letting my body dictate my training schedule rather than what was written on my calendar.

FUELING REVELATIONS

Good news! I’ve made major strides in the fuel department during the past 7 weeks. For pre-run fuel, it’s whole bagels or bust now, preferably toasted with a pat of melted butter and a hefty sprinkle of salt. No more weeny pieces of toast or lone bananas. My body seems to thrive off of a hearty dose of carbs right before a long run.

In regards to mid-run fuel, I abandoned real foods after getting more mashed sweet potato on my shirt than in my mouth, another unfortunate part of that terrible 16 miler. I tried some of those Honey Stingers you guys raved about and um, well, my life has been changed––so thank you!  Even though I don’t love gels I find them to be the most effective and the Honey Stingers are pretty easy to get down with a few swigs of water. I’ve only been able to get the Vanilla flavor though, so let me know if there are better ones out there I should hunt down.

ACHES AND PAINS

An early piriformis flare-up had me worried at the start but resting, stretching, strengthening and regular foam rolling has––knock on wood––kept me pretty much injury-free. I treated myself to a few sports massages over the past several weeks too. We’re not talking the “sports massage” you get at the spa though. These massages actually made foam rolling my IT Bands feel enjoyable. Each session was 90 minutes of lower body work––most of which I spent gripping the table and clenching my teeth while the masseuse kneaded out all of the kinks in my legs. It hurt so good I’m going back next week for a post-marathon massage to help undo Sunday’s 26.2 miles-worth of tension.

LONG RUN RECAP

18 Miles: Boy was I dreading this one after the worst run of my life the week before. But with fresh legs and a full bagel on board, I physically felt way better this time around which did wonders for getting my head back in the game. We also took it a bit slower and seemed to find our sweet spot in terms of pacing. Yay! Pace: 9:33/mile

14 Miles: It’s crazy to say but after 18 miles, 14 felt short-ish, especially with these ladies! It turns out my grad school BFF Anne and Monica were in town for a blogger event that week. So they join Erin and I for our long run before work along the Embarcadero. It was such a treat! Pace: 9:01/mile

20 Miles: We figured 20 miles before work would be rough so Erin and I did this one on a gorgeous Sunday morning. We left from Dolores Park and basically did a massive loop around the city, including a trip across the bridge and back. We took our time, stopping for a few photos and a couple of gels along the way, and finished in Golden Gate Park where the hubs greeted us with ice water and a lift home. We were physically and mentally exhausted by the end but I will say, finishing 20 miles felt pretty darn good. After a shower and a power nap, we regrouped later that afternoon for some celebratory beers, bites and soccer-watching with the boys. Pace: 9:45/mile // Elevation gain: 1250 feet

16 Miles: Still feeling tired from our 20 miler the weekend before, Erin and I made the executive decision to dial this one back to 8 miles. Hooray for listening to our bodies! We also happened to be on a weekend getaway with our men so the run took place in the blazing sun along some beautiful Santa Barbara beaches––quite a change from San Francisco, which as earned the summertime nickname: fog-city. Later that night we celebrated our 8 miles with Mexican and salty margaritas. Pace: 8:56/mile

22 Miles: This one felt long––like really long––and rightfully so. But Erin and I braced, and paced ourselves for the longest and farthest run of our life and did it! We ran the same course as the 20 miler but closed the loop and finished back in Dolores Park, exactly where we started 22 miles prior. I can’t even describe the feeling of accomplishment that overcame me after that one! Pace: 9:53/mile // Elevation gain: 1250 feet

14 Miles: Tapering tends to get a lot of hype among marathoners and, I admit, I never fully understood why until I experienced it for myself. It’s basically like the best thing ever after four months of long runs followed by even longer runs. Pace: 9:14/mile

12 Miles: It pains me to say this but Erin rolled her ankle earlier last week and had to sit this one out. [Insert the biggest sadface ever]. She’s resting and recovering though and we’re hoping for the best on Sunday! As for the run, it was a chilly, misty morning here in San Francisco and my legs were just over it after 5 miles so I turned around and called it at 10. It was definitely an anticlimactic end to my training but… I’m saving up all of my celebrating for Sunday! Pace: 9:07/mile

3-DAY COUNTDOWN

For me, the next few days are all about keeping my legs fresh, catching up on sleep, staying hydrated and kicking up my carb consumption. Oh, and picking out my race-day outfit, obviously.

I’m fitting in one last 3-4 mile run today and will try to limit my exercise to light walking tomorrow. MytFitnessPal is actually sponsoring a booth at the expo so I’ll be spending tomorrow afternoon there and feeding off all the excitement. After Erin and I drive the course Saturday morning, I plan to spend the day eating carbs and lounging on the couch while I catch up on blogs and binge-watch General Hospital. The race starts at 5:30am on Sunday so it’ll definitely be an early night for me!

Marathoners: Got any final race day words of wisdom for me? I’m all ears. And legs!

P.S. If you’re heading to the marathon expo this weekend too, stop by the MyFItnessPal booth to say hi and we’ll hook you up with a special marathon t-shirt!

Simple Summer Berry Crumble

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As a blogging dietitian that works in tech, some days I feel like I live behind a screen. At my desk, on the sofa, or in the palm of my hand, there are always emails to send, blog posts to be written, tweets to reply to or food photos to be edited.

I’ll even admit, my phone, not my husband, is often the first thing I interact with in the morning and the last thing I look at before going to bed.

Technology is wonderful but at times it completely consumes me. Being constantly connected makes it nearly impossible to leave work at the office and all too easy to miss out on special moments with loved ones as well as the tranquility and beauty of everyday life. It’s only when I unplug that I remember how good it feels to focus my attention on other things like reading the pages of a good book, developing a new recipe for the blog or enjoying a meal at the dining room table with my husband.

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The other day I looked up from my laptop and noticed the basket of fresh ollalaberries on the table that we picked up from the farmer’s market last weekend. Those berries inspired a technology break that led me to my favorite room in the house––the kitchen.

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The kitchen is one of the few places I’m truly able, and actually forced to unplug. For some strange reason our internet doesn’t reach there. It has something to do with the materials in our 90 year old walls but I admit, I kind of cherish it. When I’m able to walk away from my laptop and put down my phone for a little while, I head to the kitchen. There it’s just me and my senses––the sight of colorful produce spread out on the counter, the sound of veggies sizzling in a skillet, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, and the flavor of a delicious dinner, or dessert, to enjoy with my husband.

Speaking of dessert…

Have a taste.

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This three-berry crumble is summer on a spoon. Top with ice cream for an easy, crowd-pleasing dessert or, if you’re like me, enjoy over plain Greek yogurt with a cup of coffee before 10am.


Looking up from the screens that capture so much of our attention every day not only improves our productivity but enables us to be more present in our daily lives. This summer I’ve partnered with smartwater to spread the word about their #lookupsweepstakes––a challenge to technology-tied gals like ourselves to look up from our laptops and put away our phones and be inspired by something nearby.

Want to take the look up challenge too? Post an Instagram photo of something that inspired you to look up, follow and tag @smartwater and use the hashtag #lookupsweepstakes. There’s a trip to anywhere in the U.S. up for grabs!

This post was sponsored by smartwater through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about smartwater, all opinions are my own.

The Key to Making Your Practice Your Own

At this weekend’s Wanderlust Festival, one thing popped out at me: the numerous variations of yoga that have sprouted over the past several years. There seems to be at least one for each letter of the alphabet: Acro, Aerial, Bikram, hot, hula, Suspension, Stand-up Paddle, Yin––many of which are offered at Wanderlust.

Though the expansion of yoga practices might lead some traditionalists to wince a bit, I went in with an open mind, excited to explore some of the different forms and gain new experiences.

Before getting my yoga on, I kicked Friday morning off the same way I did every other morning, with a quick stop at the Kashi hut for a big bowl of cereal and milk. Throughout the festival their awesome crew made sure I had a good breakfast and a full supply of granola bars, which actually came in handy with so many back-to-back sessions.

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After breakfast I headed to a suspension yoga class run by OmGym’s Founder Sarah Kellett. As Sarah explained it, she originally developed this unique practice as a way to help her personally recover from a spinal injury she suffered in a car accident. Since 2005, she has focused on the benefits that OmGym can have on spinal health, a lot of which is focused on spinal decompression and increased blood flow to the brain. The head rush was intense at first but the pressure subsided and my spine stretched long the moment I fully relaxed into the pose.

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After Suspension Yoga, the hubs and I then went to an AcroYoga class. AcroYoga, founded in 2003 by Jenny Sauer-Klein and Jason Nemer, blends yoga with acrobatics, giving it a more playful feel than most types. Over the course of the class, Jenny focused on helping us cultivate trust and playfulness through partner supported conditioning, acrobatics, massage and, my favorite, partner flying.

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Later that day, I was lucky to try out one of the hottest trends in yoga: Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Yoga. It sounds a bit gimmicky but I have to say, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my entire yoga practice.

Taking my practice from the mat, where I normally feel grounded and safe, to a board floating on water high atop a mountain, allowed me to connect with nature in a way I’ve never been able to before. Gazing out over my fingers at the rippling water instilled peace in my practice, while staying balanced on the board (and out of the cold, mountain water) kept my body fully engaged and my mind focused.

Wanderlust sup yogaPhoto: Amy Hart

One thing I observed at Wanderlust is that yoga isn’t about finding one style and committing to it. Exploring yoga from different angles and experiencing feelings and sensations you never have before is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to really, truly, make your practice your own.

What different styles of yoga have you tried before? Has trying several types allowed you to grow your own practice too?

First Day Wanderings at Wanderlust

I’ve never been to a yoga festival before and when Kashi invited me to attend Wanderlust at Squaw Valley this year, I really didn’t know what to expect.

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I’ve been practicing yoga for about 4 years now, having started during my years in grad school. For me, it’s always been a mental release, a restorative workout, a way to breathe deeply and put things in perspective. Somehow being grounded on my mat has kept me that much more grounded in the everyday.

But the first day of Wanderlust has also given me a new and even more appreciative perspective of yoga, not just as a practice but a way of life. It’s kind of incredible to see how one discipline like yoga can bring so many people together in such a positive way.

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Squaw Valley village is buzzing with activity, people filled with the energy of exercise and the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

The Yoga philosophy highlights and emphasizes so many things that are good for this world: a nurturing and protection of our earth, a gratitude for every breath, the caring for people around us that make us a community. Here at Wanderlust, that couldn’t be more apparent.

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Today, I woke up and headed to a yoga class at 8am. I felt a little creaky at the start, but it ended up being a refreshing and fun way to start the day. I actually wondered what this world would be like if everyone started with an hour or two of yoga each morning. I’m guessing pretty great.

After enjoying a late morning coffee, I headed to ChiRunning, a class that broke down the fundamental physiology of running, and made me realize I’ve been running with the wrong form for nearly 25 years now. Mind blown.

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I love that Wanderlust offers activities not just for yogis but for runners too––even if that class left me a little freaked out with just one week until my first marathon.

Unfortunately just before my mountaintop Stand Up Paddle Yoga class, the heavens opened and hail the size of Kashi clusters came down. I was a little disappointed but in the end, it didn’t matter. The collective vibe of a yoga festival like Wanderlust enriches the soul and can instill hope, positivity and warmth in all of us––no matter what nature throws our way.