My First 10 Marathons

SF Marathon 2008

For the last 5 years, I have been running 2 marathons a year. I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and look at my first 10 marathons:

1. 8/3/08 San Francisco Marathon - 4:44:17
2. 10/19/08 Nike Women's Marathon - 4:40:06
3. 11/8/09 Stinson Beach Marathon - 5:00:25. 3rd in AG 
4. 12/6/09 Northface Endurance Challenge 50k - 7:42:18 (I know it's an ultra but I'm including it here)
5. 4/25/10 Big Sur International Marathon - 4:38:42
6. 7/25/10 San Francisco Marathon - 4:20:23
7. 11/5/11 Stinson Beach Marathon - 5:54:29
8. 12/4/11 Dallas White Rock Marathon - 4:09:43
9. 7/29/12 San Francisco Marathon - 3:58:40
10. 12/2/12 California International Marathon - 5:09:46

Things I learned:
  • Respect Mother Nature
  • Respect HILLS
  • Hmm, I haven't done a full marathon on Mt. Diablo yet
  • Don't wear brand new shoes on race day
  • Trail races are different than road races
  • F.I.R.S.T. Training plan seemed to work for me (Run less, run faster)
  • High mileage may not be my thing
  • I'm starting to notice a pattern with cramping legs, especially in cold or wet weather. 
  • My marathon pace I'm trying to run now might be too fast, but I have to imagine that pace in order to get to my "real pace" LOL!
  • When a course is changed on a race you've done before, you have nothing to compare it to
  • I seem to drop 20 minutes off my SFM PR every time I run it on even-numbered years. 
  • Since 2008, I improved about 22 seconds per mile faster each year
  • Cross training such as cycling, swimming and strength training are great. No injuries here.
  • You can listen to all the advice from other runners you want, but it doesn't compare to your own experience
  • If raining, put everything in your gear check-in bag inside a waterproof plastic bag, unless the gear check bag is plastic
  • Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C, then... 
  • Some of the friendliest down to earth people I've met are runners
  • I learn something new every time

I don't know what the next 5 years are going to bring, but I know it involves running!
SF Marathon 2008


California International Marathon

CIM 2012
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California International Marathon

This was the wettest marathon I've ever done! The roads were flooded, gusty winds, rain coming down in sheets! It was right in the middle of the storm, and the marathon started during the worst part of it. The best part is the warm sunshine broke through at the end, and everyone had a chance to dry off and enjoy the post-race bliss.

This was an easy race to get to by train. I took the Amtrak Capitol Corridor. It's $28 each way. They have a cafe with food on the train, and it's just a 2 hour trip. I stayed in Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza, near the train station. The finish line and the expo at the Convention Center are walking distance and a bus picks you up at the hotel and takes you to the starting line. You do have to plan your breakfast ahead of time, as there is not much open at 4am (Great opportunity for food trucks)!

The fleet of school buses came to pick us up at our hotel at 5am. It seemed as if the entire hotel was booked up by marathoners! After an hour trip, we were dropped off at Folsom Lake in the pitch black darkness and pouring rain. There was the option to stay on the bus and stay dry, but unfortunately I didn't choose that option and I decided to venture out to the port-a-potty paradise and bag check. I forgot to note my bus number and so I scrambled over with the other runners to the 76 station awning. Endorphin Dude has some video on his FB page of that adventure. It was kind of cold there so I then headed into the Baja Fresh, where all the other runners were huddled until the starting time. We pretty much took over the place. After half an hour, it was time to run, so had to get out and get moving. Once moving, things were better. I had worn my Big Sur Marathon shirt which got lots of comments from other runners: "At least this is easier than Big Sur!" I'm glad I brought a cap but was almost wishing I brought silicone earplugs also because the rain was going in sideways.

I was doing fine the first half. Was able to keep a pace going similar to my last marathon, Then, after running into the headwind for awhile my legs cramped up and had to slow down for the rest of the race just to finish. The pacers at the runner's workshop were saying a 10mph headwind can take 38 seconds off your pace, and they were right. Try 40mph. What I think happened was I was trying to keep my pace in the wind, and all the extra effort drained me, the equivalent of going out too fast. It was very deceptive. Any advantage of the fast course or hopes of PR or BQ was pretty much dashed after that, but I learned something new. I should adjust my pace (and expectations) for weather conditions next time. As I was passing through the 5 stages of griefMy pace got slower and slower, and by the end took lots of walk breaks to get through the last painfully long miles. Going past the relay stations was tough, as was getting passed up by all the pace groups! I was thinking this was going to be a fast marathon and it turned out to be one of the slowest ever! I went in with the mindset of going for it, but also having a Plan B and C in case things don't go as planned. Plan A was BQ (a girl can dream, right?) Plan B was PR Sub-4 (Sure!) Plan C was just to finish and live to run another day, put another notch on the marathon belt. Turn it into a fat-burning fun run. Mission accomplished! I got emotional at mile 25 because I realized I was going to finish my10th marathon, something I used to think I could not do. There was a band playing music that reminded me of my dad. Running has got me through the tough times and made things better. It has also created some tough times!

If I were to try it again, would go with fresher legs. I guess I didn't fully recover after SFM, even though it was 4 months ago. Some people do well with high mileage, but not me, I get burnt out.  I'm glad I did it, though, because DNS and DNF is not an ideal option after training for 13 weeks.

There were plenty of aid stations and restrooms. I was laughing at one point when I realized we were drinking rainwater, because the rain was pouring into the cups. Someone had a great sign that said "Zombies don't like fast food". The sport photos are going to be hilarious with all the trash bag attire. The volunteers were awesome and I enjoyed the cheer stations. The marching band playing Crazy Train was my favorite. It's really moving to see them out there despite the conditions!


chip time: 5:09:46

The winners


CIM Training Week 12 - Run Wild!

Run Wild
Run Wild - The annual fun run for the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Drive, helped get me out running again after being sick all week. Sometimes you need a cause to get you out there. I'm supposed to do a marathon next weekend. Ha! Most of the week I felt like my throat was in a vice and chills and aches, but feeling better now, especially after that run.

The course used to be at GGP but now it is at Crissy Field. I managed to speed up each mile and finish strong. I like 5ks, they are over pretty quick! I am going to try out the compression tights and see if they help the ongoing hamstring tightness. I feel like I only have a few more miles left in me this year then I need a little break.

Taper food:
Veggie Borscht


CIM Training Week 11 - Taper

This is it. Probably the most drastic taper ever, but I ran in the rain the other day and now I feel sick. Just what I needed before the marathon! My throat is killing me and I'm feeling chills and aches. I hope it goes away before the race. I am just stretching out and trying to rest and eat right.


CIM Training Week 10 - Taper

Week 10 of CIM training and decided to start the taper, well, actually the legs decided. Going for a swim with my Water World Swim group on Sunday helped with the soreness. We had a great time swimming around the wall and riding the current on the way  back in.

I cutback way more on running this week than I wanted to. I have run 334 miles in my training so far and without realizing it passed the 1,000 mile mark this year. 1,028! Just a few more weeks until marathon madness!


CIM Training Week 9 - Apex

Cupid's Arrow

Cupid's Span

46.24 miles, I reached the peak! It was a good week of running back-to-back days, and this is the highest weekly mileage of the year. Last year I peaked out at 49 and the year before at 50. That is definitely my threshold. I think if I wanted to go farther, I would have to increase the daily runs of 10 miles a day for a while. This requires more of a time commitment! I did lose some weight this week alone just running 2 hours a day at night. According to the CIM training plan, I have 2 options now. I can taper now or extend the peak. I will have to wait to see how my legs feel.

 What helped me keep going were the Run4NYC and TwitterRoadRace .
The Clif Bar 2 mile challenge is happening now!


CIM Training Week 8

Mt. Sutro from Lake Merced
Bumping up the mileage. Even though it's not as much as my training plan called for, I think that's all my legs called for. Hopefully this week I can peak out.


Hempseed Horchata

Hempseed Horchata   In my search for a whole foods alternative to a carb drink I can take running with me, I finally looked to my latin roots and realized horchata has everything I need. I gave it a little extra protein boost with the hempseed.

I love hempseed and hemp protein and eat it everyday. Can we please legalize hemp so I can grow my own?

Hempseed Horchata

1 cup of rice* cooked with cinnamon stick
1/3 cup hempseeds
4 cups water
1 TBSP powdered cinnamon
1 ripe banana or your favorite sweetener

Blend rice and hempseeds with a little bit of water in food processor until creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve chilled or warm.

*If worried about rice because of arsenic, then you can use oats. It depends on where the rice is grown. I've heard that white rice in California has the lowest levels in the U.S. and rice from India and Thailand rice is also safer. White rice has less than brown rice. The water in the Horchata dilutes the serving of rice.

New improved recipe:

Horchata Shortcut
This recipe uses Mochiko sweet rice flour, which is really pulverized rice powder used to make mochi. I put 1/2 cup of it with 2 cups water and simmer for 5 minutes with cinnamon. Add honey or your sweetener of choice. In a food processor, grind 3 T hempseeds with 1 cup water until smooth. Mix these together and make a nice carb drink for running. For long runs, you may want to add a pinch of salt. A banana adds potassium, or you can add coconut water. You can add spirulina and make a green horchata!


CIM Training Week 7

Andy Goldsworthy - Wood Line
Woodline by Andy Goldsworthy
This was a challenging week, having a late start on the miles means there is no room for flaking once the week starts running out. My long run was only 17 miles, I feel like an inchworm. I'm supposed to hit my 20 miler on week 9. If I add a mile and a half on the next LSDs I will get there.
I kind of like the 42 mile weeks that are structured like 6, 12, 6, 18. It would be ideal to do those every week. On the long run I packed my camelbak with homemade gels and a flavor pouch of pureed kiwi, date, coconut water & chia. I did break down and grab some pretzels at the gas station. I think that I need some starchy carbs, so will try some rice or potatoes next time. There are so many exciting races and events going on in the fall, but I'm just going to stay focused on CIM.


CIM Training Week 6

This was another solid week, with consecutive days of running. Took the homemade gels and coconut water with chia seeds on the long run, and it worked out great! I noticed I don't get as hungry early in the morning as I do in the afternoon runs. I found a pouch I can put pureed organic whole foods in called Little Green Pouch. Can't wait to try some running recipes! For post run recovery, I've switched over to hemp protein mixed with fruit. It can also be mixed in with almond butter for sandwiches.
Hemp Goddess Supreme Organic Protein Drink
Strawberry 3-2-2-1 Protein Shake

Little Green Pouch
The days are getting shorter, and the runs are getting longer!


CIM Training Week 5

That looks better. I finally got my mileage back up. This week is supposed to be an easy week, followed by 3 peak-building weeks.

I've been doing the homemade gels on the long run, but I got really hungry even after having pre-workout meal of quinoa and millet. I think next time I will bring a few dates and add the chia gel or hemp protein. Raisins also have energy and a little protein. Some people like to bring baby food. What do you like to eat on the long run?

I'm abandoning the store-bought stuff to avoid the GMO Soy protein isolates. There are a few trusted brands for endurance athletes that are non-GMO such as Clif, Vega, Hammer, and CORE foods. To find out more about GMO in our food, please visit California Right To Know.
10 Natural Race Food Alternatives



CIM Training Week 4

I missed the long run this week but I had a great time on a weekend getaway! The circumstances made it difficult to find a place to run for 2 and 1/2 hrs. Sometimes it's hard to balance running and quality time with loved ones, but on the other hand, I'm now more inspired and motivated by my personal life. Happiness!


CIM Training Week 3

Another great week of steady training and building mileage on the track, hills and trails!

Sawyer Camp Trail I'm trying to mix it up and run on different terrain, so I biked to Cal Train and did my long run on Sawyer Camp Trail. It was really hot but there are lots of shaded areas and little scenic rest stops along the way.  This was perfect for a 12 miler, as the trail is 6 miles long. There are plenty of restrooms but the water stop is at the end of the trail on the north end, so plan to bring water and and a refillable container.  I brought my Ultimate Direction marathon belt/bottle which holds 24 oz of water with homemade gel, and 2 bottles of water on the bike which worked out fine. Pre-workout snack of PBJ sandwich on the train. It is a short 5 mile bike ride from the train station, and there are lots of places to eat on 4th street. On the Long Slow Distance, I just let my pace be what it is and enjoy the scenery. Later on in training I will worry about Goal Marathon Pace. It was a little chilly on the ride home as the sun went down. I guess I should have left a long sleeve t-shirt on my bike or something.

Weekly Run Mileage: 35 miles

Sunday was another fun day in the bay!
Touch and Go
Volunteering for the 6th Annual Water World Swim Alcatraz Touch n Go. This was a round-trip Alcatraz swim. Though foggy, otherwise great conditions! We used a big day-glo orange buoy off the side of the boat to pilot the swimmers to the turnaround location near the island. Everyone did great! The winner reached shore in just under an hour!

Time to enjoy the rest.


CIM Training Week 2

Added a few more miles this week and explored some different trails. Running is a great way to explore the city!

Here are some of the places I explored this week:

Strawberry Hill, the hill surrounded by Stow Lake at Golden Gate Park. Just run on any of the footbridges that lead into the center. There are also some nice trails around the Conservatory of Flowers and Fuchsia Dell. Here is a map showing some of the trails in Golden Gate Park (In GMap Pedometer, just click on the OSM button to see the trails).

George Sterling Memorial Park, named after the poet, is another good hill run. Lots of stairs and great view of Golden Gate Bridge. It is between Larkin and Hyde near the Aquatic Park.

Stevens Creek Trail is accessible by Cal Train, and provides several miles of bike and pedestrian paths unobstructed by traffic.


Weekend on the Bay - CIM Training Week 1

SF BayHad a great weekend on the SF Bay volunteering for swim events! The weather on both days was excellent and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival was also going on, need I say more. On Saturday, The SERC Alcatraz Invitational with 861 finishers to swim from Alcatraz. It was a very well organized event, the winner Peter Kline in 29:40. I helped with the bag check. On Sunday a beautiful Water World Swim Golden Gate Bridge Swim with 18 Swimmers. The conditions were so good that the WWS GGB record was broken by teen Hunter Wright in 22:32. I helped with the timing. There were only 3 women  participants so they all got awards! Their times were amazing. We then had our regular Sunday Swim and I got to kayak. There are lots of new wave swimmers in our group that are learning at a young age to become great swimmers. I didn't realize that the first week of my marathon training had already started, so I tried to squeeze some miles in on both days. It's 30 plus weeks from here on out!

Weekly total: 23 miles


Aquatic Park

photo by Lisa Amorao

The sun came out on Saturday for a beautiful swim at Aquatic Park. The currents were just right so Lisa and I ventured out to the opening to check out the view. There are several swim events coming up this month that I'll be volunteering on: SERC Alcatraz Invitational, WWS Golden Gate Bridge Swim and Alcatraz Touch and Go.

photo by Lisa Amorao


WWS Alcatraz Swim with the Centurions

This weekend I volunteered on the Water World Swim 10th Annual Alcatraz Swim with the Centurions. It was pretty spectacular, with over 200 swimmers jumping off the ferry! The fog had subsided but it was a little windy, and that means choppy waters. It was one of the roughest Centurions swims ever, which makes the finish even that more gratifying. The first one to shore was Richard Clark, wetsuit division, in 27:41, followed by Zebron Lemke in the more prestigious non-wetsuit division in 29 minutes. Full Results. We had a great volunteer team and stellar coordination this year. Click on the photo above to see more of my snapshots of the event. We also had several professional photographers that will be posting their photos there.

Volunteers on WWS Events get T-shirts, food, and Alcatraz swims. Volunteer activities include, registration, body marking, setup, breakdown and cleanup, food, timing, awards, assisting swimmers, boat escort, kayaking. It's fun! contact info [at] waterworldswim.com

My Training: Ran hills, Strength training, some climbing and swimming


Climbing Weekend

Castle Rock

Castle RockCastle RockCastle RockHad a fun weekend outdoor climbing and camping in the Santa Cruz Mountains! My climbing partner and I did an intro class with Adventure Out. Our guide Shawn was very knowledgeable and I learned alot. It definitely helps to go out there with guide, especially in the beginning. Castle Rock is only a short drive from San Francisco, and Saratoga is a few miles away. You can pretty much camp light and eat there. We camped at Sanborn-Skyline County Park. The weather was nice and slept outside under the stars. Even though it was right next to a creek, surprisingly, there were no bugs. There are no wood fires allowed, so you must bring charcoal. Also, it is a short hike in to camp, so it's a little more work. The road to the campsites is paved and going uphill, so you might want to bring a cart.

This is the view from campsite #7:

Sanborn Skyline Camp
I look forward to going back to Castle Rock!


Strength Training

This week was IronStrength week. This challenging whole body workout takes about an hour and will make you sore the next day!

IronStrength workout

  • 2 minute WU (jumping jacks, jump rope, lunges)
  • Plyometric Jump Squats - 6-8 sets of 15 with 20 sec rest
  • Superset of Plank Rows, Pushups, Situps ( All Supersets are 15 reps ea then repeat, 5 minutes)
  • Superset of Lunges, Toe Touches (15 reps ea, 5 minutes)
  • Superset of Mountain Climbers, Legs Up and Down (15 reps ea, 5 minutes)
  • Superset of Deadlift High Pulls, One legged Overhead Push Press, One legged Bicep Curl (15 reps ea, 5 minutes)
  • Burpees - 3 sets of 10, work up to descending ladder from 10, 9, 8... w 20 sec rest
  • Planks - 1 minute dolphin planks each side and center
  • Stretch - Seated hamstring, spread leg, back twist, modified pigeon, yoga lunge, standing side stretch

Burpees are evil, aren't they? I'm hoping this will prepare me for the next round of marathon training. This month will focus on base mileage, hills, strength & cross-training. Then the marathon training begins.

The next target is the California International Marathon. I think I can barely qualify for Boston with it. I'm checking out their training programs and going with the Intermediate one. I use the McMillan Running Calculator, it's pretty accurate. The tempo days are 10k pace and track workouts are long intervals at marathon pace. Long run days are slightly less than MP with progression runs. It only has one longest run at 20, but that's fine because last time I went over 20 twice and felt kind of burnt out by the time it was time to taper.

What's been working for me is to stay focused and in the moment. Don't worry or preoccupy on little things, esp. that are beyond my control. Life is short.



I like to try out different training plans. The one I used focuses on speed, then efficiency, and you can adjust your mileage/cross-training to suit your needs. If you are interested in getting a copy I can send it to you. I'm a low mileage person (25-35 mi) who likes to cross-train. For me, this keeps me from injuring my legs, but do what is right for you. Before the marathon training, I had been doing short races and a lot of speed workouts in winter/spring, so I thought this would be perfect for me. All my runs except for track workouts had some hills in them. You can never get enough hill training!

Now SFM is over, I'm going to take a week off, SWIM, then 6 weeks of usual running focusing on hills and strength, then another 12 weeks to get ready for CIM.  They have several training plans on their website. A little strength training goes a long way! For the first time at SFM this year, I felt like I was using my whole body to get up the hills: from my legs, glutes, core, and arms. At the end of the race my arms were actually sore from sprinting to the finish. 

As you can see, my whole year is planned around RUNNING!


The SF Marathon


Finished the SF Marathon in just under 4 hours at 3:58:40, a 10 minute marathon PR and 20 minutes PR for this course! Also managed to raise some funds for Back on My Feet, thanks to everyone who donated! Every little bit helps.


It was a good day out there. I always enjoy this race. It makes me feel like I'm going down memory lane as I pass by several familiar spots and neighborhoods I used to live in. It has a great vibe with all the great views, rockin' live music and DJs, awesome volunteer support, lots of aid stations and cheering. The Coast Guard was handing out medals this year, which made it very special. The Rock The Bike Pedal-Powered stage is just awesome.

And now for the details:

SF Marathon 2012
SF Marathon 2012

SF Marathon 2012I started out intentionally slower on the first mile, then found my pace. Had to make a pit stop before Ft. Mason because the bathroom lines at the start were way too long. I was thinking I could catch up to the 3:40 pace group, so I tried to blow through Crissy Field. There was a moving wear Blue to Remember contingent there that cheered us on. I was just a few minutes behind, so I tried not to lose more than a minute or two on the hills. It was hard to pass people on the bridge, and had to stay focused on pushing the pace. It was quite foggy, so even though the view was misty, it's always mind boggling to see all the little colored dots of thousand of runners on the Golden Gate Bridge and realize you are one of those colored dots! And we were running on the bridge, not on the sidewalk! There is a fun downhill after the bridge so I tried to take advantage of it. By the time I got to Golden Gate Park I realized I was now a half mile behind the 3:40 group. I knew this because I had my virtual running partner programmed in my Garmin and I could see it. I also made a pace band and I knew how many minutes I was behind them. By the time I got to Stow Lake, I finally saw the leader of the pace group leaving the loop, just as I was entering it. I knew then I was now a good mile behind them, or 10 minutes. I kept on going with my ultimate goal in mind, a sub 4. I knew I needed to have that higher target in mind in order to get me there, so I'm glad I set my race up this way. The hills drained me though and even though the second half is "faster" than the first half, the legs were not, so I couldn't regain my ideal pace. I saw the Daily Mile Team Aid station and said hi to Hugh B., who is great inspiration and support. They had oranges! Though I love Golden Gate Park, I just wanted to get the heck out of there and be done with the loop de loops. I thought I could fly down Haight St., but by now the hills were catching up to me. I just tried to stick as close to 8:00 - 8:30 pace as possible throughout the race and not get farther behind. By doing this I got to an average pace of 9:00 LOL! Once I left the park, I hit the RESET button, and just ignored everything I just ran and tried to click into 10k mode. I was happy at the end I was able to do a 2 mile progression run so I could finish on time. I saw some guys sprint by us within the last 5 miles and thought, WOW! But later on some were walking. Feels good to finish strong with a PR!

SF Marathon
My Garmin
I biked to and from the race. Running after a long bike ride is hard, but an easy spin on the bike after a long run actually feels good! I highly recommend it!  Running green: I brought my own water bottle to refill at the aid stations every 5 miles and a carb flask to keep my homemade gel mix in. If I have an extra gu packet, I time it so I'm at the aid station near the trash can and deposit the trash there.

Congrats to the female winner Devon Crosby Helms. She has a great blog with lots of recipes.


SF Marathon Expo

SF Marathon Madness weekend is here! Started off the day with a nice and easy 3-miler at the SF Marathon finish line with Bart Yasso, fab SFM ambassadors, and other fun runners.

SFM Shakeout Run with Bart Yasso

Then biked over to the expo with some Boudin SF Sourdough and Acme Sweet French Baguettes for the Tweetup! The expo was so dense, I could have stayed there all day!

SFM Expo

I got my bib (41015) and shirt, moved my wave up, scored some new kicks at the Fleet Feet booth, some socks, KT Tape, Clean Bottle, SFM wristband and tasted some goodies. The chia shots with coconut water were pretty good! It was so nice to finally stretch out in the Sports Basement runners lounge. Aaah!

SFM Expo

Got some great inspiration from Bart Yasso's slideshow to top it all off! Good to meet everyone!
Now to get off my feet...

See you at the finish line!!!


Week 11

My training last week: 4 runs for 24.5 mi and 2520 calories burned. Paying attention to rest and increasing carbs intake. Critical test run to plan a race day strategy and gauge expectations.

Races I've done this year:
Zombie Runner San Francisco Run 1/2 Marathon
DSE Coastal Trail Challenge 10k
Presidio 10 mile
Oakland Running Festival 5k
DSE St. Patrick's Day 5k

 I did a lot of 5k training in the winter, 10k - half-marathon in the spring, and now it's time for the marathons!

Thanks to everyone who donated to Back on My Feet! You rock!

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