The San Francisco Half Marathon, 2nd Half – A recap

This was my first destination race and my first really big (as in participants) race. My husband, son, daughter and I all ran, which is a really great family activity. You can choose from two half marathons, which basically means running either the first or second half of the marathon. We chose the second half which started in Golden Gate Park and finished at the Embarcadero. This was a very well organized race.

Before the race:

In April I injured the hamstring on my left leg and for the last few months I’ve been

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Golden Gate Park

slowly getting better. In June I re-irritated it when running a 5k race. By the end of July I could say it was mostly better. But then, I tried too hard at a track workout and injured my right hamstring. Needless to say, I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to race. If it were just me, maybe I would have stayed home. But we all went for a bit of a vacation. As we drove the course I thought, “oh those hills, both up and down, are gonna hurt!” I fully anticipated needing to walk down the steepest grades to avoid pain.

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My daughter, Megan in front of the starting area. She had a good race too!

First Third:

I very much enjoyed running through Golden Gate Park. I had decided that rather than focus on my injury, I’d just enjoy the scenery and it was beautiful. This ended up being a very good strategy. The race was uphill for the first 3-1/2 miles, which was a bit scary. Much to my surprise these miles passed rapidly and I did the best hill climbing ever (it helps that my chiropractor has me exercising my glutes, hamstrings, and hips every day!) Getting through the hills pain free was definitely a confidence booster.

Middle Section

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Seriously… if you ever see me running with my head down tell me to look up! I’ve been trying to correct this for so long it’s annoying to see a photo like this.

What goes up must come down and down we went, through the streets of San Francisco. Still focusing on the views I saw all kinds of cool people along the course. One homeless man was lying on a bus bench and shouting encouragement to the runners as they passed by. Runners gave lots of high-fives to police officers working the course. One man offered red vines (candy) to any who wanted to partake. Some of the downhills were steep, and much to my surprise I was able to run them. I almost witnessed a big collision as a runner decided to tackle the steep downhill as if it were a ski run. This was not the best idea because she ran right in front of a much faster runner. Lesson: never forget that there are runners coming up behind you.

 

Final Third:

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Still looking down a bit but I’m pretty sure I’m looking at the finish line.

This was the flattest part of the course and I had planned to try and run a steady 9:30 pace (and actually did a bit better). There were more spectators and I almost crashed into a woman who decided to ride her bicycle on to the course. Thankfully I saw her in time to stop running! Others who witnessed this near collision yelled at her.

 

In this section spectators offered beer, tequila, and watermelon. The best par was that I was able to slowly and steadily pass runners. I finished in 2:04:51 which is a new personal record.

Next year we’re doing the first half, followed by the full in two years… at least that’s the plan for now.

SFM approaching finish line

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Failed Lately? Maybe something is wrong.

I’ve had a busy summer and haven’t been doing a good job with this blog. Having some free time this morning I decided to finish up a post about the San Francisco Half Marathon which was July 31. Then I noted that my last post was about a scare that I had while swimming on July 5th.

It was then that I developed a problem breathing while out swimming in the cold waters of Ventura Harbor without a wetsuit. After subsequently buy a wetsuit I’ve had great swims all summer and swam a nice 1.2 miles on August 18th.

Before going out for a swim with a small group last Thursday someone asked, “how far?” I quickly responded, “1 mile!”

cautionIn my swimming I’ve developed a nice even every three stroke breathing pattern. This is what I did on Thursday. But about 10 minutes into the swim I had to switch to breathing every stroke. This was the first warning sign…one that I dismissed because I thought that maybe I had just gone out too fast.

Once that first lap was completed, I experienced the occasional cough while I was waiting for the other swimmers to complete their first lap. This was the second warning sign…one that I stupidly chose to ignore.

caution plusJust a little way into the next lap it was clear that I couldn’t swim, but I still was ignoring the truth. Once I made it to the turn around point I could no longer ignore that my lungs were just not working and I decided to swim to shore. A big mistake at this point was not letting anyone know the extent of my distress because as I swam to shore I found it more and more difficult to breathe.

At one point I was some paddle boarders and I contemplated calling for them to come and rescue me but I didn’t because that would have taken too much precious air. The only good thing is that I am a good swimmer and so I didn’t panic (much!) and finally turned on to my back and kicked my way to shore. Once on the beach I hit the sand and commenced coughing profusely. This was awful. A kind beachgoer gave me a bottle of water to drink.

While waiting for the others to finish (another swimmer had my car keys) I worked my way up to the parking lot, rinsed off my wetsuit and decided to go to urgent care.

Here’s another dumb thing…if you can’t breathe you probably shouldn’t be driving…thankfully I made it to the urgent care without hurting me or anyone else.

The office is on the second floor…I walked up the stairs and you would think that I’d just run a really fast 400 for how out of breath I was. Yikes! Once I made it in to the exam room, the nurse took my vitals and my blood pressure was an alarming (for me) 140/70. The doctor listened to me breathe and decided on a breathing treatment as well as a blood test to check for blood clots.

After the 20 minute breathing treatment (which was interrupted by my having to pee really bad…that bottle of water seemed to have gone right through me) I was still coughing a bit and my chest hurt. The doctor listened to me breath again and decided a chest x-ray was in order. So back downstairs for an x-ray. The walk back up the stairs was easier than the first time so that was a good sign (and yes they have an elevator but I’m a bit stubborn).

Back in the exam room I had to wait for a while and I was finally breathing well enough to relax. When the doctor came back in she said that I look better, I replied that I felt better…finally! Then she hit me with a big surprise, “you have pneumonia.”

That was a surprise! I asked, “How can I have pneumonia when I easily ran 20 miles on Monday?” To which she replied, “you ran 20 miles? All at once?”

Once they were assured that I don’t live alone (I guess in case I got worse), I was set up with some medicine and an appointment to return the next day for follow-up. That night I slept horribly and my husband reminded me the next morning of how the same breathing treatment (many years ago) amped up our (then) infant son for hours…so of course I didn’t sleep well.

On Friday I was breathing fine, but had a horrible headache. When I returned to the doctor’s office the nurse asked about the purpose of my visit and I replied, “apparently I have pneumonia.” To which she replied, “x-rays don’t lie.”

When I saw the doctor and told her that I have a marathon in 2 weeks she crossed her fingers and looked a bit dubious. Then she listened to me breathe and was surprised because my lungs were totally clear… and all my vital signs were good…heart rate of 48, oxygenation of 100%, and blood pressure was still a little high at 130/70 but she was fine with that.

Her advice was to take a couple days off training, run the marathon if I feel ok, and come back in a month for a follow-up x-ray. I asked if this was maybe exercised induced asthma but she said “no” because there is something on my lung x-ray. I asked about the other, more minor episode on July 5th and she said that we just don’t know…but that I am very fit… and finally concluded with, “sometimes shit happens.” I really like this doctor!

If you’ve managed to read this far on the very long post, I’ve had a major league headache for three days and so I decided yesterday morning to drop out of the race. However, my coach wisely suggested that I wait a few more days to decide.

Today, Monday (day 4) I finally woke up headache free…except for the lingering soreness that is the result of the headache!

It’s very possible that I’ve been fighting this infection all summer! Which means that I’m pretty bad-ass in the fitness department! Seriously though, this was a very scary thing to go through.

The moral of the story: stay fit and above all listen to your body because it really does try to tell you very important things.