Coaching to a San Francisco Marathon Finish

IMG_5287I shared my own race recap yesterday for The San Francisco Marathon (The Mental Game – The San Francisco Marathon Race Recap). It wasn’t my best race, but it wasn’t without merit. Personally it was a learning experience and the course was so scenic, even if it was challenging. I ended that post by saying that something pretty awesome did happen at that race. What could be so awesome on such a hard day?

The fact that my husband, son, and daughter were there running also. I am continually grateful that we’ve become a family that runs together.

So what can add to this?

I was able to coach each of my family members for their races. Yes. Coach.

I have been wanting to get into coaching in my spare time. I’ve read numerous books on coaching. I talk to my coach all the time about coaching (and he’s allowing me to assist him with some group training for The Ventura Marathon). I listen to podcasts about coaching. I’ve coached a church member to her first half marathon. And I’ve helped someone to run her first no walk break mile (and we’ve become friends through the process!). I find lots of parallels between coaching and pastoring by the way!

My daughter, Megan, has been getting help from me for about a year…and before that she often piggybacked onto my own program since we run a lot of the same races. Unfortunately she pulled a groin muscle while we were in Boston and was unable to run for a few weeks. In mid-May we decided that the best course for her would be to drop down to the half in San Francisco so as not to re-injure herself. She ran the half and is now training for The Ventura Marathon in October and the Ray Miller 50K in December.

Scott Matt San Francisco
Scott in blue and Matt in white on their way up to the Golden Gate Bridge

My son, Matt, ran his first marathon in 2016 and vowed that he’d never do another. Over the years, I, as an annoying mom, would ask “when are you gonna run a marathon again?” He always responded with an emphatic “never!” On Christmas Day I asked, “so are you going to do the full in San Francisco?” I expected him to say “no” but he surprised me with a “sure, I’ll do it.” I promptly signed him up for the race. And, coached by his mom, he successfully completed his 2nd marathon at San Francisco.

The most exciting story is that my husband, Scott, was able to complete his first marathon. He came in just behind me, I heard them announce his name, while I was drinking some ice cold chocolate milk!

He was tired, as we all were. His muscles cramped at mile 21 and he was momentarily freaked out by that never before experienced feeling. But he pushed through and finished his first marathon. I am so proud of him! Our wedding anniversary was July 30th and what better way to celebrate 30 years than run a marathon!

I’m grateful that these three loved ones trusted me enough to allow me to be their running coach. It is a bit scary putting together a plan for someone else. It is also gratifying and fun.


Untethering – Kind of, Maybe

The data can be helpful…but it’s not the only thing by far!
I confess I’m a running data addict. I like to look at the numbers produced by my Garmin both during and after a run. I used to equate fitness with speed, thus pushing myself to run just a bit faster, hitting a pace on my Garmin, regardless of feel, and then calling it “easy.”

After learning the importance of making easy runs truly easy, I switched from monitoring pace to monitoring heart rate. Keep it easy! This has worked to improve my running fitness, and to help me better run by effort. But I still check how I’m doing too often while running. The problem with being so wedded to the data is that we sometimes allow “the number” to dictate our performance.

In a race, this can be good and bad…depending on the data. A few examples:

  • While running my least enjoyable half marathon a couple years ago I struggled through the whole race…for a variety of reasons. The first of which was my Garmin telling me my “performance condition” was -4. This was deflating…my coach later said, “you need to turn that thing off!” I haven’t turned it off but I’ve since learned through experience that it will ALWAYS give a negative performance condition number when starting a run with a hill climb. Conversely you can get a very high positive number just by starting a run with a descent. Not helpful data.
  • For my third marathon, Surf City, I used a race predictor. This is a data screen that gives real time data to predict a finish time based upon current pace. I walk the water stations, so the prediction always readjusted during these walk breaks. At mile 18, the predicted finish while walking was just under 5 hours. My previous race was 5:04, so I was excited to see that I could walk the rest of the marathon and have a PR. In this case it was helpful. Race Recap – Surf City Marathon
  • I used the same race predictor in my fifth marathon, Carlsbad. This time my Garmin was so far off the course mileage that what I thought I was going to do and what I actually did was off by about 2 minutes. In the later miles this discouraged me so much that I had trouble finishing and missed my first attempt at a Boston qualifier by just over 4 minutes. My coach said, “you need to get rid of that data screen.”
  • In my sixth marathon I ditched the race predictor. But I did look at average pace and I knew what I needed for my Boston qualifier. I had a great run, but like everyone I had to dig deep for the end. I knew that if I could hold on I was “going to Boston.” In this case seeing the number on my Garmin helped. Mountains 2 Beach – Race Recap
  • While not the fastest, I believe that the San Francisco Half Marathon I ran in July was my best race. Seeing the pace on my watch seemed helpful, but in retrospect I think I could have run even better. I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon
  • So…all this to say that I’m going to try something new when I run my seventh marathon on Sunday. I’m going to put one data screen only on my Garmin. Distance. That’s it. I’m going to solely run by effort, by feel. It’s an experiment. I’m a bit afraid…that I’ll go too fast at the start, or go too slow at the start, or feel lost without my “average pace” data screen. I’ll report back on how it went.

Mora data…this was to remind me I was progressing towards my BQ goal even with a disappointing Carlsbad Marathon
Meanwhile, if you want to get started running, or find ways to be more disciplined in your running, let me know. I’d like to help.

Overdoing It

IMG_4649Does this sound at all familiar? You’re on vacation. In the beautiful mountains. You don’t want to sit in your hotel room. You don’t really want to drive around all day. Because you’re now fit! You can easily do fun things, active things. So you decide a hike is in order.

But this is a strange place, to you that is, and you don’t know exactly where to hike. So you look online to find trails. And you do find trails…lots of trails (thank you These trails come with reviews and you read and read and read, to discover that the most common complaint on all the easy trails is “they’re crowded.”

You don’t want crowds so you decide on a moderate trail because moderate is just that, moderate. Meaning not hard! Of course, any trail called “Clayton Peak” can’t be too hard, right? It’s only 5.4 miles so easy peasy, right? Going for a hike is just active recovery the day after a half marathon that included a 4,000 ft elevation drop, right?

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 2.32.43 PMSo off we went. To hike to Clayton Peak, which is located in the Brighton Ski Area of Big Copper Canyon, between Park City and Salt Lake City. Just like my run the day before, this was a hike with beautiful scenery. Unlike my run from the day before, it was not all downhill. Rather it was a nice little climb of 1,700 ft.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 2.34.04 PMAs we took off and began the climb, my tired legs were thankful to be going up and not down. Of course we’d have to descend eventually, but I convinced myself that my quads, shins, and calves would be nice and loose by then.

The warning is for skiers to not go down the other side.

When we got close to the top we encountered a dirt road (fire road or maybe ski lift service road) and lost the trail. We assumed that the road was now the trail…and this was a correct assumption, except that we went right instead of left. Soon we found another single track trail and started climbing. But after a bit the trail seemed to disappear. So, I pulled out my phone to see where we were (the AllTrails app is cool in that it works with my phone’s GPS), and we had diverged from the trail when we took that right turn. I wish I had looked at it as we made the turn.


Anyway, we had to go back down. As we did so I discovered that my quads did not loosen up… they were TIRED and each step was a bit painful. But we made it down to the road and then went the other way, climbing again. A little way up the road in this direction I found the trail, this time confirming it on my phone. To get to the summit we’d only need to go another quarter mile.

We took this selfie close to but not at the summit.

But it was steep. I figured I could probably go up, but wasn’t too sure about coming back down. So I told Scott (husband) that I wasn’t going that last quarter mile. I’d wait for him if he wanted to finish. He chose to head down with me.


Our going back and forth at the top of the mountain increased our mileage a bit so that we then had a 3 mile descent. Oh, my poor tire legs! Even with the fatigue, the walk was enjoyable. I’ve discovered that when hiking, or running, the scenery is sometimes different on the return part of an out and back. This by the way, is a good reminder to look at things from more than one angle.

While descending I also started thinking about how much I was looking down at the trail. I’ve fallen three times in the last few months (well 2 falls were in the same run) and I’m trying to be careful so as not to do it again. I looked down so much, and I began to think about how I hoped this wouldn’t affect my running. I’m pretty sure the first instruction from the coach when I started going to track workouts was, “look up”. I’ve learned to look up when I run. So although I was hiking I was also thinking about my need to look down so much.

Unbelievably, while I was entertaining these thoughts, I tripped! I fell! Bam! Hitting my chin so hard that I gave myself a 2 day headache (thankfully it was not worse).

The offending tree root. I should have looked from the other side to see how hidden it may have looked from that angle. Anyway you can see the disturbance in the dirt made by my legs.



Scott heard me and returned to find me picking myself up. Thankfully I didn’t break anything. I rinsed the blood off my arm as I’d scraped that pretty well, and continued down the mountain.

So what happened? Am I suddenly becoming extremely clumsy? Maybe. I will have my eyes checked and I’ll ask my eye doctor if my particular contact lens prescription is causing an issue with depth perception.

But maybe I was just tired. Maybe I should have chosen the “easy” and short hike to do on tired legs. I’m actually pretty sure this is the case. I will confess that I over did it that day.

Maybe I’ll have to start counting days: “I’ve gone ___ this many days without falling while running (or hiking). I had a good run last night so I’m up to 1 day!

When have you overdone it?

Here were some cool bridges…tree branches (or trunks)


Revel Big Cottonwood Canyon Half Marathon Recap

89324b07c294a6d8e529c8e82fec0fbb0b9c617f037045ad4ce4f225d53bfc89_webI signed up to this race last January, intending to use the marathon as my third try to qualify for Boston. I had just completed my first attempt at Carlsbad (January 2106) and while I had a 7 minute PR, I was still short of what I needed. This was my first race where I’d improved but was disappointed at the same time.

While driving home from Carlsbad, my daughter and I looked up races for the 2nd weekend in September and found this Utah race. When my husband found a timeshare in Park City I signed up for the race. Thankfully I ran a BQ in May and didn’t need a third try (M2B Race Recap). So, listening to the advice of my coach, I ran the half marathon instead. Here’s how it went.

This was my first race that included a bus ride to the start line. I had my trusty little drop bag, but didn’t put enough in it! The forecast was for mid-50s, which for me is perfect running weather. So, why would I need the excess baggage of the blanket (very small!) and pants and jacket. My shorts and a 3/4 zip over my singlet would be fine, right? Wrong! The lesson I learned is that next time I’ll fill that drop bag full of everything that I might need. With my traveling light, I froze for the hour that I waited to warm up. And I forgot my phone! So I meditated and concentrated on breathing to take my mind off the cold.

Once I warmed up I didn’t give myself enough time, but my valid excuse is that it was so dark in the pre-sunrise canyon. I did finally run 2.5 miles in the dark but it was a bit scary as there was still traffic and it was still dark. Interestingly there were more than 2,000 runners and only about 20 seemed to be warming up. Maybe it was just too dark to see anyone else. By the way, my long warmup because I’m training for another marathon… it was supposed to be three miles but a quarter way into mile 2 I realized that I didn’t give myself enough time.

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I like data…so I like that they provided this after the race.

This was a very well organized race and there is only one thing that would have made it better…starting corrals, or at least lining up by pace. My slowest mile was the first because of big crowd at the beginning. I was the 775th person to start and the 546th person to finish. I probably passed most of those in the first mile!

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 1.53.55 PMFirst Five Miles 

This was a major downhill course. I’ve run downhill in training and M2B was a downhill marathon, but I was not prepared for this level of downhill. It sure made me run fast! But it also fried my legs…as I write this on Tuesday they are still not 100% recovered. My coach had said, “Don’t go too crazy on the downhill.” I probably did, but I also don’t know how I could have run slower without leaning back and braking with every step. As I ran I thought of those cartoon characters whose legs are spinning like windmills. I don’t usually stop at aid stations when I run a half, but I stopped at these because of the hill.

9390f9c83b594466e5b73e4492a56bfd87e06723a50f75f13692f46684bdf03c_webSecond Five Miles

Beautiful! Running down this canyon was amazingly beautiful. I loved just looking around. I also, though, had to be cautious because I didn’t want to fall (and I seem to be having issues with that lately). A boy who was about 10-12 was ahead of me and he fell and rolled. This give an idea to the slope at that point. He got up and was fine and finished the race just ahead of me. All while I was running I was thinking of Megan (my daughter) who was doing the full marathon. They started higher up the canyon at the same time. I wondered how she was doing. I was both glad and sad that I wasn’t doing the full. My calves and shins (especially my left shin) were feeling the effects of this course.

Last 5K

Here the race became truly hard. We left the canyon with about 4 miles to run and so no longer had the assist of the big downhill. I was tired and had to push and was so tempted to switch to walking and had to push some more. I felt like these last few miles were uphill – they weren’t! I felt like I was crawling…as in no speed but in retrospect I was still maintaining a decent pace in that it was faster than my previous half marathon PR average pace.

df3c3f7fb2d9e4c50c0db0f1822268d158984048e7c6978ca9186623e5659fac_webI finished the race in 1:49:10 which was 7:17 faster than my PR from last December!

In my age group I didn’t do too badly: 8th out of 121!

All in all it was a fun weekend (except for a little fall on Sunday 😦 which I’ll write about tomorrow). Next up is the Ventura Marathon, October 22nd.

I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon

Going in reverse order we ran the 2nd half of this race a year ago. We chose the 2nd half because my son wanted to finish near the baseball stadium…and, being a net downhill it was an easier course. The plan was to run the 1st half this year, and possibly the full marathon in 2018.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as time and how I would feel during the race. I didn’t have much training under my belt for this particular race. Most of June was spent recovering from Mountains 2 Beach (Race Recap). My longest run before this race was an easy 12 miles.

I also wondered about the hills. While the first part of the course is flat, we climb a steep hill to the Golden Gate Bridge and the rest of the race is up and down. I’ve often struggled (more than most) in running uphill. Historically, I am usually passed by “everyone” on the uphill and then I regain my standing while flying downhill at a faster pace than those around me. I was nervous about running too hard in the flat areas only to collapse on those hills.

In conversing with my coach, he thought I should aim for a 2:03, recognizing that while I am fit, its a hard course and I haven’t done any specific training for the race. I looked at a pace chart that had paces for this particular course, so I had an idea of what I would need to do each mile (average would be 9:23 per mile). Mile 6 would be the hardest.

IMG_4394Race morning was absolutely beautiful. The sky was clear and the Bay Bridge was stunning in the predawn light. The temperature was in the mid 60s. I felt good in my warm-up. I was ready for a no pressure, enjoy the sights run.

The first third of the race felt like a warmup. My body wanted to pick up the speed, but I was a bit nervous about those hills! Since we were running with those doing the full marathon, this was probably the most crowded race I’ve run to date (27,000 runners among all races). We had one little hill at Fort Mason. I took it easy, yet discovered that I’m no longer the slowest runner up the hill. Not the fastest, for sure, but this was a nice surprise. Yeah strength training and hill work!

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Race data from the first third. Average pace of 9:04 wasn’t to bad as I had been hoping to average 9:23.

There was a woman running near me who was my age of a bit older, I couldn’t tell for sure. She had a fanny pack and something in it that sounded like peanuts in a can. Clink Clink Clink Clink…in a steady rhythm. It was annoying. Clink Clink Clink Clink. I passed her before that first baby hill, but then she caught up. Clink Clink Clink Clink. I  had to speed up to get away from that noise.


As we approached the Golden Gate Bridge, the weather was noticeably cooler. It was foggy, and to my surprise it was windy. I chatted with another runner about what a wonderful morning it was! We both agreed the coolness was great but we could do without the wind.

GG bridge
Foggy, wet, windy, crowded, fun

The middle third of the race was the most challenging. This included the climb up to, over the bridge, and back again. It was so foggy that visibility was about 20-30 feet and everything was wet, very wet. There were slippery spots on the bridge and I was very careful so as not to slip and fall. I saw one person go down, but I think the crowd around her just picked her up again. The bridge was the most crowded part of the entire run.

The hardest part of this section was the wind. As we approached the northern side of the bridge, the wind was stronger and stronger…a man in front of me lost his hat in the wind and my husband lost a lens out of his sunglasses. I felt the wind push me from the side. At the turnaround we caught a glimpse of the sun, but then quickly ran back into the fog and wind.

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Data from the middle section. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was doing. I can run hills!


GG park rd
Coming out of the heavy fog…running one a many hills

The final third. After leaving the Golden Gate Bridge we had another nice hill to climb, followed by rolling hills to the end. At some point in this section I realized that if I could hold my pace, I would finish in under 2 hours. That was nice incentive. The only race I’ve so far done in less than 2 hours is a flat, slight sloping downhill race in Oxnard (Santa to the Sea). Last year I did the easier, 2nd half of San Francisco in 2:04:51!


Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 1.40.49 PM
Final section. I had more to give because my average heart rate usually gets into the 160s and I wasn’t there yet.

When I discovered that my Garmin was not going to match the course I didn’t let it phase me, but pushed harder and finished in 1:59:37 (Garmin read 13.26 for distance). This was not an official PR, but in terms of course difficulty, it was the best half marathon I’ve ever run. I even finished 10th in my division (out of 267). I had so much fun I’m going to do the full next year…and get a Club 52.4 Hoodie!

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This is the data for the entire race. I’m thankful that I can get this kind of cool analysis from Final Surge.
Oops! A bit of technical difficulty for the race organizers. They did a great job…and had coffee with Baileys for us after we finished.

A few more photos…

Two medals, for doing both halves in back to back years. We went back to the bridge for a slightly non-foggy photo
I was all smiles at the end of this race!!!!
Scott and I enjoying a post-race beer. He had a good day too!

Travel Day – Gratitude 3/3

Almost a year ago I thought, “why not?” and submitted an application to study at the Lutheran World Federation in Wittenberg. In September I received the invitation to a seminar for March 2017. Then, it seemed so far away…and with the inevitable passage of time, today is travel day. I’m excited for two weeks of study, followed by a week’s vacation and my first road race outside of California. I think I will also follow my coach’s advice and not watch any news of the travesty that is our national government.

Today I’m personally thankful for: the ability to travel; all those who are filling in for me at Our Redeemer while I’m gone; and all those who are diligently working to preserve our democracy.