Nike Women’s Half Marathon Weekend 2015

Last weekend I packed up my bags and flew to California ALL BY MYSELF!  It was only my third time ever leaving the boys, and it felt exciting and a bit unnerving at the same time.  I was up at the crack of dawn to jump on a 6am flight, and I snoozed the whole way there.  Ohhhh the ease of flying without children!

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The whole purpose of the trip was to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on Sunday morning – courtesy of the amazing team at ClassPass!  But I had about 48 hours to spend in San Francisco before I made it to the starting line, and I was determined to see and do as much as possible while I was there. 

I got off the plane and headed straight to the BART – I had some friends from Seattle who were also there for the race, and I headed there way so we could spend the morning walking around the Mission area and exploring their old neighborhood. 

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Of all the things I wanted to see and EAT in San Francisco – Tartine was #1 on the list.  We walked up and saw the line stretched around the corner, and didn’t even consider turning back.  I knew it would be worth the wait!  I got a morning bun and a chocolate croissant (yes, both) and they were heaven on earth. 

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After a few hours of walking and exploring, I jumped in a Lyft car and headed to our digs for the weekend – the Westin St. Francis!  The Westin was the host hotel for the race, and also the packet pickup spot, so it was really nice to be staying in such a central spot to all the race action.  I dropped off my bags and headed straight to the Hotel Renewal Spa, where I was treated to a glorious post-race pedicure.  Talk about feeling pampered! 

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After my pedicure I was able to check into the hotel, and I was greeted with this incredible view of the city when I reached our room on the 25th floor.  I was tired from traveling, and I pulled up a chair and just sat for a while to take it all in and relax- so beautiful! 

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During my downtime, I checked in back home and did a short video chat with the boys.  Video chatting with kids is ridiculous, but it was so fun to see them, and even though I loved being away, I also really missed my crew back home. 

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Just as I was finishing up chatting with the family, my roommate arrived – Anne from Fannetastic Food!  We’ve been blogging buddies for many years now, and it was really fun to spend the weekend together.  We headed down to packet pickup and checked out some of the race action happening on Union Square.   

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Eventually we walked our way over to the Embarcadero area to meet up with a group of friends for dinner.  We stopped off at the waterfront before we headed in to check out the gorgeous sunset!

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We had dinner at Prospect, and I got to catch up with old friends and meet some new bloggers in town for the race!  Loved getting to see Ashley again!

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(Photo from Anne)

Anne and I went to bed at 9pm because we were lame and tired (and to her credit, she was also on eastern time – I had no excuses), and we slept until 8am – ELEVEN glorious hours of sleep.  The longest I’ve slept in four years, and it felt absolutely amazing.  We walked over to the ferry building with Jess, from ClassPass, in search of coffee. 

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I grabbed some Blue Bottle iced coffee, and felt sad that it was only 9am and way too early for ice cream.  Straus is my favorite yogurt ever – some day I will come back to SF just for this!

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We made our way over to the Marina area to Seed + Salt for lunch – I am forever grateful to the ClassPass team for choosing such amazing veggie food for us while we were there. 

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Whenever I go to a vegetarian spot, I get totally overwhelmed by all the options, and I panic at the idea of only choosing one thing.  So I was thrilled when Anne suggested we share two items.  We opted for the S+S Beet Burger…

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And the Quinoa Falafel Collard Wrap – both were absolutely amazing.  Delicious, light fare that was totally satisfying and filling without leaving me feeling too full or like I needed a nap.

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After lunch, Anne, Sarah, and I decided to walk along the waterfront and enjoy the glorious sunshine and scenery. It was 68 and sunny – total northwest perfection!

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We checked out the Crissy Field area and the gorgeous beaches with the Golden Gate just beyond. 

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From there, I walked all the way back to the Fisherman’s Wharf area with Sarah, before she jumped in a Lyft car (major props to her – she’s 7 months pregnant!).  I decided to explore a bit more on foot, and take advantage of a rare day alone in the city!

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I weaved my way back into the downtown area through Chinatown.  This was only my second trip to San Francisco, so it was fun to see as much as possible.  

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Many miles later, I made my way back to the Westin, and passed all the motivational Nike signage for the last time.  Race nerves were definitely starting to set in!

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We had dinner in the Oak Room at the Westin with all the other ClassPass runners and the rest of the ClassPass team, and it was perfect and relaxing for the night before a race. 

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Anne and I headed back to our room to prep for the next morning and make sure all our gear was ready to go!  I brought my beloved Honey Stinger and Clif Shot fuel from home, and Nike hooked us up with some awesome race day outfits.  They outfitted me with the Nike Dri-Fit Cool Strappy Tank, as well as the Nike Epic Lux Printed Capris.  I got nervous when I saw the race day temps though, and I went to the Nike store and snagged myself a pair of Nike Rival Shorts instead – I know from experience that when I am too hot during races I completely fall apart! 

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Sunday morning came painfully early – we set our alarms for 5am, since the race started at 6:30am.  It was SO nice to be staying at the Westin – the starting line was literally one block from the front door of the hotel.  Even so, I found myself running late and frantically trying to find bag check just minutes before the starting gun went off.  There were 25,000 runners there, and the streets were completely full in every direction. 

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There was so much nervous race energy in the air, and I loved being part of it!

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In a sea of women everywhere, I somehow managed to meet up with my buddy, Julianna, with just a few minutes to spare.  We have been friends in Seattle since we were both pregnant with our first babies (over 4 years now!), and it was so special to get to see her in San Francisco. 

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Despite the face that we have (laughably) never, ever run before in Seattle, we were planning to run the same pace, so we decided we’d try to stick together as long as it worked for both of us, but with no expectations to really push or wait for each other. 

I am so glad that we ended up finding each other, because there is honestly no one I can imagine being a better race partner.  Julianna is the most upbeat, positive person I know and her energy is contagious.  She cheered and high fived and chatted along the entire time, and there was no way to feel anything but inspired when running by her side. 

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The course started out much hillier than I expected – a few big inclines in the first few miles, before flattening out as we headed into Golden Gate Park.  The race started so early that it was still dark out, and the sun was just starting to rise as we entered the park.  I was SO GLAD that I had worn shorts (thank you, Anne, for convincing me) because it was warm and humid, and I would have really struggled in any additional layers.

Julianna and I chatted and counted the miles down as we looked for her husband and adorable kiddos to keep popping up along side the course.  I felt emotional seeing them since they are buddies with my kids, and I kept thinking about how excited I was to get back to them later that day.

(Also, super cool that Nike has free downloadable race pictures!) 

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I was mentally checking off all the miles until I reached mile ten – I had been warned about the massive, steep hill.  So imagine my surprise when another doozy of a hill showed up right around mile seven!  OOF. 

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Even though I had hoped to run all the way to the monster hill at mile ten, I could only run about half of this mile 7/8 hill.  I slowed at the water stop and just couldn’t get going on the uphill again.  Somewhere in the mix of the water stop and all the other runners slowing on the hill, I lost Julianna.  I wasn’t sure if she was in front or behind me, but I kept my eye out for her the rest of the race!

And then…I saw it. 

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Despite plenty of fair warning, I could not BELIEVE the size and slope of the hill in front of me.  I had decided long before I had gotten there that I would power walk it – I knew if I tried to run the hill my legs would be dead on the other side.  It felt much better that pretty much every other runner around me was also walking.  This was the first time during the race that I finally pulled my phone out to snap a few pictures.

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Pictures can’t possible do the hill or the scenery justice – it was brutal but so beautiful. 

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The hill climbed all along a bluff that overlooked the bay – and the higher we got the more breathtaking the views were down below.  Runners were stopping all along the way to snap pictures and capture it all, and I decided to take some myself since I knew my time was suffering from walking anyway. 

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And then finally as we neared the top – the Golden Gate!  It was such a clear and beautiful morning – absolutely perfect weather for running. 

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Once I got to the top of the hill, I picked it up and started running again – only to discover that the rest of the race was gloriously downhill.  Hallelujah!

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The last mile felt really long to me.  My Garmin had measured long the entire race, and I cursed the course as my watched ticked to 13.1 (at 2:13) but I still had a ways to go.  I need to get better at running the tangents apparently. 

I got really emotional and choked up at the very end.  I’ve run plenty of other races this year – in fact, this was my third half marathon in a few months!  But for some reason this felt special.  I was away from my family, and really missing them.  And even though I knew my time was slower, I felt really proud of myself for all that I’ve done and worked toward as I’ve grown into this role of mom to little ones. 

I felt grateful for wonderful friends like Julianna who feel like family, and who make Seattle such a special place for us to live.  And I felt really humbled to have been chosen as part of the ClassPass team – this was my first time doing anything like this, and I felt so lucky to have such an amazing opportunity.  And most of all, I felt thankful for Casey and the boys for encouraging me and making it possible for me to travel and be part of such an incredible experience.  I crossed the finish line in tears.  

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As soon as I crossed and pulled myself together, I pulled over to the side so I could see the other women finishing.  I knew there was no way that Julianna was very far behind me, and a few minutes later – there she was!  We had a big, sweaty, teary mama hug – and I will always be grateful for the experience of running so much of our race together. 

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We wandered around for a while, basking in post-race goodness and looking for her family. 

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Eventually I made my way over to the ClassPass crew, where we all celebrated our finish! Oh – and my finish time was somewhere right around 2:22 – about 20 minutes slower than the other two halves I ran earlier this summer.  Like I said before, my watch measured super long, and I did a good amount of walking up the giant hill, so not super surprising.

Did I mention the race medal for this particular race is a Tiffany necklace!?  Seriously awesome.  I still haven’t taken it off. 

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We all hung out for a while and waited for the others to finish, before we all very slooooowly stumbled along to brunch.  I have never been so happy to sit and eat!  We were treated to a post-race meal at Greens, an amazing waterfront vegetarian spot – heaven!

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I got some sort of amazing egg dish with squash, fried plantains, avocado, and slaw.  I also drank about five cups of coffee.  Other than being incredibly sore, I felt amazing and I was so happy to be finished running and stuffing my face with delicious food.

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We eventually headed back to the hotel for much needed showers and some post-race treats from Kara’s Cupcakes – yum! 

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And then we got the ultimate luxury treat – post-race massages in our hotel rooms from Zeel.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so spoiled or pampered in my life.  I never, ever wanted it to end. 

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But of course, eventually it did, and it was time for me to pack up and head home to my crew of crazy boys waiting back in Seattle.  I have looked forward to my San Francisco trip for so long, and I think I’m in denial that it’s over already. 

For months and months, I’ve emailed with and followed the rest of my ClassPass Runner team (Sarah, Anne, me, Kristen, Jane, and Jackelyn) – and I am so beyond grateful that I was chosen to run with them.   It was an incredible group of women from all different backgrounds, all different types of blogs, and all different levels of running – and we definitely all left as friends. 

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Thanks again to ClassPass for providing my transportation and lodging (along with a complimentary ClassPass membership during the training period), and to Nike for the running gear and race bib.  It was an experience I’ll never forget, and I’m already marking my calendar to enter the lottery and hopefully run again next year.  What a blast!