San Francisco thoughts

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The whole time we were in San Francisco, I was writing little Yelp reviews in my head about everything we did, whether positive or negative. Reading reviews online helped me decide some of the things we were going to do, and I wanted to put my thoughts down regarding all of our travel experiences there!

Transportation

SF transit — I tried to read up a little bit about how to get around in SF, but I mistakenly just assumed that walking and the BART (subway) would be all we needed. So wrong! Many of the things we wanted to do were miles and miles apart, and while I am all about walking, at some point your legs and feet are just worn out — not to mention I got horrible blisters on Day One.

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Getting to the city from the airport was easy enough using BART. But once we were in the city, we ended up utilizing the cable car (part of the MUNI system), the Sausalito ferry, and the Golden Gate Transit bus, on top of the BART, because the BART just really seemed to give limited access around the city. (For example, to go see the Painted Ladies, we took the BART to the Civic Center stop, and then had to walk a full mile to get there).

If there is one piece of advice I could give, it would be to get the Clipper card when you first are buying transit passes at the BART station at the SF airport. The Clipper card is a reloadable card that is basically accepted on all of the transit systems. Just make sure you have enough money on the balance, and you can use it to get on any of the various forms of public transit you will need. We just accidentally happened to buy this, and I was so glad we did. I didn’t read it anywhere in the various blogs and articles giving SF advice, but that would be my #1 tip.

Lodging

Harbor Court Hotel — This was a nice hotel right by the Embarcadero, Ferry Building, and Bay Bridge area. I needed a hotel for us to stay at our first two nights that wasn’t too expensive, and this is what I got as a Hotwire secret deal. When we arrived straight from the airport, it was still a few hours before check-in, so they didn’t have a room ready for us, but we were able to store our luggage there so that we could walk around without it. They got my cell phone number to call me as soon as our room was ready. There was a little coffee barista in the lobby (for paid drinks that you could put on your room bill) and free brewed coffee in the morning. Our room was small, but clean and nice. The only thing that perturbed me was an unexpected amenities fee. That included access to the YMCA next door.

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Hyatt Regency — Can’t say enough good things about this hotel. It was footsteps from the Embarcadero BART station, they had a room ready for us five hours prior to check-in time, our room was large and spacious with a nice view of Market Street, there were lots of perks for marathon runners, etc. We got a discount with the marathon rate, and it’s very pricey with normal rates, I believe, so I don’t know that we would want to spend the money to stay here on a regular trip. But if you can, go for it!

Activities

Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf — Obviously I think this is a must-do just because it’s so quintessential San Francisco, but we didn’t spend too much time down here. Tons and tons of people, long lines at most of the restaurants, etc. We went on our first day and watched the sea lions for a little while, then went back a couple of days later and withstood a long line of people and wait to eat at Boudin Bakery. Lots of restaurants, souvenir shops, etc.

Napa Valley/Sonoma tour — We purchased our passes through Viator, and the tour was orchestrated by Gray Lines SF. Tickets were about $105 per person. Most of the complaints I read on TripAdvisor about this tour were either people utilizing hotel pickup — and then hotel pickup never showing up or being super later — and the tour being overbooked. So to avoid both of those problems, we just went straight to the tour office to get on the bus, rather than waiting to be picked up at our hotel, and I made sure we arrived super early so that if they did in fact overbook the tour, we would have spots on the bus before they ran out of room. This was a great experience, the charter bus was nice and comfortable, our driver was informative and entertaining. We toured three wineries, ate lunch in downtown Napa, and just had a nice, relaxing day.

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Coit Tower — Like Fisherman’s Wharf, this seems to be something everyone recommends you do. I wouldn’t say don’t do it, but I will say I was less than impressed with the experience as a whole. Probably had something to do with waiting 40 minutes in line after an exhausting day of traveling to SF, walking around, tearing up my feet, getting sunburned, and being tired. It was inexpensive, but after waiting in line for 40 minutes to ride up the little elevator to the top, I felt it was kind of small up there and was less than what I was expecting. It was also open air, so it was cold and windy, and then you had to wait in line to ride the elevator back down. It just seems like we waited 40 minutes to go up and then only stayed up there 10 minutes at most before being done with it.

Golden Gate Bridge/Vista Point — This was one of my top priorities, obviously. The bridge was often encased with fog, making it difficult to see fully until you were right up close to it. We took a Golden Gate Transit bus to the toll plaza on the SF side, where we got off and walked over the pedestrian sidewalk. It was super windy and busy up there, but the views were great and it was a pretty easy walk. When we got to the other side of the bridge, we walked over to Vista Point to enjoy the incredible views. This is a must-do.

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Sausalito — We didn’t get to do very much at all while actually in Sausalito, as the main reason we were there was to catch the ferry back to SF after walking over the Golden Gate Bridge. But this was such a cute area, much warmer than the city, and it was beautiful to look at as we sailed away. I wished we would have had time to stay and eat a meal there.

Secret Improv Society — This was a fun $20 improv show we went to on Friday night near Union Square. It was very simple, with four actors on a small stage doing different improv scenarios, which required interaction from the audience. Definitely recommend it.

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Alcatraz — Another great must-do in San Francisco. Book your tickets way in advance. The audio tour is self-guided, so you can take as much time as you need, and a ferry comes every 30 minutes to take you back to SF, so you can leave whenever you’re ready. I love history like this, and while I had never really read much or cared to know much about Alcatraz before, this tour really intrigued me and I found myself looking up documentaries that I could watch later to learn more.

Painted Ladies/Alamo Square — This was about a mile-long walk from the Civic Center BART station, but it was worth it to me to see the famous houses (that you see in the opening credits for Full House). The walk there was nice and quiet through a cute neighborhood, and then once you get up in Alamo Square, you have this view of the cute houses with all of the city skyline behind it. We also got frozen custard nearby at FK Frozen Custard, which was really good.

Food

We ate at several places, but these were my favorite:

Poke bowls at Big Fish Little Fish — We ended up eating lunch here right after we first got into the city because it was in the Rincon Center right across from our hotel. So it was kind of accidental, but a very happy accident, because it was delicious!!

Dim sum at Begoni Bistro — I wanted to get dinner in Chinatown one night, so we found this nice place that had numerous options to choose from. We ended up sharing pork buns, dumplings, and shrimp fried rice — all amazing.

A burrito at Tacorea — Here I got the California Burrito, whose ingredients included Carne Asada, Crispy Tater Tots, Shredded Cheese, Hot Salsa, Guacamole, Crema, Pico de Gallo. Yeah. It was awesome.

Boudin Bakery — Famous for its sourdough bread, Boudin Bakery has several locations in SF. Because it was the easiest to get to, we braved the crowds at the Pier 39 restaurant. Grilled cheese on sourdough and chili in a bread bowl were our choices, and both were good. It seemed like most people were gravitating toward the New England clam chowder in a bread bowl, but I’m not a big chowder fan.

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San Francisco Half Marathon

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While I was disappointed and teary after downgrading from the full to the half, I woke up on race morning so, so relieved that I wasn’t having to tackle a marathon that I wasn’t prepared for. Instead, I was excited and looking forward to the 13.1 miles ahead of me.

The San Francisco Marathon host hotel, the Hyatt Regency, was absolutely amazing. Of course, it was mere blocks from the start/finish line, but they also offered several extra perks for runners who were staying at their hotel. One of them was opening their hotel marketplace, which served to-go breakfast items, sandwiches, fruit, coffee, etc., two hours early on race morning, beginning at 4 a.m.

Race morning, I headed down around 5:30 to get something quick to eat, since I hadn’t brought anything with me. I was feeling a little anxious, so all I could stomach was a fruit cup. I also made coffee in our room.

The weather was about 55 degrees at the start, gray and overcast. While I knew to expect chilly weather in SF and had brought jackets for sightseeing purposes, I didn’t think to bring any warm running clothes. I wore short sleeves and shorts during the Dallas Marathon in December when it was in the 40s at the start, but the difference was the sun actually came out in Dallas.

I knew there was little chance the sun would come out and warm us up during this race. So, a last minute improvisation — I wore a long-sleeved technical T-shirt that my husband had been sleeping in! I had to wake him up and ask him to take it off and give it to me! The funny thing is, it’s actually MY shirt, a race shirt from the 2014 Log Jammer Half Marathon, but it’s too big for me, so my husband always wears it instead. It was my only option on race morning, so I wore it to help keep warm. It wasn’t too bad.

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Around 6:15, I left the room and walked over to the race start. Because I changed races at the expo, I was just given a half marathon bib that assigned me to the very last corral. As a result, I didn’t actually get going until about 20 minutes after the official 6:30 gun time.

We started running down the Embarcadero, which normally is bustling with traffic and tourists. But with the roads closed and it being 7 a.m., it was instead only filled with us runners.

We ran past Fisherman’s Wharf, down to Fort Mason and Crissy Field, where awesome views of the Golden Gate Bridge began. Lots of people were stopping to take pictures, including me. Another runner and I took pictures for each other, which I was happy about.

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The worst hill climbs were near the bridge, as we climbed higher to where marathon runners would begin their trek across the bay. Unfortunately, halfers didn’t get to do that.

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The first marathoners I saw, who were running the same course as us but had started an hour ahead of us, were ones coming off the Golden Gate Bridge as we ran by it. They were about 4 miles ahead of us. This area was super windy, and the breeze blew my hat right off my head. Thankfully, someone grabbed it and handed it back to me.

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My hamstring had mostly hurt at the beginning of the race, but it went away after awhile. My shins were also really sore at first, from all my walking the previous days, but that too went away. Even so, my knee, which I had first had problems with during Little Rock, started aching at around mile 6-7.

There weren’t any really steep climbs, but the rolling hills felt pretty constant throughout the race. Myself and many others just stopped and walked whenever we got to the uphill climbs. I was so glad I wasn’t doing the full marathon!

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Our last three miles of the race were in Golden Gate Bridge Park. I was sweating but was also still cold, as the sky was overcast the whole time. When I finally crossed the finish line and was able to stop, I found my hands were barely operational from being so cold! The finish line area was a little chaotic, but eventually I was able to collect my medal, heat sheet, banana and water.

There was a super long line for posed photos, but I wasn’t interested. This was solely the finish line for the first half marathon. The second half marathon started in Golden Gate Bridge Park and finished at the Embarcadero area, which is also where the marathon finished.

There was a Cheers Garden in the park for first halfers that offered drinks (you got one beverage ticket with your bib), and then there were school buses lining up to shuttle us back to the Embarcadero and the official finish line area. I got in a long line for the bus, but it really didn’t take very long to get on one and get going. Because I was sweaty, but it was still cold, my declining heart rate meant I got extra cold real quick. I was very grateful for the heat sheet!

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Once the buses dropped us off on Spear Street downtown, my husband met me at the corner with a huge breakfast burrito. I ate it so fast! He then went to get me a coffee while I took an Epsom salt bath in the hotel room.

I really wish I had been able to do the full marathon, but I still very much enjoyed this race experience! I know a lot of people were mad when it was announced that only marathoners would be running over the Golden Gate Bridge, but I walked over the bridge two days prior, and that was enough for me. We still got great views of the bridge (and honestly it was so foggy that morning, I can’t imagine the marathoners had that great of a view while they were running on it anyway). I loved the first half course… the second half course seemed like it might have been a little boring.

I also loved the medal and the shirt. My only criticism would be that the race “swag” was basically nothing. You got your shirt, bib (with a ticket for a beverage and a medal), and one small Biofreeze sample (the name sponsor of the marathon). I was kind of expecting a little more. But I would definitely do the race again, and I would love to be able to try and come back and do the full marathon one day.

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After bathing, changing, and resting for a little while, we still had almost a full day ahead of us. We took the BART to downtown Berkeley and got lunch at the Flying Falafel, then walked around the U.C. Berkeley campus.

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That night, we met up with an old college friend and his family in Oakland for dinner at Burma Superstar. On Monday, we got breakfast at the Ferry Building, checked out, and headed to the airport for home!

It was such a great trip. I had wanted to go to San Francisco anyway, so while I was sad I couldn’t do the full marathon, I’m so glad I still got to do the half and experience this unique and wonderful city.

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San Francisco, Part Two

When I registered for the SF Marathon, I looked up the rates at the partner hotel, which is right by the start/finish line. The Hyatt Regency was offering a special marathon rate for Thursday-Sunday nights for race participants. Since we were arriving Wednesday, and the cost for a room there on Wednesday without the special rate was WAY too much, I ended up getting us a hotel for Wednesday-Thursday nights at one place, and then booking the Hyatt at the marathon rate for Friday-Monday.

All that to say, when Friday morning rolled around after two jam-packed days in SF, we had to pack our bags and move from the Harbor Court Hotel to the Hyatt, just a few blocks away.

I expected to have to store our luggage for a little while, but surprisingly at 11 AM they had a room already ready for us (check-in wasn’t technically until 4 PM). I was VERY pleased with them for this. Also, our room keys were even marathon themed and I was given a sheet at check-in informing me of all the perks for runners staying there — their little in-hotel market was going to open at 4 AM the day of the race; there was a runner’s room for recovery the day of the race; late check-out was an option for those who needed it; etc.

We dropped off our bags in the room, then headed down to the Ferry Building nearby. We got a quick lunch there and then jumped on a cable car to head down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Because I had blistered feet and sore shins/calves, I was very dismayed to see that the expo was not anywhere near the partner hotel or the start/finish line — instead it was more than 2 miles away at Fort Mason.

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Once we got off the cable car near Pier 39, we just had to walk along the shoreline to get to where the expo was. I regretfully downgraded from the full marathon to the half, got my bib and T-shirt, and then high-tailed it out of there. I was so disappointed about downgrading that I had to struggle not to cry as we left.

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We then walked to North Point Street to wait for a Golden Gate Transit bus that would allow us to go walk the Golden Gate Bridge. This, aside from the expo, was my number one priority for the day. I was not leaving without walking that bridge! I will write another post about this, but it was a bit confusing to me to figure out how to navigate all the different forms of transit. Getting to certain things was more confusing or at least more difficult than I expected, including getting to the bridge. But once we figured it out, it worked out fine.

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The GGT bus dropped us off at the toll plaza near the bridge, and we began a very windy, overcast trek across the bridge. There were tons of other people out there, including lots of cyclists. I ended up taking off my glasses and putting them in my backpack because the wind was so hard, I was worried they’d fly off my face!

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We walked all the way across and then turned off to look at the other side from Vista Point. We didn’t feel like walking back the same way we came, so we caught a bus near Vista Point to bring us to downtown Sausalito, where we were able to catch the ferry pretty quickly to go back to SF. This was really cool and something I was glad we unexpectedly got to do.

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Back in SF, we showered, changed clothes, and then headed to Union Square where we got dinner from Tacorea — I finally got a burrito! We ate our food in Union Square because there wasn’t enough room at the restaurant — it was still very windy and chilly —  and then walked a few blocks to a theater to watch a show put on by the Secret Improv Society. This was just a little 90-minute improv show with a group of 4 comedians, and it was really cool. We’ve gone to improv shows in NYC and Chicago each time we’ve gone there, and we really enjoy them. It just feels good to laugh.

On Saturday, the main thing we had on the schedule was an Alcatraz tour. But before heading to that, we stopped by the Ferry Building where there was the weekly Saturday Farmers Market. We got a bagel sandwich, coffee and juice from various vendors, then walked to Pier 33 to catch our ferry to Alcatraz.

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This was really cool and interesting. I heard more than once that Alcatraz tours sell out weeks before the date, so I booked our tickets back in May. The day before our tour, I looked on their website just out of curiosity, and saw that they were all sold out every time for every day until mid-August! That is something you cannot put off booking.

Once we got off the ferry at the island, there was a brief orientation and then we were able to take the guided audio tour at our own pace. That island would be a good site for a horror movie. The ferry returned every 30 minutes, so you could leave to return to SF whenever you were ready.

After we got back to the city, we went to Pier 39, which was wayyyy too crowded, to wait in a not-horrible line at Boudin Bakery. I really wanted their sourdough bread. We got a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough, and a bread bowl with chili, and shared both with each other.

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The last main thing I wanted to try and do was see City Hall and the Painted Ladies (which are seen in the opening credits of “Full House”). I wanted to see City Hall because it’s where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio got married! We took the BART to the Civic Center stop, which was right by City Hall.

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We then walked almost a mile to Alamo Square, took some pics of the Painted Ladies, got a custard ice cream cone, then walked the long trek back to the BART to return to our hotel.

Dinner that night was at an Italian restaurant (Pachino), still in the financial district. I had ravioli and two pieces of Hunter’s pizza! It was a very small restaurant and very good.  Then we got boba tea from iTea, walked back to the hotel and I took an Epsom salt bath. There was a Walgreens across the street from our hotel and I had bought the Epsom salt earlier that day — after three days of walking everywhere, my shins and calves were still super sore. With the race set for 6:30 AM the next morning, I getting ready for bed at 8 PM! Next: the race.

San Francisco, Part One

When I registered for the San Francisco Marathon in February, I had recently run two marathons pretty well, was coming up on a third in Little Rock, and was in an extremely motivated place.

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I had wanted to plan a trip to SF this summer anyway, to coincide with our 10th wedding anniversary August 16. When I saw that the SF Marathon was July 29, I thought it would be awesome to combine our vacation with a destination marathon.

Well, then I injured my IT band pretty badly in Little Rock, to the point where I could barely bend my knee and was hobbling for the last four miles. I thought some extended rest would heal it, but it never quite got back to normal. Then Louisiana summer weather set in, and I was dealing with miserable heat on top of a knee problem.

If lack of training was my only obstacle, I still would have gone for the marathon. I know how to run one smart, I know how to pace myself, I know what it takes to finish. I had the heart to finish the marathon. Ultimately, I just didn’t think I would have the legs or the knee to do it.

Wanting to be able to at least finish my race and not have to quit, I decided to drop down to the half marathon, which I honestly was also under-trained for. The most I had run was 10 miles at the end of May, and I strained my hamstring in the other leg during the July 4th 5K, which sidelined me for 2.5 weeks! I was just a mess physically when arriving to San Francisco.

Anyway, the race was just one part of a big vacation planned. On Tuesday, July 24, we drove to Dallas, where we would spend the night at a hotel near the airport before our very early morning flight.

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We have flying out of Dallas down to a science. So easy and stress-free at this point! Our flight was mercifully uneventful, and I was able to read an entire book on my Kindle — “The Last Lie I Told” by Riley Sager. It was really good!

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This was my first time to California. Heck, it was my first time west of Texas.

Once we got to the SF airport and got our luggage, we took the BART to the Embarcadero station and were able to drop off our bags at our hotel even though our room wasn’t ready for check-in yet. We had lunch in a nearby food court at Big Fish Little Fish, which was AMAZING.

Then we just started walking down the Embarcadero in the direction of Fisherman’s Wharf. I was wearing Toms ballet flats, which I’ve had for years and are VERY worn in, so I didn’t think they would give me blisters. I was dead wrong. Seriously, within 30 or so minutes of walking I was hurting.

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We got to Pier 39, where we watched the sea lions lounging around and I also went ahead and bought a SF magnet to add to my fridge collection.

We continued further down and had to stop at a CVS so I could buy band-aids. I sat on a bench in the middle of Fisherman’s Wharf and bandaged up my badly hurting, very blistered feet. The band-aids helped only slightly, but we pressed on, up past Gihrardelli Square, walking very uphill to Lombard Street so we could see the most crooked street, then over to Coit Tower, where we waited in line for 40 minutes to go up a tiny, old elevator for some great views of the city.

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While out destroying my feet, I got a call from the hotel saying that our room was ready. We made the long trek back to the hotel and checked in, showered, and changed. I added more dressings to my feet, put on a double layer of socks and boots, and we walked some more until we got to our dinner spot — La Fusion, a Latin place. It was pretty good!

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After this I was EXHAUSTED. It was only 7 PM California time, but I had been up since 4:15 AM Central time, had gotten a lot of sun, a lot of walking, and needed sleep badly. We went back to the hotel, and I was asleep by 8.

The next day, I naturally woke up super early and walked to get us some breakfast burritos and coffee from nearby Philz Coffee. Then we headed to Gray Lines San Francisco to take a tour bus to Napa Valley and Sonoma. While waiting for the bus, we sat in Union Square for about 20 minutes. It was very chilly, overcast and windy. It was about 55 degrees and felt like late fall! So glad I read up on the weather beforehand and brought jackets.

Our tour to Napa was fun — our bus driver was very talkative and gave us lots of highlights as we left the city, drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed north. We toured three wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma (Cline, Jacuzzi, and Madonna), and ate lunch in downtown Napa at a cute marketplace. It seemed like most of the people on the tour bus with us were all from different countries — Canada, England, Australia, and France were just some of the ones mentioned.

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It was dinner time when we arrived back to the city, so we walked to Chinatown and got dim sum and fried rice at a restaurant there called Begoni Bistro. We also got some pastries from a little bakery and brought them back to our hotel.

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I was able to stay up a little later this time, but was still in bed pretty early! I guess jet lag can still be a thing even when you’ve only gone back two hours.

2011 and 2017

I was kind of rambling to Hunter the other day about how great this past fall was for me. I was so focused on marathon training, disciplined and running frequently, accomplishing goals, etc.  And while that requires sacrifice and sometimes was tiring and it was difficult, I felt really good about myself. That combined with fall races, all my favorite holidays, personal contentment, just made for a great few months.

 

And at the end of it, I ran the Dallas Marathon and nailed my goal. It was just a really awesome few months where I didn’t make excuses and I was in the zone and everything worked out.

I realized that the last time I had a fall like that, which I still look back on with fondness and wistfulness, is the fall of 2011, when we lived in Baton Rouge.

 

What does it have in common with 2017? That was the first time I trained for a marathon. Though I was coming off of an injury, once I was able to run regularly again, I was disciplined. I stuck to my training plan. I participated in local races and enjoyed myself and it was just a great time in my life. And at the end of it, I successfully ran my very first marathon, which was an amazing feeling.

There have been other falls where I was trying to train for a marathon — 2012 and 2014, specifically. And 2015, kind of. For all three of those years, I was very undisciplined with running. Whatever the issue was — lack of motivation, stress, injury, etc., I just was not into it, I did not do a good job of following my training plan, and I ultimately ran marathons that weren’t my best time or fulfilling any goal other than finishing.

Not to say those marathons were terrible — specifically, the New Orleans marathon in Jan. 2015, for which I had trained that fall, was enjoyable even if not my best time (it was, at the time, my worst time). And then in November 2015, after very lacking training, I ran the NYC Marathon, which just in and of itself was a great opportunity.

 

But I don’t know, there is just something particularly special about the falls of 2011 and 2017. I was mentally all there, I felt good, I felt motivated, and things going on in my life were good too — I was content with where I lived, my job at the time, etc. Also, in both falls the Saints were good 🙂 That helps with happiness for me!

Maybe those other falls not being as special in my memory has something to do with latent disappointment in myself for not living up to my training plan, or resentment over the obligation I felt to train for and run a marathon that my heart didn’t really desire.

For this fall, I don’t think I am going to be training for a marathon. But I want to participate in local races, enjoy running, maybe make a general running plan and follow it, maybe PR in a 10K race, etc.

I can’t make the Saints be good, too, and I can’t control the rest of my outside circumstances, but I’m hopeful I can be purposeful about making the fall and winter — my most favorite time of year by far — enjoyable and memorable every single year. Not just the years where I’m more into marathon training.

Our home-buying journey

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It only took us a month and a half to find and purchase our first home, but the journey to get there was actually a very long one.

We’ve been married since August 2008, but for the majority of our marriage, we lived in what we knew were temporary situations, and we weren’t saving money or thinking about the long-term future.

Shortly after getting married, we lived overseas for 8 months and lived off donations while we did missions work. For 3.5 years, we lived in Baton Rouge while Hunter went to law school and lived off my salary in a tiny shoebox-sized apartment. For 3 years, we rented a duplex in DeRidder during Hunter’s law clerkship and started paying off his student loans.

Finally, six months after moving here to Shreveport-Bossier, where we were living with my in-laws, we attended a Dave Ramsey class and got serious about preparing for the future. For almost two years, we squirreled away money to go toward our down payment (we wanted to do 20 percent). Once I finally found a full-time job, the majority of my paycheck went to savings every single pay period.

Sometimes I felt like it was never going to happen. I would morosely look at houses on Zillow and get upset that we still weren’t in a place to buy a house. But finally, this past spring, we were ready.

First, in early April, we went and bought some new bedroom furniture at a store that was going out of business. This was my first step towards saying to myself — “It’s really going to happen, we’re definitely getting a house!”

We got a queen-sized sleigh bed (after years of sleeping on Hunter’s full-size bed he’d had since high school) and a matching dresser.

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We then set up a meeting with a Realtor who was recommended to us by friends, and sat down to chat with her on a Sunday afternoon — Tax Day, April 15. She was so awesome and helpful, and that night she sent us several listings that fit what we were looking for.

That Saturday, April 21, we went and looked at 7 houses with her, which was super fun for me because I had been compulsively watching House Hunters and wanted to experience what I’d been seeing on the show 😉

There was one house that had been my favorite ever since I’d seen it on Zillow, and I held my breath when we arrived, hoping that it would be as nice in real life as it was in the pictures.

It was! After sleeping on it that night, we eliminated 5 of the houses we’d looked at and knew we were seriously considering two others — my favorite house, and a smaller, less expensive house that had some super nice renovations inside.

While we didn’t sit on our hands and we kept the process moving along quickly, our Realtor was so helpful in also making sure everything was taken care of right away. When we told her about our two favorite houses, she set up second showings that same week at both, then worked up comparisons for us and got rate sheets from our mortgage lender.

Less than a week after looking at houses, we made an offer on the finalist, the house that had been my favorite ever since I first saw it on Zillow. We decided to go with that house over the smaller one because after looking at the rate sheet, there wasn’t a huge difference in the monthly mortgage payment, and we knew we’d grow out of the smaller house too quickly.

We went back and forth with the seller just a few times over the next couple of days, and on April 27 — 12 days after we first met with our Realtor — we were under contract for the house! Closing date was set for May 30.

The next month went by so quickly. There was only one hiccup — the roof was original to the house (built in 2005), and a recent hail storm had damaged it badly. We asked the sellers to make an insurance claim, which they did, and then we ultimately agreed to pay for half of the deductible.

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We got to go pick out the shingle color, and it was so easy after that. The roof was put on very quickly, and it was such a relief to know that wouldn’t be something we’d have to deal with in the near future.

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New roof!

We went through the inspection, picked out flooring to replace the laminate and carpet that was in the house, and started packing! The night before closing, my husband had left the cashier’s check for the down payment in his desk at work. I freaked out because I wanted to have it physically in my possession — that money had been taken out of our bank account and it was A LOT! So at like 8 PM that night, we drove back to his office to get it, haha.

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In the elevator after successfully retrieving the cashier’s check for our house deposit from his desk at work.

On May 30, closing went off without a hitch. We celebrated with lunch, then went by the house to check it out.

That was when we discovered that the A/C, which had been working fine through the walk-through the previous day, was out! I could not believe it! Thankfully we had a home warranty, and they covered the cost of getting the A/C looked at and repaired (it did not need to be fully replaced).

One project I undertook while waiting to be able to move in was painting our kitchen table and chairs. I did not like the old wood color and wanted something different. I ended up getting Valspar chalk paint at Lowe’s and it was incredibly easy to get the job done — just took several hours and coats, plus a wax seal finish.

The next frustration was waiting for our floors to be replaced so we could actually start moving in. The A/C was only broken for two days, but that pushed back the flooring job, and then there was a problem with the material not being ordered, which pushed it back ANOTHER week.

We weren’t changing the tile floors in the kitchen, so we ended up moving a bunch of boxes in there and in the garage to wait to be unpacked. We finished moving out of our storage unit June 2, but it wouldn’t be until June 15 that the floors were finished and we could actually start putting our beds together and moving stuff into their proper rooms.

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New floors!

My parents came to visit that first weekend we were finally living in the house, and they were a huge help getting our washer/dryer and new kitchen sink faucet installed, replacing the mailbox, fixing the flower bed and more. Then we had a new over-the-range microwave installed, and finally at the end of June, our new couches were delivered from Wayfair.

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Moving into a new house was SO exhausting, and if I’d have realized how much work it was going to be, I’d have taken off a week of work to deal with it! We have now been all moved in for almost four weeks, and the novelty has not worn off yet. I love it!

I was really leery about going into this process because I knew absolutely NOTHING. My husband knew a few things, but he also wasn’t super knowledgeable about the process. My top tip would be to find a super helpful Realtor who knows their stuff and will explain things to you thoroughly and who will advocate for you to get the best options possible.

Our Realtor was such an expert on everything and was very upfront with us about what she knew regarding the neighborhoods, the quality of local builders, contractors, everything. Because our Realtor was so awesome, the process was *almost* painless!

Update…

Yikes. The past few months since I last updated have flown by and have not gone the way I anticipated.

What I thought was a minor leg issue that would heal quickly after Little Rock has turned into a months-long aggravation. Sometimes I run and the leg is fine, sometimes I run and my knee to my hip tighten WAY up to where I can barely bend my knee. I haven’t been to see a doctor because I really believe all they would tell me is what I already know — stretching, heat, ice, etc.

In the meantime, the heat has gotten really bad, so on top of worrying if I will even be able to finish a run, it’s MISERABLE outside, which does NOT help.

And now for my third excuse, we just bought a house a month ago. It was a whirlwind process that started in mid-April and was really a 0 to 100 process (we looked at seven houses 6 days after meeting with a Realtor, put in an offer on one of the house 6 days after that, then closed a month later). After closing, cleaning and moving boxes and getting everything settled has been an exhausting process. Every night after work for weeks I was consumed with doing something house-related.

So all that to say, everything in my life seems to have conspired against me to get in decent training for the San Francisco Marathon, which is July 29. The longest I have run is 10 miles, which was way back on Memorial Day. I ran that with no issues, but when I ran 8 miles last Sunday, my knee was locked up by the end of it.

THEN, last week we did a 5K on the 4th of July, and I somehow pulled my hamstring in my OTHER leg. It hurt the next day, then seemed to be better, but when I ran 4 miles on Sunday I irritated it again, and I was hobbling around yesterday in pain. I’m a mess. Consider that my race recap 😦

If I want to downgrade from the full marathon to the half in SF, I can’t do it until I am physically at the expo. Right now it definitely seems like the smart thing to do, but mentally I’m still resistant to that because:

1) When will I realistically get the chance to run a marathon in California again? We take one big vacation each year, and I doubt we will go back to the same state soon when we can put our travel money towards somewhere new.

2) Normally the first half marathon runners go over the Golden Gate Bridge  as well as the marathoners, but this year only the marathoners are doing it. So if I drop down, I won’t get to experience that during the race.

I know I have the heart to finish a full marathon. It’s been months, but I ran 3 marathons this past winter. I’ve run 11 total. I know how they work, I know what to do. My only fear is I don’t currently have the knee to run it. I don’t want to have to drop out completely because I’m in the middle of the course and can’t bend my knee anymore! At least if I am doing the half, I could hobble to the finish if my knee is having problems. Also, it’s so hilly there and I have not trained for that at all. Seems like the hills in Little Rock are what caused my IT band problem in the first place.

A Week of Rest

I’ve had some lingering issues after Little Rock, most notably a tight IT band and hip, but nothing too serious. I spent most of the week resting, sometimes using my heating pad to focus on certain areas, and by Sunday I really wanted to get out and try to run again.

The verdict? I still need more time. I was able to walk-run four miles, but my IT band was definitely feeling very tight and uncomfortable throughout.

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I’ve dealt with IT band syndrome before, and it just takes patience and TLC to get over. I went home after the run and took an Epsom salt bath, and I’m also continuing heat therapy, foam rolling, stretching etc. My SF Marathon training doesn’t techincally start for another two weeks, so there’s no need to rush it.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to see signs of spring!

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San Francisco Marathon Plan

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With the Little Rock Marathon behind me, I will now turn my full attention to training for the San Francisco Marathon, which is a little less than five months away. The weather is going to turn hot here pretty quickly, so this is going to be very different from training for Dallas Marathon in the fall. My long runs are not going to be done in 50-degree weather – try 30 to 40 degrees more than that, or worse!

Even so, I’m going to try and do the same basic plan as I did this past fall. Running 20 miles in Louisiana in June and July is not something I’ve ever done before, so that should be VERY interesting. I do have a CamelBak and imagine it will be wise to use that on my long runs this summer. I will also probably have to get up a lot earlier than I’d normally want to, in order to get some runs done before the heat gets to be too much.

Anyways, below is my training plan, including two errant weeks before the 18-week cycle starts. Each week will include a speed run, tempo run, easy run and long run. “Easy” days will include hill work – climbing stairs, doing certain workouts that are meant to help with climbing hills, etc., because we don’t have very many hills here, and San Francisco will likely be very difficult in that regard. Having just come off of Little Rock, and seeing what those hills did to my IT band over the course of the race, I know I will need to specifically train for hills, get my body used to that, and also pay special attention to my IT band throughout the training cycle.

SF Marathon Training Plan

I will mostly be resting this week, with the plan to run on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t have any other races planned right now, though that is very likely to change!

Little Rock Marathon Race Recap

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We left for Little Rock late Saturday morning and had an uneventful 3.5-hour drive. Before heading to the expo, we stopped for lunch at Heights Taco & Tamale Co. in Little Rock. I got some really good chicken tacos, and we also had chips and queso.

We headed to the expo next, and I quickly got my race packet and took some photo ops. Nothing really caught my eye, so I didn’t stop to buy anything. That evening we went to walk around the riverfront area and cross some pedestrian bridges. It was all really nice!

Then we had dinner at Three Fold Dumpling and Noodles – I got my typical pho-like dinner. I hadn’t been to Little Rock in about 13 years – we went in 2004 and 2005 for conferences in college. I don’t think I did very much exploring, because I didn’t know how cute downtown Little Rock is around the river. We also really enjoyed everything we ate there.

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The race started at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. When I woke up right before 5, I checked the forecast and saw that there was once again a chance for rain during the race. I made sure to apply Vaseline where needed and wrap my phone in a ziploc bag in preparation. It’s a good thing I did!

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Pre-race crowd

The first 6-7 miles went by really quickly, I was surprised! I didn’t really have a time goal, but I felt pretty strong in the beginning and was somewhat optimistic that the race as a whole could go well.

It started raining in mile 8, and continued for about 30 minutes straight. It finally stopped when I was properly drenched, with soaking wet shoes. Some notable sights in the first half of the race were Little Rock Central High School and the state capitol building.

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After the halfway mark, things got really interesting hill-wise. There were quite a few hills from miles 14-16, and I felt my left IT band start tightening up like it always does. I was hanging around the 4:40 pace group for awhile, and we ran through a really pretty wooded area.

Then, the out-and-back started. I’d read about this in some race reviews, that there is a monotonous out-and-back in the waning miles of the race. Basically in mile 19 we started running one way down a road, and coming from the opposite direction were runners who are at about mile 23.

The turnaround point was a little past 21 miles. During the out-and-back, my left IT band and hip started REALLY bothering me, to the point that I felt like my range-of-motion in my knee was very limited. It was so tight and somewhat painful, and I had to stop and try to stretch SEVERAL times. I was practically hobbling at this point.

At mile 24, we passed an aid station and I noticed a volunteer was holding a sign that said the event warning level was at “HIGH.” I wondered what that was all about, and then about 5 minutes later, the skies opened up and it began raining again, hard. It was very cold, too. Weirdly, I felt like this might have helped my leg because it stopped hurting while it was raining! Or maybe I was just able to focus my mind on something else.

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Anyway, it didn’t rain for very long, and we had to go up two more hills right before and after mile 25. Ugh! So many hills! I walked up those two. This course is tough. Finally, I approached the finish line. Right before the end, there was a lipstick station where they were handing out lipstick. Not sure if it’s my color, but sure!

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You can see I am holding my free lipstick

I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 4:43:36, my fourth best marathon time out of 11. Considering I was somewhat under-trained and my IT band went haywire thanks to the hills, I will take it.

Next I got my medal. Little Rock is known for its ridiculously large medal, and this one did not disappoint. I saw some of their themes in years past and am not really a fan of those, but I LOVE this one.

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All in all, a great race! The course is tough, and I would definitely recommend training for hills before you tackle it. Little Rock was cute and had some really good restaurants. We will have to go back one weekend for a getaway that doesn’t have anything to do with running!

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