Sunday, June 30, 2013

It's time to Commit - The Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon San Francisco

This weekend, "Team Remo," our Fall All-Bay TNT Walk team held our Honoree Brunch in Novato. Remo Patri (pronounce RAY-mo, we were reminded of that constantly) was a long time teammate who passed away earlier this year after complications from leukemia.  He was a fixture at the Maui half marathon for the past few years. He lived life with attitude and said that in the end, he was hoping to just wake up dead one morning. He was joking at the time, of course, but in January, he did just that.

Our agenda included a quick core exercise demo followed by 6 - 7 miles. We pushed through the training even as temperatures climbed into the triple digits. I spent  lot of time with first-timer, Lally, who has been following the calendar faithfully including our Tuesday night core workout at Sports Basement in Walnut Creek. She is in the group that John Bingham would describe as 'maximizing her marathon dollar'. Despite the heat, she really wanted to get to the turnaround point to get her full mileage in. Not only did she win the Spirit award this week, she is also a Fundraising Wizard! This past week, she confirmed a company match that will get her to her fundraising minimum. No reason to stop there. Fundraising doesn't stop until we have a cure for all blood cancers! We see great things for Lally's season ahead.

Two hours later, we were stretched and cooled down. Our sincere thanks go to the Novato Fire Department for letting us use their air-conditioned facility for the post-training brunch. Thanks also to Honoree Captain Cathy and Coach Susan for organizing an amazing spread. Elaine brought lumpia and potstickers (not shown, but definitely devoured).

Yes, this is what happens when my wife is on TNT staff. She even brought the tablecloth.

After refueling, our 5 attending honorees took turns telling their stories. Jessie (below, top left) wasn't able to speak through the tears last year, but held up great this time. She has been racing in 5K's, 10K's and a few half marathons with Mentor Roz. Lior (left middle) has become a ball of energy and is training for her next half marathon. Her condition is much improved from a few short years ago. Lior urged LLS not only to move forward with cures but also to fund preventative measures like vaccines if possible.  We were afraid that Gail (left bottom) wasn't well enough to make the brunch while still in treatment. I'm glad she did. Gail told the story about crossing the finish line for her first Nike half at age 70. Sue (middle bottom), has been with the team for 8 years and is going for another full marathon this fall. Her speech was eloquent and full of gratitude for people raising money.  Years ago, Sue was outed as a closet Honoree and has become a full-fledged team member and constant reminder that there is hope for all honorees. Finally, Remo's daughter Andrea spoke about how both she and her father got involved with TNT. Her husband, Gardner, son, and four-week old daughter came out to support as well.  I can't ever remember having that many honorees present at a brunch and it reminded me of why I stay involved with TNT. Spirit Lion will soon be donned with adornments each week as he rotates around the team for more bling!

Team Remo is now 60 members strong. We hope to add more members now that the results of the Nike lottery have been announced.  If you didn't get an entry through the lottery, the only way to get a bib now is through fundraising. That's where Team in Training can help. The fundraising isn't as hard as most people think. There's plenty of support with an online website and even an app for iPhone and Android that lets you take donations on your phone. All you need to do then is put in the training time and we'll make sure your race day experience is as fulfilling and empowering as it's been for over 500,000 former participants over the last 25 years.

Susan and I left the Honoree Brunch to catch the last half of a birthday party for our sister-in-law Alisa. It was 106° F by mid afternoon in Pleasanton. About 4 pm, Alisa noticed an older woman having all the signs of heat stroke and rushed to attend to her. Years of nursing certification classes and prompt action may have saved a life that. The lady had a compromised immune system and other issues resulting from complications from lymphoma.  It's like Remo was watching us the whole day and put us in that park for a reason.

Daniel calling out bingo numbers and Alisa saving the world, one life at a time.
We have three and a half months to Nike and a lot of races in between. If you were lucky enough to win the lottery entry or are awesome enough to be raising funds for TNT, I hope to see you there.  Look for me at the base of the Crissy Field hill, wearing a bright green TNT Coach's jersey and ringing a cowbell for all I'm worth.

A view from 'my office' at mile 6.

The 10th Nike Women's Marathon and Half Marathon San Francisco will be held on October 20, 2013. It's the same weekend every year, but Nike doesn't announce a final date until March or April when the lottery opens. This year with Nike DC, the lottery for Nike SF was delayed until early June. Lottery results were announced on Friday June 28th.

Nike is the biggest event for Team in Training, drawing up to 5,000 fundraising participants for a single event and raising $128 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since the first Nike in 2004. In 2012, the full marathon had 4,452 finishers (median time 5:05). The half marathon results page is currently down for maintenance, but I'd put the number at 15,000 (20K total for the event).  For those of you who have to ask, the Female/Male ratio is about 10:1 (maybe higher).

This year for the first time, there will not be an early start for marathoners at 5:30AM. Instead, the race will start at 6:30AM for all participants (a half hour earlier than usual). There's a 1:30 PM cut off time, so full marathoners will need to maintain about a 15 minute/mile pace including the wave start delay (7 hour GUN time cut off).

The marathon and half marathon start in Union Square, then travel east towards the Bay down Post, Montgomery and Washington, turning left on the Embarcadero all the way to Crissy Field and up Lincoln Boulevard. At the top of the hill is the Mission Mile where Team in Training Chapters place their Honoree banners. It's one of my favorite places in any race. There's a quick downhill section on Camino Del Mar before turning on 32nd, Clement and Point Lobos to the Great Highway.  At mile 11.8, the half and full courses split in Golden Gate Park and the full marathoners travel an additional 3 miles before rejoining the half course on Martin Luther King Drive.  At the end of Lincoln Avenue the half marathon turns right to the finish line about 100 yards away. The full marathoners, however, take a left turn to finish an additional 10 miles down the Great Highway, around Lake Merced and back. There are a few big hills on the half marathon. The back 10 miles of the full are relatively flat.

Weather: Ranges from high 40's to mid 50's at the start warming about 15 degrees by finish time.  Due to the characteristic  San Francisco micro-climates, prepare for wind, fog, sun and more wind if you're doing the full marathon once you get to the Great Highway at mile 15. We've had sun and rain at the finish line. Team in Training has a shelter set up based on the forecast.

Things to do: Definitely find your name on the Wall at Niketown in Union Square when you pick up your bib. If you're thinking of booking an Alcatraz tour, DO IT EARLY as they sell out well in advance, especially if you want to get into a night-time tour. Cable Cars take you over the hills to Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park and Fort Mason. Muni (light rail) can get you most places and Uber has a good presence. Renting a car gives you access to Sausalito and Muir Woods if you have time. Napa wine country is about 60 miles away. Plan for traffic to make that a 90 - 120 minute drive at peak commute. Here's a Hidden Gem for those looking for good Vietnamese cuisine (Thanks, Al!).

Course setting:  The first half of the course showcases most of the classic San Francisco attractions including Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Alcatraz, Fort Mason and the Presidio. Don't be so focused on the Lincoln hill that you forget to take a look at the Golden Gate Bridge on your right. Look back after you pass it also, there are great views you won't see on the postcards. There are audible gasps of awe when most people come down the hill towards the Cliff House and see the Pacific Ocean, though that could be relief because its the back side of the second big hill. Both courses turn into Golden Gate Park for a few milder hills. The Great Highway can be attractive, but as the last 8 miles of a full marathon, the winds can be a challenge. The finish area is on Ocean Beach. Don't hesitate to use the free cold-bath just steps away from where you get your Tiffany Necklace. 

Support: Good/Very Good. Aid stations and cheer stations are set up every 2 miles or more. There's a bra-swap at the top of the first hill at mile 6 (ohhh kaaaayyyy) and "Chocolate Miles" at mile 11 on the half and 23 on the full where volunteers hand out Ghirardelli chocolate squares. Of course, the main attraction is the firemen at the finish line handing out the medals - Tiffany Necklaces in the traditional blue box. This is a great event to wear TNT purple. There were close to 500 staff and coaches supporting last year's event. The full marathon aid station support is a bit lighter, but look for bright green jerseys if you're in need of help.

Although Susan and I have been at all but the first Nike SF, we've only raced in two of them. Year 2 (2005) was our first half marathon and obviously our PR's. In 2010, we had the honor to be early-start pacers for the 6:30 and 7:00 finish times in the full marathon.  That was Susan's 9th full marathon. Ron wanted his 10th to be special and there was no better place to do it than our home town. Though we've earned 4 Tiffany medals, we only own one. Ron gave his 2005 medal to his mentor, Nancy, who came down with a bug just before the race and was unable to participate. Both of us gave our 2010 medals to friends who had strong connections to the Cause.  

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