Tips for a “racecation”

For some of you folks that may be interested in traveling out of state (perhaps, to Boston) or country for a race, I thought I’d put together a list of tips that could be helpful in planning and packing for a racecation.

I’ve learned a lot in my travels, so maybe this will keep you from making some mistakes I’ve made along the

1) Make a list of everything to bring: A list is super helpful and will keep you organized. I’m a huge list maker and this makes things a lot easier to check off as you are packing. Sometimes I start this list months in advance. I use the “Notes” section in my phone so I can add to it easily and it’s on me all the time when I remember something.

2) Accommodations near the finish or close to public transportation options like subway/metro: This is ideal because then you don’t have to go far after the race. After you’ve received your medal, water/drinks and goodies you want to locate your friends/family. Then you’ll be hungry. After all this time, who wants to travel super far for food or shower or your bed? I don’t.

3) Don’t worry about overpacking: With the inconsistent weather we have nowadays due to global warming (those experts say), it’s always good to bring all types of running gear with you. You never know when it’s going to be warm or when it’s going to be cold. It’s happened to me a couple times where it should have been cold and then it ended up warm and I wished I had worn a tank. Or I thought it would be a bit warmer, but it was drizzly and cold and I could have worn a long sleeve shirt to tear off mid-race. Just be prepared for anything.

4) Don’t forget your race gear: While this may seem obvious, I’ve heard of people forgetting their shoes (super important) or other items they need for raceday. Now, there usually is an expo with lots of vendors selling items that you could buy to replace that missing item, but after training in a pair of shoes that’s perfectly broken in and ready for race day, a new pair is not the most ideal. You really don’t want to run your race with any new apparel that could chafe or ride up on your body in a weird way.

5) Pack your race items in your carry on luggage: This is something I’m overly paranoid about. I never pack my race gear in my checked in luggage just in case it never makes it to my destination. I always carry it on me. Because if it does get lost, you don’t want to resort to having to buying all new gear (as mentioned in #4).

5) Bring snacks and food from home: Seriously, if you can bring snacks with you, you will be glad you did. When you travel to another country, you never know what they have at the corner store or grocery store. You may think they will have something similar to what you eat before a race, but you can’t guarantee that. Bring bagels, KIND bars, or whatever pre-race foods your body is used to. I bring a large zip lock bag full of treats just in case I’m hungry when I’m traveling, because we all know runners are hungry ALL the time. I will bring trail mix, almonds, KIND bars, protein bars, pretzels, and I always pack some packets of Emergen C.

7) Research your carb loading places before, if you can, or in the first day or two of your trip so you aren’t scrambling on the night before the race: Whether you like pasta or pizza or whatever it is you prefer the night before a race, do a little research on what restaurants will be in the area you are staying. You don’t want to travel too far from your accommodations, if you can help it, and you don’t necessarily want to go where everyone else is going. There will be long waits and who wants to wait to carb up? Not me! Doing the research ahead of time will definitely help.

9) Go to the Expo on the day it starts: If you can get to the Expo on the first day it starts, I suggest this for a couple reasons. One, you can get it over with early on in your trip and not have to stress about it right before race day. Two, if you go on the first day, there are generally less people to have to walk around. Three, if you are looking for merchandise to purchase from the vendors, there will be more sizes to choose from on the first day.

8) Stay off your feet, if you can, for most of the day (or at least half the day) on the day before the race: I know you’re on vacation too and want to sightsee, but you still need to stay disciplined. This will help with fatigue. You don’t want to tire out those legs the day before a race. This could make your legs feel tired on race day too. Keep those precious extremities rested and ready for a good race!

10) Safety pins: Bring some extras in your toiletry bag or somewhere in your belongings just in case you forget to pick up some at the Expo or THEY forget to give you some. You need to pin that badboy (your bib) to your shirt, so this is an important item to have handy. I’ve been to race expos where they didn’t have safety pins out and was scrambling later looking for extras.

11) Game plan for meeting friends or family at finish: With a race of 20,000-40,000 there is going to be chaos at the end of the race. If you can come up with a plan on where to meet (a coffee shop, a bar, a “family meeting area”) then you will be better off and feel less stressed at the end of the race. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming trying to get through all the masses when you just want to find a familiar person and you are hungry. Make it easy on yourself and your loved ones after the race. I’ve been in situations with no cell reception or I couldn’t find the person(s) I was looking for and it can make for a depressing couple hours.

12) HAVE FUN!!: Uh, duh!

Golden Gate 1/2 Marathon Trail Run

This is what I have to say -

Rain, mist, fog, wind (“blow me over” wind!), mud, puddles, wooden stairs, rocky stairs, bridges, hills, lots more hills, inclines (lots!), narrow paths, cliffs, horses, eucalyptus, banana slugs, goldfish crackers, coke (let’s clarify: coca cola), more mud, and the beautiful ocean!

Super fun and I’d do it again!

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Me and Stephanie at the Finish

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Last race, I promise

Ok, so I lied when I said the CIM was my last race of 2013! I had kept it a secret that I was registered for a half marathon in Scottsdale, AZ. I had registered for this race in November, but pending my outcome of CIM. As long as my body felt good, then I would run it. If for some reason I felt like crap or got injured, I wouldn’t.

Just four days after CIM, we flew to Phoenix. My body was feeling a lot better but my quads were a little tight still. I had been icing, stretching, cycling, more icing, stretching…and I cycled when I got to my dad’s resort. By Friday, I said “Let’s do this!”

photo 2-2I signed up for this race because my dad and stepmom have never seen me cross a finish line of a road race in all the years I have been running half marathons and marathons. I thought it would be a cool experience for them to see this and I selfishly also wanted to run a race in another state while I was visiting. A half marathon was do-able – I did not want to run another marathon this soon after the CIM. So this was perfect timing while I was there.

I ran the Runner’s Den Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon in Scottsdale. The race location was about 45 mins away from where we were staying, but not too bad of a drive at 6:15am. I got to the start with very little time to spare. I wasn’t worried too much since it was a small race. I got in a porta pottie line immediately but as we inched forward I realized I didn’t have enough time. So I darted out of line and ran to the start. 30 seconds later the race started!

It was a very flat course in the town of Scottsdale. It was also fairly warm compared to the marathon last weekend. The temp was in the mid to high 40′s and I didn’t even need gloves. Nice and sunny! The race also had only about 3,000 runners combined with both the 5k and half marathon.

The race had a good amount of water and electrolyte stations and even porta potties along the route. I actually had to stop about Mile 3. I did not want to hold it for another 10 miles! But I was fairly quick about it.

The last few miles of the course were along a bike trail. I saw what I thought was a large dog with a toy in his mouth. I looked for an owner thinking they were playing fetch. But there was no “owner” in sight because it turned out to be a coyote with a duck in his mouth from the pond he was walking away from! Then I saw a second coyote walking the opposite direction. This little grassy area and pond were right next to homes! I was surprised these coyotes were so close to the houses. It was pretty interesting to watch as I ran by.

As I finished the race I saw Clint and my dad and Jackie (stepmom) along the railings. It’s pretty rare that I can spot my supporters at the end of a race this easily. It was fun to see them at the end and hear my name called as I crossed the finish line.

I got my medal which looks like a sun catcher, picked up some things to eat at the booths, we snapped a few photos and then headed back home.

That’s really it! 13.1 miles in Arizona. A great morning run (and race)!

photo 1-3When I picked up my bib on last Friday, the man that helped me asked if it was my first half marathon and I said no. I mentioned that I was from Sacramento and just ran the CIM last weekend and he said he ran the first three CIM races many years ago and we chatted for a few about how there’s only 12 runners left that have run all 31 years. It’s always great to have conversations like this with fellow runners. However, the best part of packet pickup was seeing the Boston Marathon finish line painted on the outside of their shop. I knew it was meant to be.

He did it!

It’s been a few days since the Giant Race Half Marathon that both Mike and I ran in San Francisco. It’s also been a few days of recovering and letting those legs rest and relax, but also get some stretching and icing in.

Going into this race, I had been helping my friend’s husband, Mike, train for his first half marathon. You can see my previous posts for updates on his progress along the way (June 19 and July 19). Everything was going really well and I was excited for him. I enjoy helping other people train for races and to see how they progress, feel along the way, and work toward their goal. However, a couple weeks ago, Mike told me he tweaked his hamstring and this made me nervous. So I told him to rest and be careful with his last couple weeks of runs. The last week he didn’t run at all, but I preferred this than having him push too hard and injure it any further.

IMG_5558A few days before the race I touched base with him. He hadn’t been running. But he assured me he was still going to run the race. He said, “It will have to be torn for me not to run”, and then confidently said, “You will see me cross [the] finish line running.” I knew he was still in this race! I could see the determination he had.

I had planned on attending the Expo at AT&T Park with him to kind of walk him through everything, his first expo, but he arrived to S.F. earlier than we did (Clint and I), so he and Rosemarie (his wife and my friend) did the whole expo thing themselves. They wanted to get it over with early. So they were in and out of the expo in like 30 minutes. Got the bib, bobblehead, shirt and headed out.

I got there a couple hours later and had to wait in a long line, but got my goodies as well. Clint and I also perused the vendors and got some fun photobooth photos taken with SF Giants paraphernalia, won some tickets to a baseball game, drank some cocktails with friends, and made our way to the Giants Dugout store to buy some tall socks to wear during the race. We were there for like two hours!

Later that evening, we had made plans to meet up with them for dinner to carbload. We ended up in North Beach and ate at an Italian restaurant called Calzones Pizza Cucina. We had delicious pizzas and talked about running. I’m sure Clint and Rosemarie were bored with our running talk. It was getting later in the evening so we were talking about prepping for the morning, where to meet, corrals, and all the things that go along with race morning preparations. Mike was in good spirits and was excited.

After a fun dinner, we went our separate ways and I got my banana, Clif bar, and KIND fruit and nut bar for the morning at a corner store on the walk back to where we were staying. I laid everything out like I always do to prepare for the race and set the alarm for 5:30am.


Waiting at the start line

5:30am came fast and I got dressed and we headed out the door to meet Mike at AT&T Park. On our quick drive, we passed by a few nightclubs with lines out front with people waiting to get in. I laughed! As we are getting ready to run a half marathon, there are people in S.F. waiting to get into clubs! These people are either ending their nights or maybe even starting their days with a little club action at 6am.

As I walked up to the starting area, I practically bumped into Mike and Rosemarie waiting just outside the corral area. It was good to see them! We waited in a porta potty line and then went to our corrals. I wished Mike good luck and told him he would be just fine. I got in my corral and found the 1:40 pacer. I kind of decided last minute I would try to beat my PR from a few years ago, so I would have to stay with the 1:40 pacer to do that. And the race started at 7am! Let’s do this! As I started my running watch, it failed to start because it was full with past races and training runs stored in it, so I couldn’t keep track of the miles and had to use it only for pacing myself. Oh well! I could stick with the pacer and I would be fine.

I didn’t run with Mike so I just hoped that everything would go well along the way and he would finish. The course was pretty nice with only a few hills. The last one was the toughest about 3/4 of the way through the course. The Golden Gate Bridge looked beautiful and we got to run the second half along the water for a bit. I wanted to stop to take photos, but didn’t want to screw up my time. As we got closer to the finish, people started to pick up their pace and that helped me get a little more speed.

IMG_5583As we approached the finish, AT&T Park was in view and we got to enter from the side of the stadium and run onto the field! So cool! And Lou Seal, the Giants mascot, was there to greet us and cheer us on at the finish line. I gave him a high five right before I crossed the finish line! The best part was our glittery medal. It looked like the front of the World Series ring. I got a little bling!

I looked for Clint in the bleachers and then made my way around the field to get food, water and pictures taken by fellow runners. Friends and family couldn’t come out onto the field, so strangers were taking pictures of other runners. Everyone was having fun out there!


Mike and me after the race

I met up with Clint, Rosemarie and Mike’s family in the bleachers. We were waiting to see him cross the finish line. He texted Rosemarie when he was 3 miles away, so we knew he was coming soon. We saw him cross the finish line with a time of 2:12:13! We were all very excited for him! He wasn’t limping and looked good, so I thought everything was okay. However, he said that from Mile 1 he was having pain in his hamstring, but he was determined to get to the finish and he didn’t even walk.

I’m really proud of him. I know going into a race with an injury is tough. Sometimes you don’t know if you should run the race or not, but determination also takes over and with Mike, he absolutely wanted to complete this race.  He wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. This was a special race for him being a huge SF Giants fan. He ran his FIRST half marathon…his first 13.1 miles! What a great accomplishment!

I asked him how he felt later. He said everything hurt. I told him to drink lots of water, stretch and ice. And walking is good too. I touched base with him again yesterday and I wondered what he thought of this experience. I thought maybe the injury might have put a damper on it, but he said it was overall a great experience for him. “My goal was to run in that race and run into the stadium and I reached it.” He sure did!! He finished with, “
What I really take away from this is [there's a] crazy big difference between running and training. Now I can go back [to] just running until I sign up for another race.” I love it! I can’t wait to hear what his next race is going to be.

All smiles here from his virtual running coach. Go Giants and Go Mike!

Meet Mike Messina

I’m not an official coach or anything like that. I’m not certified or have a license. But I do like to help people if they are interested in training for a race or just trying to get some running into their exercise routine.


August 4, 2013

Recently, I signed up for the 2013 San Francisco Giant Race (Half Marathon) and Mike, my friend’s husband, decided he wanted to do it as well. He’s a big SF Giants fan and sports fan in general, so I think this is the perfect race for him. It will have great energy and fans along the entire course. He asked me for a training plan to help. I have many training plans for half marathons and marathons that I’ve run. Once I sent it over, he said it was a “serious plan”, but he was down to make it happen. So, I decided why not feature him on my blog! Since it’s his first half marathon, I wanted to show his progress and his experience.

The race is August 4, so we are still several weeks out. I check in with him periodically to see how he’s doing and get feedback and answer questions he has. I was a little worried a few weeks ago when he mentioned he was having issues with Planter Fasciitis. This is not pleasant and some runners have a harder time with the pain and not being able to run. But he seems to be okay now.

Mike also ran 7 miles the other day and felt “weak” and wanted to know what he should be eating. I gave him some tips on what to eat before the run and what he should be carrying with him on long runs – Shot Bloks, Gu, etc. I recommended he start training with these before the race so his body is used to it.

Mike and his dog Gracie

Mike and his dog Gracie

Here are some questions I asked him to get to know him better -

1. How long have you been running?
“Have run off and on for 20 years.”

2. Have you run a 1/2 marathon (any races) before? Which one?
“Never ran a half in a real race. I have only ran 5k fun runs.”

3. Why do you want to run this race?
“As a big Giants fan I think it is cool to finish in PacBell AT&T Park.” Me too!!

4. What keeps you motivated?
“Reaching goals.”

5. How do you like the training so far?
“Training has been fine; it has taken me a while to get used to it. I am used
to running like 5 or 6 miles a day everyday (with) very few days off. Now with the training I have days off and really only 1 DAY of a long run.”

6. What have been your challenges?
“Only challenges have been fighting foot injury (planters) and have to switch days around due to my basketball tourney schedule.” Mike’s a high school basketball coach.

7. What is your goal?
“My goal is to run my race and not worry about any other runners faster/slower, etc. Time goal – not sure, prob 9 [mins] per [mile].”

8. How old are you?
“50 years old.” But he assured me that he’s not your “typical 50 year old”!

9. Do you do any other cross training besides running?
“A little rowing machine box, jumps, b-ball.”

I’m really excited for Mike and can’t wait to see him cross the finish line! More updates to come…

Here’s the link to the race –

Any of you have tips for Mike?

If you are ever interested in running or training for a race, let me know. I’d be happy to help!