I’ve finally reached my Portland marathon taper weeks – only a week and a half left until race day! For awhile, I wasn’t sure I would make it this far and thus am grateful my injury has healed enough to carry me to the start line, and hopefully the finish line too.

Week 14 was really fun, mostly because E was visiting and we had planned to spend some time in Big Sur and San Francisco while based in Santa Cruz. So, not only did I have a running buddy, but also some new routes to explore! I also reaped the benefits of incorporating extra rest days into week 13, which was key to a successful speed session on Thursday and stronger running, generally. Yet another reminder of the importance of listening to your body and giving yourself sufficient time to recover, even if it means three full days off of exercise (normally I only take one or two days, max).

After recuperating from my 30th birthday 18-miler, I kicked off week 14 with a 5M trail run in Nisene Marks. I had scheduled a hill interval session, but figured a hilly trail run with 1,016ft of elevation gain would probably qualify as a substitute. It certainly was more interesting than running up and down a road in my neighborhood, that’s for sure! Plus, after my somewhat creepy 15M run by myself on the trails, I was eager to go back with E so I could actually enjoy the scenery.

The run was fantastic – we drove 3M along the fire road so that we could start directly on the Loma Prieta Grade trail, which begins just past the gate above. It was a beautiful day, which meant that the forest was far brighter than the last time I had run there, but still nice and cool from the redwoods. The sun shining through the trees completely changed the feel of the run – far less eery!

E loved it – I knew he would as he’s very much into trail running and this particular landscape is quite unique to Northern California. I didn’t have my camera on the run (had to focus on not falling into ravines or tripping over things), but here’s another shot of the redwoods near the gate:

Later that morning, we drove down the coast to Big Sur, where we spent two wonderful days hiking, eating and relaxing. Big Sur is one of my favorite places on earth – if you haven’t been, you must go. Here’s a shot of the coastline later that evening after the fog lifted – absolutely stunning.

Tuesday called for some cross-training. I love to hike and had never done more than a short, easy walk in the area before, so we set off on a challenging 7-8M loop in Andrew Molera State Park, starting with a flat trail to the ocean, then some steep climbing up along the Bluff/Panorama trails and then back down and around via the Ridge, South Boundary and River trails. We had to fight our way through a forest of poison oak in the last few miles which wasn’t exactly fun (the trail was very overgrown and difficult to find at times), but otherwise it was an awesome hike! We both couldn’t resist running for a few minutes here and there…

Is this trail made for running or what?! Ocean views and sunshine for miles (before the fog set in, that is)!

Looking back on the Bluff trail after some climbing:

The following day gave us an opportunity to run a gentle 5 miles through the redwoods of Pfeiffer State park, although admittedly, it didn’t feel so easy after the previous day’s hike! Finding a flat route as we were trying to do in Big Sur is very difficult, so we had to do some loops on the roads leading to the camp sites. Still very pretty though!

Thursday was my last full speed session, which I was very much dreading. My prior interval sessions hadn’t gone too well, and it was hard to get back on a treadmill after running in such inspiring scenery. Much to my surprise, however, this run went incredibly well – night and day compared to my previous week’s session! Simply having taken more rest days the week before meant that my legs were recovered enough to get through my five 3min intervals without any problem. It was a much-needed confidence boost as I approach race day!

Friday was a 5M marathon pace run, which wasn’t paced very well due to the fact that I had to run on an undulating road. Flat routes are a bit hard to find where I live too. I also haven’t quite determined what my marathon pace actually is, which certainly doesn’t help – somewhere between 8:11 (3:35) and 8:34 (3:45) at the moment – so I should probably figure out my racing strategy ASAP! Realistically, I’m guessing I’m closer to the 3:40 – 3:45 range, but we’ll see.

Saturday was a well-earned rest day in San Francisco, and Sunday was my last “long” run of 11 miles, brought down from 20. I ran along the water with E on my usual route from the Embarcadero to Fort Point, and it went fairly well. I hit MP for my last few miles as planned and averaged 8:45 min/mile for the run. It’s a good thing that I opted for a shorter run so close to the race – my hip started to ache slightly towards the end and I think two weeks would not have been enough time to fully recovery from a 20-miler!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a long run (for me, at least) without a post-run caffeinated beverage of some kind. These smiley face cappuccinos definitely helped me celebrate finally reaching my taper weeks. They were too cute – had to share!

I will close with one last highlight of week 14 – all the AMAZING food I ate! Remember those few pounds I trimmed back in weeks 12 & 13? Yeah, those are definitely back on. I obviously had to take E to my favorite California restaurants – not so great for my racing weight, but it was worth it! Our last meal before I took him to SFO for his flight back to London was a late brunch at Green’s in SF – check out these poached eggs baked in polenta, with sugar snaps, a variety of incredible mushrooms and grilled bread. Delicious – and had we not started with cakes and muffins with vanilla infused butter on top, after having already eaten a big breakfast right after our run, it would’ve been a pretty healthy meal too! 🙂

And now, it’s time to rest up and prepare for the race, as well as my coaching certification course that takes place the two days prior. By rest up and prepare, I actually mean frantically do all the things I neglected during E’s visit, including my grad school applications which are due very soon! Hopefully I will also be able to exert some self control and get back to a healthier diet before I start carbo-loading, which I normally do three days before my marathon.

It’s going to be an intensive four-day visit to Portland, and I’m not exactly sure what to expect from it all, but I’m excited to find out…