Oakland Marathon – Post-Race Analysis & Recovery

I have a feeling this post will be extremely rambling, so apologies in advance!  It’s been 2 weeks since the Oakland Marathon and being the reflective (i.e., overly analytical) person that I am, I have many thoughts about the experience.

Let’s start with the GOOD:

  • As I discussed in my recap, I was able to maintain a positive attitude throughout the race.  This was huge.
  • I got to see the Gypsy Runner and several other friends along the course.
  • I had no fueling or GI problems.
  • No chafing!  On a really hot day!!  All the exclamations!!!!
  • My Garmin said that I ran only 0.2 miles longer than 26.2.  That’s a victory for this curvy course, in my book.
  • No race day logistical issues with transportation, drop bags, etc.  Everything went very smoothly.

Next, the BAD:

  • My pace progressed (or rather, regressed) for each quarter of the marathon from 10:08 to 10:33 to 10:51 to 12:13/mile (yikes!).  Perhaps I pushed too hard on the hills, or I was undertrained, or it was too hot — or all of the above.  To be honest, part of me just didn’t care.
  • Calf cramps.  ‘Nuff said.
  • No desire to push or be competitive in the last 6 miles.  I felt this way at the end of MCM as well.

Finally, the UGLY:

  • The downhill totally killed my 2nd toenail on my right foot.  It’s currently black… not sure if it’s going to fall off yet.  If it does, it’ll be my first one!  Which simultaneously freaks me out and excites me at the same time.  It’s like I’ll be a REAL runner now.

Now, for the important part — what lessons did I learn that I can apply to Big Sur, which is now only 3 weeks away?  Well, one practical thing I did was to buy new running shoes with more toe room, as well as a tad more cushion for the long distance.  After trying on the Altra Intuition, Saucony Virrata, New Balance Minimus, and Merrell Bare Access 3’s, I came away with the Merrells, which offered the combination that I was looking for (light weight, zero drop, light cushioning, and good price point).  I have to say that I thought the New Balance Minimus was the most comfortable shoe, but it didn’t look that durable… and for $110, it better last me a while!

My new kicks!  I'm still breaking them in, but so far so good!

My new kicks! I’m still breaking them in, but so far so good!

Training-wise, I think the lack of high weekly volume and/or long runs became very obvious during the last 6-10 miles of the Oakland Marathon.  There’s not much I can do about that now, but at least I have one very long, 26.4 mile training run under my belt for Big Sur. 😉  Another thing I can work on is my mental toughness, which continues to be a work-in-progress.  While I was glad that I stayed positive when things got rough during Oakland, I’ve decided that I want to try harder at Big Sur.  Yes, I want to enjoy the experience and take in the views, but I also want to finish the race leaving everything on the course.  I couldn’t really do that at Oakland, with Big Sur on the horizon.

In a big picture sort of way, my experience at the Oakland Marathon had me wondering if I truly ENJOY the marathon distance.  I can safely say that I like the challenge of the marathon, the sense of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line, and going to that crazy mental and physical space that I’ve only ever experienced during a marathon.  However, I’m not sure if I enjoy the act of running 26.2 miles all that much.  The first 6 miles are the most enjoyable, followed by the next 6, and then the 6 after that.  It’s a weird dynamic where I’ve really disliked running the last 8 miles, but those last miles are also the ones that take the marathon to the next level and make it worthwhile in my mind.

Did the Oakland Marathon chase away the ghost of MCM?  Yes and no.  Although I was successful in avoiding the pit of despair at Oakland, I still wasn’t able to overcome the mental blocks in the last part of the race.  For example, my resilience completely breaks down.  I give in to the voice that says, “It’s OK to walk” even though I had just told myself that I wouldn’t take another walk break until the next mile marker or aid station.  The mantras that have worked well for me for shorter distances just don’t seem to hold up during the marathon.  I feel like I need to have a mental breakthrough if I want to “succeed at” or “conquer” the marathon.  We’ll see if that happens at Big Sur.


Post-marathon recovery has been going splendidly!  I eased back into running the first week back, running 2 miles on Tuesday, 3 miles on Wednesday, 4 miles on Thursday, and 6 miles on Sunday, for a total of 15 miles.  I got an awesome sports massage on Friday that made me feel like a new woman.

This past week, I ran a timed mile on Monday, where I clocked a surprising 7:44 — not bad for 8 days post-marathon!  I ran 6 miles on Wednesday, 3 hilly fartlek miles on Thursday, 10.5 VERY hilly miles at San Bruno Mountain with Jess and Cathryn, and 6 easy miles today.  Total: 28.5 miles.

Here are some pics from my runs over the past 2 weeks:

Bay Trail marsh - near San Leandro Marina.

Marsh near the Bay Trail near San Leandro Marina.  Love the dramatic post-storm clouds.

Lake Chabot

Lake Chabot, looking lovely as always.

Green hills of Lake Chabot

The green hills of Lake Chabot

Running on the ridge of San Bruno Mountain. (Photo credit: Cathryn)

Running on the ridge of San Bruno Mountain with Jess. (Photo credit: Cathryn)

With the exception of the run at San Bruno Mountain yesterday, which was intense (2200′ elevation gain), I feel like I’m almost completely recovered from Oakland.  (For more photos and details on our San Bruno Mountain adventure, hop on over to Cathryn’s blog for a terrific write-up!)  This next week, I’m planning on doing a mid-week hilly run, a speedwork/tempo session, and a 20-miler, totaling about 38 miles.  Wish me luck!


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in random, Trail running, Training
8 comments on “Oakland Marathon – Post-Race Analysis & Recovery
  1. MILF Runner says:

    Great take-aways from Oakland. Lovely photos too :). I’ve a feeling Big Sur is going to be fantastic!

    Good luck!

  2. Cathryn says:

    I love your honesty here…that you may not like marathons. I can think of other bloggers who continue to run them even though they don’t enjoy them at all because that’s what bloggers do! I like your honesty so much. I think you’re right though that those final miles show what you’re made of – they’re where the epic marathon struggle really kicks in. But like Milfrunner, I also think Big Sur is going to be amazing.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks Cathryn! There’s a weird pressure amongst the blogger community to run marathons. Like you can’t possibly be a “real” runner unless you’ve done one… which is total b.s.

  3. Mike says:

    Gotta agree with Cathryn, it’s a keen and honest observation you make… the marathon isn’t for everyone. And that’s neither good nor bad, it just IS. Runners who don’t enjoy 100-milers run 50-milers, those who don’t like 50-milers do 50Ks, those who don’t like 50Ks do marathons, etc. They’re all wildly different races that require different skill sets AND mindsets. And none of them are easy.

    I enjoy the marathon distance, but I’m a huge fan of the half marathon as well because it allows me to run in a way the marathon never does. And every once in a while I’ll itch to do an ultra, just because I love the trails and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with longer distances. But I’ve run half marathons that were tougher than some of the marathons I’ve run… and not to fall back on the “typical American guy” defense here, but size (or in this case, distance) doesn’t matter.

    Running has nothing to do with the size of your blogging audience, or what they think you should be doing (since most of them are doing far less). This is your hobby, and you’ll only be doing it for as long as you enjoy it. Ergo, get out there and enjoy yourself! I think a large part of succeeding at any distance is being comfortable in your own running skin (though not necessarily during the race).

    See you in Big Sur!

  4. Jen says:

    Good points, Mike, as usual. One thing I’m wondering is whether I’ll enjoy the marathon distance more after a few more tries. I generally don’t enjoy things that feel overwhelming or like an unsolvable puzzle, which the marathon is for me currently. I guess I’ll be closer to knowing the answer to that on April 27th!

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4/28/19: London Marathon

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