“A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.” - Walt Disney

Monday, August 8, 2011

Race Report: San Francisco First Half Marathon

We arrived in San Francisco mid-day on Friday, and after getting a quick bite of lunch, we headed out for a little exploring.  My mom is a native Californian, and we took many family vacations out there when I was growing up, so we're all pretty
View from Point Lobos
familiar with the area, and we each had certain things we wanted to see and do.  We drove past my great-great-aunt's old house and the house where my grandfather lived as a teenager.  We walked through Golden Gate Park, then headed over to Point Lobos and took a short and easy hike along the coastal part of the Land's End Trail.  We rounded out the day by driving south
Dinner with old friends on Friday.
of the city to meet up with some friends of mine, who recently moved to Redwood City, for dinner.  We had a yummy meal and a great time catching up!  Unfortunately, the long day of traveling and the time change also caught up with us pretty early, so we headed back to the hotel to crash.

"The Race Even Marathoners Fear."
Saturday morning we got up early and headed to the Expo and were waiting in line when the doors opened at 9am.  We quickly got our bibs, shirts, and goody bags, snapped a quick photo in front of the "The Race Even Marathoners Fear" sign, and started browsing the rest of the Expo.  I really
Mom making signs.
wanted to get a tech shirt, but wasn't happy with the options being offered for the Half distance, so I didn't get anything.  It was a smaller Expo than I'm used to seeing at Disney, but the upside was that most of the booths were giving away some pretty good schwag - lots of good samples and freebies to be had!  The highlight of the Expo for me was getting to meet up with a message board friend from Georgia who was running the Full - she and I had never met in person, but by texting we were able to meet up - so much fun!

Seafood lunch at Fisherman's Wharf
We spent the rest of the day Saturday bumming around the city - driving the race course and stopping several times along the way.  We had lunch at Fisherman's Wharf,
Walt & me
did a little shopping in the Presidio at Sports Basement with our coupons from the Expo, and enjoyed a few hours exploring the Walt Disney Family Museum in the shadow of The Golden Gate Bridge.  After a quick stop at Trader Joe's for some snacks for Sunday, we stopped for an early pasta dinner at a small italian restaurant close to our hotel.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to do all of our race prep and turn in for another early night - race day means an early wake up call!

The Race:
4:45am. @ Ferry Building
We were up at 3 am to be out the door by 4 (for some reason, even though I'm always excited/nervous, I move super-slow on race mornings - so I have to allow some extra time).  And, even though I'd very carefully laid out all my race gear the night before, I somehow managed to forget to put sports shield on my feet - but more on that later.  We made it to the Embarcadero Center parking garage by 4:30, where some very nice security guards let us use the building's bathrooms before leaving the complex, then we headed down to the wharf, the Ferry Building, and the start line, which is where things got a little hectic...

At the start line.
Some of the UPS trucks that were "delivering" the gear bags to the finish lines hadn't shown up yet (not the best way to advertise, guys), including the one designated for my bib number, so I had to leave it with a volunteer at a table and hope for the best!  After hanging around for a bit, and a not-so-quick port-o-potty stop (the lines!), we all split up - Mom left to get on the spectator
View of the Bay Bridge from my corral.
shuttle and Dad and I entered our corrals.  Being in Corral 7 (8 total), I was positioned back towards the Bay Bridge, so as the sun was coming up I had a great view!  Dad was in Corral 5, and he started at 6:02.  After Corral 6 left, they let us move up to the start line, and at 6:22 I was off and running, too (pardon the pun)!

1st Half Elevation Chart
Being in San Francisco, the course had plenty of hills, but they start you off nice and flat - running along the waterfront past the piers and, of course, Fisherman's Wharf.  Even though they'd announced that at 58 degrees it was the warmest race start in 10 years, this leg was almost idyllic.  Compared to the 100+ temps in Dallas all summer, 58 felt amazing, and there was a good breeze off the water.  I did a good job of sticking to my intervals here and not starting off too fast - the first few miles I was right at a 13 min/mi - just where I wanted to be!  The first hill was right about the 2.5 mile point, and, with an 80 foot elevation gain in just over a tenth of a mile, it was a doozy!  I'd
Crissy Field - approx. 4.5 miles
already decided that I would walk the hills, so up I walked!  With a corresponding downhill portion just after, we were quickly back down to sea level and another 2 miles or so of flatness.  Mom's first spectator stop was at Crissy Field, just past 4.5 miles, where she snapped this shot of me (no, I'm not running backwards, mom yelled at me to turn around for the pic).

Mile 5: Bridge approach
The next leg of the race was: THE BRIDGE!  Even though there is a serious uphill section leading up to the bridge approach (150 ft in about half a mile), I was really looking forward to this.  After all, running over the bridge was the whole reason I was running the race in the first place! So after trudging up the hill, and quickly stopping for a picture, there I was - at the entrance to the bridge.  Awesome.  This race is the only one in San Francisco where they actually close lanes of traffic and let the runners on the road deck, so it's really special.  The Golden Gate Bridge is LONG - you just don't realize how long it really is when you're in a car!  The bridge is actually an out-and-back, so in total, we were on it for
about 3.5 miles!  The turnaround was at Vista Point where there was a GU/water stop & a gorgeous view of San Francisco.  There were also "real" bathrooms here, but I was feeling good and didn't want to waste time - I knew I had very little to spare!  [Funny side note: I was so wrapped up in experiencing the bridge that I kept forgetting to take my gel!  I'd tell myself that at my next walk break I was going to pull it out of my belt and take it, but then I'd get distracted and all of a sudden it would be time to run again.  I went through quite a few cycles of this before I made the concerted effort as soon as I stopped for a walk break to pull out the pouch and take it.  Guess that's one downside to such beautiful scenery!]

Leaving the bridge.
Coming off the bridge, there was another steep hill (again about 150 foot elevation gain in 0.5 mile).  Even though I was expecting it, this hill really took it out of me .  I ended up flipping around and walking up it backwards for short stretches (I had read somewhere that this uses different muscles than forward walking or running, so it's a nice break for your legs).  Finally, Mile 10 was the top of the hill and the point in the course I had been looking forward to the second most: a mile-long downhill stretch.  And when I say downhill, I mean it - this baby just shot down - it even had a couple of small switchbacks!  I ran almost the entire mile, taking advantage of the downhill momentum and practically flying (for me).  I was able to regain some of the time I'd lost by walking the hills, and even built up a decent time cushion (about 4 minutes by Mile 11).  I was a little worried about my knees here, so I was careful with each step to make sure I wasn't putting too much pressure on them.  Also at this point I started feeling a little bit of calf cramping - I guess I'd been going uphill so much, my calves were complaining at the downward motion - but nothing that I wasn't able to work out by keeping moving, fortunately!

Entering Golden Gate Park - Mile 12.5
And then, finally, was the last homeward stretch - coming up the Avenues towards Golden Gate Park.  I don't know if I hadn't registered the incline up 26th/27th Ave when we were driving it, or if I'd just blocked it out, but looking up from the bottom of that street, I knew I was in trouble.  With the exception of the intersections that flattened out for cross traffic, it was pretty much uphill the whole way.  Not steep like some of the other hills, but most definitely a pretty decent grade up.  I knew I had a cushion of a few minutes, so I ran where I could and walked when I needed to (definitely more walking
Nearing the Finish!
than running, with some backwards walking up the hills in there, too).  Over the the span between miles 11 and 12.5, I let my time cushion slowly erode away to almost nothing.  After finally reaching the top of the hill and turning onto the street adjacent to the park, I knew I needed to keep up my pace to finish in under 3 hours and be an official finisher - my real goal for this race!  As I turned the corner into Golden Gate Park, I waved at mom, and was so glad that it was mostly downhill from there to the finish.  Keeping a close eye on my Garmin, and my overall time, I stayed with my intervals, and at the 13 mile marker kicked it into gear and finished strong!  Yes!!!

My new medal!
My chip time was 2:59:36.  What a huge sigh of relief - I made it!  Then it hit me - not only was I an official finisher, but at almost 6 minutes faster than my fastest half, I'd also set a new P.R.!!!   Wow!!!  After grabbing a water, I got my medal (yay!) and a mylar blanket, which was most welcome since I was cooling off fast.  Getting my checked bag out of the pickup area was a little bit of a nightmare, but at least it was there.  Knowing that they'd said the last bus back to the full marathon finish line was
The finishers
going to leave at 10:15, I grabbed a post-race goody bag with food (banana, plum, Panera Bread scones), and briefly looked for the promised Irish Coffee, but didn't see any - darn it.  The line for the buses was outrageous, but they kept assuring us that more buses were coming and they wouldn't leave anybody behind.  Finally on the bus, I headed back to the Embarcadero to meet up with Mom & Dad.  After taking some pictures and relaxing a bit at the finish line, we got in the car and headed back to the hotel to clean up.

After showering, we spent the afternoon relaxing and reviewing our Garmin data and pictures from the race.  I also had to treat matching blisters on each foot - thanks to me forgetting to apply the Sports Shield earlier that morning - ugh.

The 3 of us with Great Aunt Carol.
We'd gotten in touch with the extended family earlier in the week and planned to get together for dinner that evening further inland in Danville, CA, which is where my great aunt lives.  We met up with everyone about 5pm, and enjoyed a nice dinner with the family.  (I hadn't seen these cousins in over 25 years, and they kept remarking that the last time they'd seen me I was only "this high..." and holding their hands about two feet off the ground).  It was nice to catch up, but we were all pooped from our early morning and the race, so we left about 8pm.  Back to the hotel to pack, and then lights out because we all had early flights out of SFO the next morning.  And that was the trip!

All in all, I can truly say this race was, as billed, "Worth the Hurt."  I have such a feeling of accomplishment that has lasted days and still feels fresh to me, even now, when I think about completing this one.  So what do I do now?  Why, sign up for the 2nd Half in 2012, of course!  After all, I've got my eye on that "Half It All Challenge" medal!!!
The "Half it All Challenge" Medal - my goal for 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome race report. You did an amazing job - congrats on the PR and on a super tough course!!!