Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The San Francisco Half Marathon

What an awesome run! So far, my favorite race hands down. I know plenty of people I spoke to were worried about the hills. I was too, but I had studied the course elevation and it didn't look that bad to me. Maybe it was the hill training I do simply by running around my house (at the top of a hill LOL).

So Sunday morning my alarm goes off at 4:30 am for a 5:54 race start (my particular wave). If this race were at home, I would be leaving my house before 4:30 to get there on time, but lucky me - I am staying at the closest hotel to the start. Wheee! 4:30 am is still pretty frickin early though. I get dressed, don my number, grab some water and some shot bloks, pack the backpack my H would be holding and we head out of the room. The plan was to grab a banana from the hotel continental breakfast, but they were all green so I just grabbed some water instead. I didn't want to risk intestinal discomfort. Not that it mattered to everyone - more about that in a later post.

So we walk out the door of the hotel and the first thing I noticed was the commotion right outside! The second thing I noticed was the incredible chill in the air. I knew this would be a good thing, but I was slightly worried about my muscles being too cold when we finally started running. I found my wave (VERY organized BTW - we had actual corrals to keep us straight! Unlike other races where if I wasn't in my wave before everyone got there, I would be waiting with the slower runners and would expend a good amount of energy trying to pass people), kissed my husband, handed him my sweatshirt, warned him that I was going for a PR and to be at the finish no later than 8:00 am, and proceeded to alternate jumping around/butt kicks/jogging in place with stretching for the next 25 minutes or so. I could hear the announcers talking - heard the first three waves of runners be started and then when the announcer said my wave would be taking off in about 5 minutes, I realized I had to pee.

At first I thought it was the nervousness that made me feel like that. There was no way I would be able to get into a port-a-potty in that time, nor would I be able to get to my room and back, so I just hoped that either it would go away once we started, or I would find a restroom along the way with no line. I wanted this race to be a PR! I could have gone and just started with a different wave, but I also didn't want to get stuck behind a bunch of slower runners and have to expend energy cutting around them. Again, this was the crazed part of my brain that wanted a PR talking. It soon became a moot point, because we had started and a was quickly over the start.

As with most of my longer runs, race or not, I spend the first two miles wondering why the hell I would do this. I'm not in my rhythm yet, usually a shin muscle will start to hurt, and I feel tired and sluggish. But the start is no place to walk, and with the others around me, I don't dare stop. Stopping in front of someone is bad form - more runs should know this. But I digress.

I see my husband about a 1/4 mile in - I ran past him, gave him a quick butt smack and was on my way. I hear him yell at me "Keep running - you got another 13 miles to go still!" Thanks for telling me - I think I forgot. LOL But I still have to pee. After assessing my ability to hold it for the next two hours, I decide that is too much, especially since I need to keep drinking liquids. I will need to find a restroom at some point, so my hunt for an unoccupied toilet began.

A little over 2 miles in I got to the first water stop, where I normally give myself about 30 seconds to walk so I can drink my water and not choke. I also spy the first set of port-a-potties - damn, a line. I keep running. I'm doing so well, I can't stop now! And then I hit the first hill. A steep hill right at Fort Mason. But it was mercifully short and over quickly, plus it was at the beginning of the race so I had plenty of energy for it.

Maybe a mile further I spy a park restroom a little off the route that looks open! And a couple people were heading that way, but no line! Whew! It was worth the tenth of a mile extra distance and the 60 second delay. Later my husband was appalled - thought I would see a bum sleeping in there. But I didn't. No harm, no foul. Also, this is the first time I spied the Golden Gate bridge, shadowed in fog - my ultimate motivation. Even though the first half marathon was rumored to be harder with more hills and a more aggressive time limit than the second half, I knew I needed to run over the Golden Gate. I would kick myself if I chose to do anything else.

One more aid station, and I see the only hill that I felt was going to be an obstacle. Steady and long uphill, but we had a great cheering section with the cutest man beating on a pot with a wooden spoon. I got to the top with minimal walking and headed onto the Golden Gate bridge. Now, don't ask me why this was so cool, because I don't have an answer for you. It boggles my mind to figure out why this was such a thrill, but regardless, it was. In fact, the next five miles (a pretty huge chunk of a 13.1 mile race!) revolved around the bridge. This part of the race flew by - the beginning of the bridge was a gradual uphill, challenging but still relatively easy, and the end was a gradual downhill which made me feel so strong! Because we were shrouded in fog, I couldn't even tell where the end was, until I was almost there. Off the bridge, a quick loop and an aid station, and then I was getting back on the bridge, running the uphill, looking forward to the downhill, and the last three miles of the race! Just a 5k, right?

I was still feeling strong, but was starting to tire. It was still the best I had ever felt at mile 11. We started to head through neighborhoods, and this is where the majority of the crowds subsided. There were a few people outside of their houses, but nothing like on the other parts of the course. It was right about there that the rolling hills started.

Don't get me wrong - I like rolling hills. You work hard on the short uphill and you gain speed while still catching your breath on the downhill. I guess I have never done rolling hills after this many miles. I stopped to walk too many times. Eventually I had to resort to counting my steps again. I kept thinking maybe this was the last hill, and then you would crest it and see the next one. It was tough mentally. I looked down at my Garmin, and saw I had less than 10 minutes until my goal time but I had no idea how much further.

(side note: yes, a Garmin calculates distance, but it counts all the weaving you do to get around people, to aid stations, etc. so it always measures a longer distance than an actual race. And of course I had that side trip I took to the restroom, so I had no idea how close I was)

I reached the park and saw the crowds, and wondered where my husband would be, and if my family even made it out of bed. I mean, it was barely 8:00 am! I also wondered how much longer it would be before I saw the blessed 13 mile marker. It wasn't right away, I tell ya. I kept checking my watch and had almost given up on my 2:15 goal. I was almost there, and no finish in sight. Thank goodness I had seemed to have crested my last hill at that point. Small victories, you know?

Finally, I see the finish, and again, inexplicably, I get a burst of energy and sprint to the finish line. I check my Garmin, and I am over 2:15 but who knows by how much according to the official time. Who cares? I still beat my previous PR by 13 minutes! I even had the strength to smile and raise my arms for the camera as I passed the finish line!

Immediately after I had started walking, my legs start to cramp up and I hear my husband call my name! I grab a water, follow the group to the course exit and meet up with him. I was thrilled. I felt strong. I felt fast. And I still do. I will never discount how hard those silly rolling hills were, but for the most part, I was prepared. I am so glad I did the first half!!! Yay!


  1. Fantastic job, A! Keep up the good work.

  2. I left a comment on your spark page but I'm SOOO SUPER DOOPER PROUD OF YOU!

  3. congratulations!! you are my hero!!

  4. YAY! You're such an inspiration! Way to go!!


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