Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘1st Half Marathon’

A half-marathon victory

I’m not going to lie: Sunday was one of the best days I’ve had in a very long time.

It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s the truth. From waking up feeling good, to deep relaxation on the 50-minute ride to San Francisco, to being smart enough to stop at a super secret public bathroom so I wouldn’t have to wait forever at the start line, to the pretty lanterns above my corral — the 1st Half Marathon of the San Francisco Marathon was a race of redemption for me.

I am thankful that after months of self doubt and second guessing, I feel as if I’m finally coming out of my running slump.

I ran strong and I felt absolutely unstoppable at the end, even with the major hills that slowed me a little.

My morning started off with a 5:30 a.m. view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. My husband dropped me off near the start line in downtown and I walked over with a huge group of people, including a man wearing jeans. I keep hoping he wasn’t actually going to run in them, but I know sometimes people do.

Based on a 2:25-2:30 finish, I was in corral six. There were two more corrals behind me, which meant that, no matter what, I’d have time to run the course if I needed the full three hours. I honestly wondered whether I would a couple months ago. I kept telling myself that, with the hills, I’d be closer to my Nike time last year of somewhere around 2:53.

I signed up for the corral during a particularly optimistic moment apparently.

It was dark at the Embarcadero.

I thought it was kind of funny my shoe laces, despite the sun not yet rising, were still bright as ever. I immediately went to my corral, despite having more than 30 minutes to wait. I was told race officials actually close these corrals. The bathroom lines were LONG everywhere. I’m convinced there were not enough bathrooms at all. Every stop had a line of 10-20 people.

The sun was coming up a little in this self photo with the bridge behind me. I was feeling good. I don’t know why, but I was feeling as if I could run on and on. I didn’t know if I could, though.

The time ticked on in corral six as Bart Yasso, the chief running officer at Runner’s World magazine, bantered with the emcee. It honestly wasn’t that long between the 5:32 a.m. initial start and my 6:12 wave start. And the San Francisco Marathon officials were prompt in their starting times. No kidding. We literally went off at 6:12 a.m. That’s probably the first time that’s happened at a race.

We weren’t actually lined up at the actual start line all that long. But here it is. There weren’t a ton of people in my corral either, or at least with all the space it didn’t seem that way.

With a quick countdown, we were off.

Mile 1: 10:13 — It didn’t feel as if I was running in the 10s here. I was just trying to move along the waterfront without tripping over someone. Good thing about this race is that there are so many fewer people that walk than Nike. That’s great because the Embarcadero has changing surfaces, including some cobblestone.

Mile 2: 10:18 — My heart rate was great, feeling good. Started thinking about the second mile in races in general. It tends to be pretty tough for me sometimes.

Mile 3: 11:47 — The first hill. Not huge, but the moment I started moving up, I had a sharp pain in my left glute. I wasn’t sure what it was, but thought, maybe, it could really derail the race for me. I went a little more conservative. I did a Gu at the first water stop.

Mile 4: 10:47 — Downhill through Fort Mason where the sprinklers had been on just before. I kept hoping I wouldn’t slip. I didn’t, but it seemed like an unnecessary hazard.

Mile 5: 11:27 — And we’re climbing again. Up a huge hill. By this point, I was feeling really good. Five miles in under an hour? I was amazed with myself a little. Go me! (Super fast people are probably laughing when they read this, but a lot of my problem is thinking I can’t run fast. I’m trying to get over that.)

Mile 6: 13:34 — OH. MY. GOD. HILL. I remembered it from Nike. I took little baby steps for the most part, then started moving up in more of a walk. This was the ascent to the Golden Gate Bridge too. Once I got near the bridge I started stepping it up, not believing I was almost halfway done. And still feeling good.

Mile 7: 11:45 — I remembered, as I entered this mile, that I needed to do another Gu. I didn’t get to until the Marin County turnaround.

Mile 8: 12:01 — I kind of had to go to the bathroom, but couldn’t because there were SO MANY people in line. Seriously. And there were people using the actual bathrooms too. Fail. I know there are a lot of people running, but maybe invest in more portable toilets?

Mile 9: 11:37 — Back across the bridge after a Gu. I did notice the three-percent elevation climb and downhill on the bridge. No horrible, but not great either. I just kept on running. Scary moment near here, though. A car seemed to move into/close to the “buffer” lane. Suddenly all the runners heard tires screech. Everyone around me turned around thinking someone was hit. That wasn’t the case, but it was troubling.

Mile 10: 11:47 — Continuing up that huge hill after the bridge. I looked down and was still coming in under two hours. AWESOME! I remembered my time on the easier second half course last year was 2:35:30. I wondered, could I get that?

Mile 11: 11:09 — A nice downhill here after reaching the top of the hill.

Mile 12: 12:04 — The ending uphills begin. In retrospect, I was supposed to do a Gu at mile ten, but forgot. I think I was on a runner’s high and thought “I can do this!” and didn’t bother. It started slowing me down here.

Mile 13: 11:59 — More uphill, as my body was getting tired (only a little), definitely need to remember that to finish strong I need to do the Gu.

Mile .26: 2:18 — I’m obviously over, which is because I wasn’t running those tangents well on the hills, but I look down and I’m still coming in under my time last year on the EASIER half.

Official time: 2:32:45

I couldn’t believe it. I’d run better on tough course than I’d been able to run in nearly every race before. I came in only seconds after my Oakland Half Marathon time and that course is nowhere near as hilly.

What’s changed? My diet is different. But I’m also doing more incline training when I run on the treadmill. I’m also running smarter and adding speed workouts to my training. It appears to be working.

I grabbed two bottles of water. I was thirsty, even though I carried my handheld. There were only water stops every two miles. A lot happens in two miles, even on a cool San Francisco day.

I was particularly glad to be handed a space blanket. The fog on the bridge left my hair soaked and my clothes damp. I put back on my long sleeve and wrapped myself up after I went and grabbed this special medal:

It’s my “prize” for running the 2nd Half Marathon last year and the 1st Half Marathon this year. I know the pictures aren’t great, mainly because I was trying to take them at night, under a lamp. It’s a huge spinner medal, with images from both runs on either side of the spinner. I wore it proudly around the finish line area.

Speaking of which, the 2nd Half Marathon was happening right around us, along with full marathoners running nearby.

I wasn’t even in pain. I’m thinking my Nikes LunarEclipse +2’s are much more awesome than I thought. My husband and I had planned to hike in the Marin Headlands, back across the Golden Gate Bridge, but instead decided on a trip to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. We walked around checking out the place for nearly two hours.

Then, hungry, we headed back to the East Bay where we stopped at one of my favorite pizza places in Oakland, Lanesplitter on Telegraph Avenue. During graduate school I lived right down the street from Lanesplitter. I spent many nights eating pizza while working on my master’s project for UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

I think it’s fair to say Lanesplitter got me through graduate school.

You can see why. Amazing salads. Huge slices. After a half marathon? A major win.

I’m still excited, days later, about my run in San Francisco. I’m hoping to take that excitement into the Brazen Racing Summer Breeze Half Marathon this weekend. But I think it might be asking too much for another performance like that.

Right now I’m just happy to know I still have it in me. I can still do it. And that makes for a good day indeed.

Save(d) me, San Francisco

See that face? That’s a happy face.

I had a good run. No, maybe a great run. Was it a PR time? No, but I did better on the tougher 1st Half of the San Francisco Marathon than I did on the more gently rolling 2nd Half last year.

And I ran the Golden Gate Bridge and got soaked by the fog. My hair was heavy and wet as I ventured to Golden Gate Park and the finish. The hills were killer, but I got through them.

My official time: 2:32:45

I felt strong afterward. I even walked for more than an hour, maybe even two, around the San Francisco Botanical Garden with my husband. No pain, no cramping.

I’m stoked. I’m even more stoked to run another one this weekend (but trying to temper my enthusiasm in case I don’t do as well as I did this weekend). Full race recap coming soon.

Prepping for the streets of San Francisco

About a year ago this time, I was toying with the idea of starting a blog. I kept thinking to myself that I should write about all the races I do and the expos I attend. I didn’t want to because I wanted to brag. I did so because I kept wondering, when I was going to all these things, what I should expect. I wanted to know how long waits at expos were. I wanted to know if certain races were worth he money. I wanted to know how difficult courses were from honest people, as opposed to race organizations.

I found all those things on blogs. I started reading more and more running blogs over the past year. I remember walking through the San Francisco Marathon expo, picking up my bib and shirt for the second half marathon, thinking it was time. By September, I had started a blog. That half marathon would the last I’d run without “documenting” it.

So today I found myself coming full circle as I waited in line at the expo for the 1st Half Marathon that I’ll be running. I immediately started taking photos of everything, as I’ve done for the past year or so.

I was near the beginning of the line as the expo opened at noon. My husband went in to work in Richmond, across the bay, today so I took a ride on BART over and did a little shopping before doing the 1.1 mile walk to the expo. It’s kind of off the beaten path, accessible by public transportation, but just as easy to get to by walking.

In the line, I was in front of a guy complaining about the line being long and a “six-hour wait.” The expo wasn’t even open yet. Dramatic much dude? Yes, yes he was. More annoying was that he was talking about topics that just seemed like he was bragging to everyone around him.

After only about twenty minutes waiting, including about 10 when the expo wasn’t open, I was within the first three batches of people to go inside.

This expo is held in probably the biggest location of all expos I’ve been too. The SF Design Center is a long hall, which makes it easy to navigate through if people don’t stop right in front of you. (That happens. A lot.)

The first thing was bib pickup. Because the expo had just opened, I forgave the girl who told me I was in the wrong line when I wasn’t. She fumbled through the bibs and took awhile to finally get mine. No big deal. Then I headed over to the shirts.

I hate to say this, but shirts are always a point of contention. They can often be the reason people don’t sign up for a race the next year. I’m not even kidding. I’ve seen people post comments on Facebook pages saying they wouldn’t be back the following year because the race shirt had “cheapened” the experience. Do those people follow through? I don’t know. But they sure make a fuss.

I’ll be honest: I’m not in love with this year’s shirt.

That’s what I saw when I first walked up to the shirt table. The shirt is a nice blue color, but has huge writing on the front. It also has the lead sponsor’s logo, big, on the sleeve.

You can really see the deep blue color of the shirt in the above photo. The “13.1 miles” is printed on the back, right-hand side. I don’t have a qualm with that, not at all. I also like the wraparound graphic with the Golden Gate Bridge, which I’ll be running this year for the first time ever.

But it’s kind of busy. I’m a fan of simple lines, something well-designed and not an overt advertisement for a specific race. That said, I was a HUGE fan of the 2011 design.

I still wear it all the time. I’m actually planning on wearing it as an upper layer for the race since we’ll be starting before dawn. I liked it because the print was simple. Plus, the race organization’s imprint was small on the back while also being specific to the 13.1.

My phone is obviously showing the colors a little off. The orange shirt is more like the color of the first than the close-up shot. In any case, I love that shirt. I love the color. I love the print. I’m probably in the minority here, though. A lot of people commented immediately after the race last year that they hated the shirt.

When voting opened this year, people actually said they wanted blue or something closer to the previous colors. They also complained about the long-sleeved aspect.

The biggest difference this year is branding. Last year’s marathon and half marathons didn’t have a sponsor until nearly the end. That’s likely the reason for the increased sponsor-name everywhere. In any case, I likely won’t be ordering a second shirt this year. Does that mean I won’t sign up next year? Of course not. Race shirts are hit and miss. You can’t please everyone. And I’ll wear it. It just won’t be my go-to shirt during the winter.

I walked around the expo after picking up my reusable race bag. This year, organizers made a good change by moving the official race merchandise to the end of the level with bibs and race shirts. Last year, it was incredibly close to the rest of the goods. It made for a cramped, uncomfortable experience.

The problem with all the “official” merchandise is that there’s not a lot of half specific stuff. I don’t like wearing a race shirt if I didn’t actually “run” what it says on it. Even my Brazen shirts that say 5K/10K/half marathon are a little weird to wear. I often feel the need to tell people which I actually ran. (I do this ALL the time with my Nike Women’s Half zip up, which I still want to get embroidered to say “13.1.”)

I did pick up a pricey, but nice water bottle.

I then walked the concourse a little bit, but didn’t really go crazy. I tried some Clif Bar samples. I chatted up some race officials from various races. I was tempted to sign up for Oakland Half Marathon on the spot, but there’s also a code to do it in the virtual race bag. I’ll likely sign up using that over the next couple weeks.

I stopped by the Sweaty Bands booth and picked up two new ones: a sparkly black one and a light green one.

I really like the ones I bought last year, even though I don’t wear them often.

Then I came across a booth for a product I’d seen reviewed on some blogs lately. The Clean Bottle is a cool concept. Both the top and bottom screw off. I scored four today for $20. (Compare that to the $24 I paid for the official race water bottle that I can’t even run with and will likely be bottle for work.)

One of the bottles is the “in hand” model that I can put my iPhone in and hold while I run. Like my Amphipod bottles, the bottles can be used interchangeably with the others. I’m looking forward to trying it out on a run next week. I won’t be using it for the half marathon, if only because I don’t want to try something new on race day.

I know one thing: It’s likely this will be my treadmill running bottle.

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the expo this year. I looked at some Nike clothes. I was tempted to try on some shoes, but after what my feet went through with the Sauconys earlier this year, I didn’t want to go there.

Overall it was a quick trip in and out of San Francisco. The lines weren’t long, only because I went early. I wasn’t easily tempted to buy anything. The things I bought I needed. I head back the the Market Street area and the BART station to meet my husband back in the East Bay.

But not without stopping for some pre-race fueling with cupcakes.

I think it’s a little dangerous to have a cupcake stand right next to the entrance to the BART station. I was doing so well and then I saw that. And they had S’more cupcakes. And ones with sprinkles.

At least I’ll burn it off (kind of) at the race, right?

I’m a little scared of the hills, but have been doing resistance training this time around. I’m more scared of running across the bridge because of my fear of heights (yep, even on a bridge), but I’m ready to get up and get going for this one. I’m even more ready to be done running before it’s even 9:30 a.m.

Here’s hoping for a good race.