Tuesday, July 28, 2009

San Francisco's 2nd half marathon RR

Ok, well not only had I never ran this race before, but before Friday, I had never even been to California before, so this was all new to me. I found it really interesting that SF offers the option of either racing the 1st or 2nd half of the race. I was tempted to run the 1st half and go over the Golden Gate Bridge, but after seeing the 5:15 am start time, I decided on the more civilized 2nd half 8:15 start, which I had heard was relatively flat. Flew in to SFO, got to my hotel The Intercontinetal on Howard st (which I highly recommend), and sent my wife shopping at Westfield Mall (just around the corner) while I hit the Expo. Some nice freebies and samples. Got a massage and bought an extra Stick to work on loosening up my calves and right achilles which has been troubling me recently. Even spent $30 on Recovery socks for after the race and the plane ride home. I'm still wearing them now (just got home, and I really feel that they've helped)/

Saturday was spent seeing the sights, taking the streetcars around the city. Met up with my friend who's been living down in CA for the last few years and he also drove us around and we had a nice pasta dinner together.

Sunday Morning, I had a nice walk to the marathon starting line where buses transported us up to the start line of the 2nd half. It took a ridiculously long time to drive there which really drove home how far 13.1 miles can really be. It's funny but it often seems easier (or at least more pleasant) to run that far than drive it. Cheered on the Marathoners, and hit the bushes af couple of time before the race start.

My goal for the race was to break 1:46 and qualify for Corral C in the Chicago marathon. Previous PR was 1:48:xx in the Toronto half marathon (a much easier course). I've been training for the Chicago marathon and everything's been going well except for the tight calf, so I felt it was doable. First few miles were a little slow, I was trying to hold myself close to 8:00 min/mile (1:45 goal), but I was going too slow on the downhills to make up for the pace on the uphills, the 3rd mile was a disaster after having a water break near the end of that split lowered my pace for mile 3 down to 8:17! Oh oh, wouldn't get the job done like this. Started speeding up a bit more ignoring pace at this point and just ensuring that my HR didn't spike too much as I let my legs flow easier through the downhills and pushed the pace on the ups. Started running 7:40's, and 7:50's. Faster than I had planned but I figured if my HR was staying so low (still mostly in the 140s, but my Max is just 170) I could get away with it. Crazy steep hill getting out of the park (much steeper than anything I would see in Toronto) but it was only @200m.

Next thing I know I'm runing down Haight, and pass the Ben & Jerry's at the corner of Haight Ashburry. Felt right at home now, since I had driven past here during my friends guided tour of the city. Just didn't realize I'd be running here. By this point I had completely accepted that in San Francisco relatively flat means continously rolling hills, but at @ mile 7 I almost lost it to find myself about to run down the steepest hill I had ever been on! I'm a big proponent of very small steps on the downhills, and a smooth fast turnover, but this was terrifying! I was running crazy fast down the hill passing loads of runners. I desperately was trying to slow down without using my legs to brake but can't fight a hill that steep. Cross street gives me a couple of seconds of relaxation before block # 2 of this madness starts up. I'm just praying that I don't trip and go flying. Survived the hills and peeked at my watch to see that for this lap I'm averaging 6:22 min/mile for the last 2 minutes! I was terrified about a potential toll on the quads later on in the race, but besides making my steps as small as possible and not being mentally prepared for anything like that, it was the best I could do. HR was low after that mile still, but quickly went over 153 as I continued to hold my pace well under 8:00 min/mile. Was getting a little weary around mile 11, but perked up when I found myself running around AT&T park which was a fun surprise. I momentarilly let myself lag back untill I realized what was happening and discovering people I had been running near were now 100m in front of me. I decided that this race, I was going to hang in there and push hard to the finish no matter how hard I had already raced. I knew that I pretty much had guaranteed to break my goal, but I wanted to see how much more room I could squeeze under the goal. Gave myself a stern "Suck it up Princess", and pushed on. Quickly passed the guys that had been ahead of me and kept setting new tagets. Less than a mile to go. Don't stop now. Push, Push, Push. Not really going much faster, but the effort is cleary there. All of a sudden poof I find myself on the Embarcadero, and the cool day I had been running in changes into a bright hot sunny day. Doesn't matter cause I know that it must be @1/2 mile left. Go feet Go. I hear the finish line now, but still can't see it. Push. Finish line. No posing for the cameras here, but I do think I managed to smill for them, especially as I saw 1:44:xx gun time. Ran the last mile @ 7:39.

I was ecstatic with the result. I nailed the goal, and recovered from a slow start for ever faster splits. And I didn't get sucked into believing the Garmins numbers since I knew that I would probably run closer to 13.3 miles. Actually between the Garmin's innacuracy and the crowded course (had to dodge the full marathoners) I ended up at 13.4 miles. Was quickly joined at the finish line with my sweet wife who promptly supplied me with a towel and a dry shirt and we strolled along the finish collecting some freebies. Then my celebrity loving wife got all excited to discover a CNN booth, were Larry King was about to present a panel on exercise & fitness, with a focus on getting kids involved. So she hing around that while I stretched until we both decided enough was enough and took off.

Sorry for the long race report, and I salute anyone silly enough to read the whole thing. But, it was a great trip to SF, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the race. Hope to come back and do it again someday. The only downer was I felt bad for all the full marathoners who were being passed on all sides by us 2nd half marathoners. I wanted to cheer them on, but realized I could end up doing that the whole race and needed to focus on running my own race. Did cheer on a couple of marathoners who really stuck out though. Especially this big african american guy dressed in what I can only describe as traditional ceremonial african garb, i.e. a red loin cloth with fabric hanging over the front and back. He joked back something about needing more body glide. At least I hope he was joking cause that thing could HURT! But besides the awkwardness of passing the marathoners, I thought it was a great event. I also enjoyed all the trivia boards and answers put up along the course. Although I missed most of them and invariably never saw the answers to many others. Just felt like a lot of nice touches out there.