Monday, April 8, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll San Francisco Half-Marathon Race Report

I debated going to the gym on Friday but in the end I decided that since I planned to run 13.1 miles in a couple days with almost no training, best to get some rest.  Saturday night I got all my gear out and prepped.  It's amazing how much stuff you need!  Run clothes, body glide, hat, sunglasses, bib, safety pins, Garmin watch, heart strap, race belt, music, energy bloks/gels - and that's just the stuff for the actual race.  Then there's a change of clothes, pre-race water, etc, etc, etc.  I tried to go to bed early but I couldn't sleep.  And then Marek woke up at midnight with a nightmare and I was up for a while longer.  I think in the end I got about 4 hours of sleep.  Not ideal.

I got up at 4:20am to shower, eat breakfast and have some coffee.  I also took an allergy pill and two Immodium ADs to try and avoid GI issues.  My friend Laurie arrived at 5am and we were on the road shortly after.  I picked up another runner friend, Deanne, on the way into the city.  We were lucky enough to find parking just a couple blocks from the start.  Deanne went to meet her friend and Laurie and I went off to find the VIP area.

Just one of the tables.
We walked into a room with a spread of food (bagels, fruit, etc) and plenty of beverages.  The folks at Competitor sure know what they're doing.  Despite eating breakfast I was hungry so I had a half of bagel with a bit of cream cheese (oh, dairy, bad call).  We hung around for a while chatting up the other VIPs (most of whom were connected to the sponsors of the race in one way or another) and prepping our stuff.

We had a nice view of the start area from the balcony.  The area where people are milling around is actually the finish chute.

Aquatic Park and the start area (all lit up)
So I was feeling very relaxed with no pace goals and very few expectations of myself, which was nice.  It was a pleasant sort of anticipation, wondering what would happen.  Like reading a fun mystery novel. 

I hadn't been sure what to wear but in the end chose tights and a short sleeve top.  Starting temp was a pleasant 54°, not freezing my ass off like I was expecting.  We headed over just before the 7am start.  They had over 20 different waves based on pace.  Laurie and I were in different waves so I snuck into hers (wave 15), which I think was a 2:15 pace.  They had each wave take off with a "10, 9, 8..." countdown, kind of fun.  Our wave took off at 7:20am.

Almost immediately after we crossed the start line we had a small hill to climb.  Despite my plan to walk all the hills, I couldn't bring myself to do it this early in the race and it was a short, not steep hill anyway.  After that we had a nice downhill followed by a couple miles of lovely flats.

Elevation profile
I tried not to glance a lot at my Garmin, I didn't want it to influence my go-with-the-flow, easy, comfortable pace.  But of course, I had to look now and then and seeing something in the 10 minute per mile pace made me happy.  Miles 4 and 5 were the exception (as was mile 8) because of the hills.  Anyway, by the time we came to the next good sized hill around mile 4 I felt good enough to run up it.  I just took it slow and easy. 

I'd lost Laurie somewhere in the first couple miles and she showed up right when we started the hill.  Turns out she had to use the porta-potty.  We ran together for a while, chatting and posing for pictures at every opportunity.  I lost her again before the Golden Gate Bridge.  The hill leading up to the bridge was a challenge but I managed to run up that one too.  At this point I started to think I might be able to run the whole thing, but I also knew my legs/endurance could change that at anytime.  We ran on the public walkways on the bridge (the roads were not closed), which was fairly crowded.  I got momentarily stuck behind slower people here and there but mostly I was able to run a comfortable pace. 

The weather was just perfect for running - cool and cloudy with jut enough wind to keep my shirt dry.  I did my best to look out at the view of beautiful San Francisco.  I'd wore my headphones and was so glad to have them.  Normally, if I were going all-out, I'd need to hear my breathing to keep a nice rhythm going but this was a slow, easy run so I could listen to the music instead, which was lovely.  The route was very well signed, with huge mile markers at every mile as well as signs at the 5k and 10k distance. 

Just over the bridge and I saw the first and only band I remember seeing on the run.  Maybe there were more, but I don't remember them.  There was a threesome of steel drummers too, which was cool.  That morning I'd been chatting with a Competitor staff member in the VIP lounge and told her this was my first Rock n Roll half marathon. She let me know that this would not be a typical RnR experience because of difficulty getting permits for bands (due to power, amplification, etc type issues) on the Federal parkland property where most of the run took place. 

So, very little music on the run but what they did have were cheerleaders - and I loved them!  They'd invited high school cheer leading squads out to cheer us on and they were outstanding.  I liked them more than the bands.  They were so enthusiastic, so full of energy and encouragement it was great.  And some of the signs were very funny, I wish I could remember them now.  

So after the bridge we ran on a trail for a while we worked our way down and under the bridge. I was zooming down that trail!  The view was spectacular and some people even stopped for pictures - I couldn't imagine doing that.  Then it was a nice, evil hill during mile 8 to climb back up for the return trek on the west side of the bridge.  I managed to run up that hill too.  My hips were bothering me and my calves had been feeling a tad crampy for most of the day.  But I just told myself that I could walk if/when I needed to, that my calves have felt that way before and not cramped up, and that all I could do was run for as long as possible so don't worry until you have to.  That line of thinking kept me calm, cool and collected.  As did the people watching and sight-seeing. 

I kept wanting to run up to people and say, "great day for a run, eh?", but not everyone's as dorky as I am so I kept my trap shut.  And then Laurie caught up with me again, yay, I could chat a bit with her!  We discussed post-race beverage plans and the possibility of a full 26.2 in October, among other less important things I'm sure. 

Back over the bridge and a glorious downhill back to Crissy Field.  We ran on the walking trail on Crissy Field for a while, which was a bit annoying because it's covered in a fine gravel, making it feel like the running is a tiny bit harder than it needs to be. But it was flat and I was still in the 10 minute per mile range so that made me happy.  Normally I eat 2 shot bloks every 3 miles but given my lack of training today I was eating 2 every 2 miles and they were definitely keeping me going.  I drank a few sips of water at every water station (without stopping of course) and had a few sips of Gatorade at the last one. 

And suddenly I hear, "Michelle?". I glance around, surely no one is calling me.  "Michelle, is that you?", I glance again - and it's Cori!  Cori reads my blog and we got to meet back in January for lunch.  She lives within blocks of the race venue so she came out to cheer me on.  I was so shocked and happy to see her!  I got a double high-five and lots of encouragement.  What a cool thing to do, thanks Cori!  It was an awesome boost to get me through those last few miles.  Too bad I didn't have a camera with me to snap a picture.

Finally I see the mile 12 sign - only a bit over a mile to go!  My hips were achy and my calves were about the same.  And I was ready to stop running.  We came to the last hill and Laurie took off.  I let her go and then after a few moments something clicked and I decided to catch her.  So off I went, zooming up the hill.  Where that surge came from I don't know but I caught her before the top.  I zoomed down the other side of the hill and then there was the finish line about 1/3 of a mile away.  Yay!  Laurie passed me, encouraging me to keep up with her the rest of the way but I couldn't, which was fine.  Well, I'm sure my body could have if my mind had been willing.  Or a dog was chasing me. 

So I rolled toward the finish line feeling so damn happy I was able to run the entire race without walking but mostly happy that I was about to be done running.  The music was blasting, people were cheering and I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:18:31.  Woot!

My Garmin (full stats here) gives me an average pace of 10:31 minute miles but that's because it's spread over 13.17 miles instead of 13.1 miles.  Here's my official finish stats, with an average pace of 10.34.  I am so happy to have finished above the 50th percentile in the Overall placement, a first for me and an unofficial goal I've had for a while.  Now I'll need to find another place-related goal.  And I'm super happy with my 173/550 for my division (F 40-44).  If I do this race again next year and they do the same route I'm going to crush this 2:18 time!

Laurie finished in 2:18:01, thirty seconds ahead of me, so she was right there when I finished.  We got some finish line pics taken.  This race had more photographers than I'd ever seen at a race event.

We got some fun run pics too but I am waiting to see the finish line pictures (which I'm hoping they just haven't gotten to post yet) before I decide which ones to buy.  Here are my fave run pics so far.

There were tons of post-race beverages including a Jamba Juice, chocolate milk, Gatorade and of course water.  And Power Bars, pretzels and other snacks too.  So we grabbed a few things and then went up to the VIP lounge.  The Mimosas were flowing so I had one of those and a little bit later a ham and cheese croissant sandwich.  Before too long my stomach started bothering me and it just got worse as the afternoon wore on.

I hung out at the venue listening to the band (The Mowgli's) and going over the race.  But back home in the late afternoon my stomach was in serious knots.  And I ended up throwing up too.  I managed to survive the rest of the day but it wasn't fun.  I think I might have had too many shot bloks, and I'm sure the champagne didn't help (though I know it's not all that), and maybe more water during the race?  Who knows, but I hope it doesn't happen next time.  My half-Ironman dreams might be hampered if I don't.  

Anyway, I can't tell you how happy I am with how I did!!  This is over, my lungs are clear, and once I'm recovered from this race I can dive back into my exercise routine with no holding back.  By the time I'm up to speed it will be time to start training for my next event, the See Jane Run half-marathon in June, and a week after that the Tri for Fun.  I just might have to go for a PR on both of those. 

Great event Competitor, welcome to San Francisco and I hope to join you this time next year to do it all over again!  I'll close with a post-run picture of Laurie and I on the balcony overlooking the finish line.  Happy running everyone!!