Monday, November 8, 2010

US Half Marathon - 11/7/10

For the sixth Sunday in a row I was awake before the sun had risen to run a half marathon. This weekend it was the US Half Marathon right here in San Francisco. Thankfully, due to the time change I got an extra hour of sleep so I was feeling pretty good when it was time to wake up. Packet pick up was on Saturday at Sports Basement so I didn't have to get there too early since I already had my bib, but it was a 7am start. The start was near aquatic park and originally I had planned to take the scooter, but with the rain, I had no choice but to drive. Driving down Van Ness, I had a near heart attack when a car that was parked on the side decided to pull out right in front of me. It was still dark outside and coupled with the pouring rain, visibility was an issue, but to make matters worse, this jackass had no lights on on his car. He pulled out right in front of me, oblivious to my existence, and if it wasn't for the fact that the lane next to me was empty enabling me to swerve around him, there's no doubt I would have plowed into him. Nothing like a near accident to get your juices flowing before a race.

When you're driving to a race and your windshield wipers are on at full speed, you know it's going to be ugly out there. I sat in the parking garage not wanting to leave my warm car because I knew as soon as I stepped outside I was going to be soaked. Eventually I had no choice and made the move towards the starting line. I was following these three young guys, one of which was saying how he recently did a Susan G. Komen walk and was bragging about how many chicks were there. Um, dufus, you do realize that's a walk for a cure for breast cancer, don't you?! Of course there are going to be a lot of women there! I got annoyed with them so veered off in another direction as they continued to talk about how it was a good place to meet women.

I soon found myself in the huge line for the porta potties. I stood there for about five minutes when I realized I really didn't have to go. Why was I in this line? Maybe it was just habit, so I left knowing I'd be better off trying to find a place under some covering to get out of the rain instead. Unfortunately, all those places were taken already. I ditched my sweat bag and proceeded to the start. I was determined to start in the front of the pack this time and this meant getting up there early. I stood there for 15 minutes in the rain. By the time the race started there was not a dry spot on my body. I was shivering and cold, and ready to get running. As the race started we ran up a hill to put us onto Bay Street, and we passed the porto potties and all the people who were still in line for them. Luckily the street was wide enough that the people were able to move over to the side so we didn't collide with them, but ultimately, I don't think it was the best location for them. Starting out in the front is definitely the way to go. While there were still slower people at the front, you didn't have nearly as many to weave around, so I was able to come out with a 7:50 first mile and was pretty much free from the larger pack.

Initially, I wanted to wear my Nike Free Runs, but they are such a thin shoe I figured that wouldn't work with all the rain. I soon found out it didn't matter what I was wearing on my feet, they were soaked before the race even started. In fact, I wished I would've wore my Free Runs since they are a much lighter shoe then my Asics Gel Nimbus and wouldn't have been so heavy when water logged. This course was similar to a few others I'd run so I was very familiar with it. We headed down the Marina Green to Crissy Field passed the Sports Basement where they have their usual crew of employees out cheering everyone on. Mile four brought us into the Presidio which meant hills. Most of them I've run before, they aren't that long, but they are challenging.

After looping around the Presidio we found ourselves on the Golden Gate bridge. We weren't running the bed of the bridge, it was open to vehicles as usual, we were running on the walkways. The bridge itself isn't flat and you battle a constant uphill on it as well. When we reached the other side we circled down and under the bridge on a muddy dirt trail and came up on the other side. As I was running down the one side I realized that things weren't quite right. The faster I ran, the more I got a side stitch and I couldn't pinpoint why. I never have a problem with picking up my speed, but today I apparently was. It wasn't severe, but enough to make me back off a little and not feel quite as comfortable in my pace. As we came up the hill on the other side, I used the opportunity of a slow pace to eat my GU. It was the first thing I'd eaten that morning, and I started wondering if that was what my problem was. I'm usually very good about eating a little something before races, and that's the only thing I did differently. Regardless, at this point I was just over half way and started the run back on the other side of the bridge. I always like this part because you get to watch all the runners on the other side. And you'd be amazed at all the drivers who honk and yell words of encouragement out of the their windows.

We passed the nine mile marker shortly after we came off the bridge and I knew the course was basically all downhill from there. We ran down to Marine Drive and followed that to the point, and then headed back through Crissy Field. The rain was still coming down just as hard as it had been the entire time, but now it was coming down at such an angle that it was pelting me in the eye. I really wished I would've had a hat to keep it out of my eyes, but ultimately it was just more of an irritant than anything. I'd turned into a prune already back at mile five (pic taken after race), my clothes were plastered to my body, and running through six inch deep puddles ensured that my socks were nice and squishy. I can only imagine how awesome I must look in the race pictures and can't wait to see them.

It was around mile 10 that I started getting really tired. More tired then I usually do, and the next three miles reflected that in my pace. Mile 13 saw my pace drop all the way down to 9:26 which is not good considering it was all flat at that point. To somewhat of my defense, this is when the wind was at it's worst and we were running right into it which was torture. As if the rain wasn't enough. I was actually surprised how many spectators were out despite the rain. At one point during mile 13, there was a lady with her two small daughters out cheering everyone on. Our bibs had our names on them so people often cheered for you by name, which I love. I turned to her and said thank you, and she just started cheering more. The three of them were like my own private cheering squad.

After running back along the Marina Green, we ran up through the park at Fort Mason and this is when you could start to hear the announcer at aquatic park. There was also a female runner who had already finished that was walking towards us and telling us we were almost there. I always think it's nice when finishers cheer on people who are still running. I started wondering what her finishing time was and realized I wasn't paying much attention to what mine was going to be. I was so wet and miserable, and not really feeling like I was having a very good race that I just wanted it to end. And soon after it did. My GPS watch clocked me at 1:53:24 for 13.1 miles, but my official time was 1:54:20 due to the course being about a tenth of a mile longer. I thought my time was decent given the conditions and the hills on the course. I finished 45th out 506 people in the 30-39 age division, which is the top 9%. Total there were just under 3,000 participants with runners from all over the country and Canada.

It's disappointing the weather was so bad because this would've been a great race. The course is beautiful, but with the rain, looking out to the bridge or the water was just gray. I felt bad for all the people that flew in for it considering it was beautiful and clear the day before and day after it. You really did get a lot of bang for your buck for the race too. I found out about a groupon for it on dailymile that enabled me to register for $40 instead of the usual $80. Despite the discount, even for $80 it was still a well priced race compared to some of them I run. We each got a blue, long sleeved tech shirt that is quite cute, and when we crossed the finish line, instead of getting a bottled water, we were given water in a stainless steel water bottle with the US Half Marathon logo on it. They had a ton of free food including plates with rice, veggies, and chicken, or you could go the breakfast route and have oatmeal with all sorts of toppings including a touch of yogurt. I chose the oatmeal which I thought was delicious especially since it was warm. They also had self serve frozen yogurt, and all the usual hand outs from muscle milk, honest ade, and Gordon Beirsch was even there filling up your water bottle with beer as well.

All of our sweat bags were thrown in a pile under a gazebo which looked like a nightmare, but luckily for me as I walked up, I saw mine lying right in front of me. I couldn't wait to strip off my wet shirt and put on my dry jacket. I had pre-paid for a massage at the expo because I knew my adductors would need it given how they felt after the previous weekend. When I went to the tent they offered to give me a refund if I just wanted to bail, but I knew the massage would do me good, even though I really feel massages should be free at the end of a race (which usually they are). As I stood there waiting for my turn, this nice spectator saw me shivering and put his blanket around me. I wanted to give him a huge kiss I was so grateful for his kindness. When it was my turn the massage therapist told me he recognized me and that he thought he worked on me before. I told him he hadn't, since this is only the third massage I've received post race, and he said that he has definitely seen me around at races before then. I'm not sure if he was confusing me someone else, but I guess I have done my fair share of races. After 20 minutes of massage heaven where I was covered under warm towels, it was time to go. A hot shower never sounded so good.

I set out to run six half marathons in six weeks and this was the last in the series. I'm not sure why I wanted to do it, probably just to see if I could. I told myself that when I'm training for a marathon I would be putting in equally as many miles if not more, so what's the difference. Truth is, there is a difference. Marathon training runs are not races and I run them at a nice and easy pace. For each of these races, I ran really hard, and with the exception of the San Jose Rock and Roll doozer, I'm happy with all my times. I've learned a lot about my body and recovery during these six weeks through the help of my sports med doctor who I will continue to see on a regular basis. I also know that while I'll still keep running, it's time for me to take a couple weeks off from racing.

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