Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ZombieRunner SF Trail Half - 6/18/11

After being down with the flu and laryngitis for over a week, I was finally feeling decent enough to run even though my voice wasn't 100% back. This race was on my schedule and I was excited to run it since it was a trail race in San Francisco, and the elevation gain wasn't too crazy - only about 1100 ft. I woke up and after a quick shower to clear up some of my congestion I headed to the race start at Crissy Field. The parking gods were with me, and despite the fact that the parking lot was completely full, as I pulled in, some car literally right across from packet pickup happened to be leaving and I was able to snag it. Who needs a sweat check when your car is only yards from the start/finish.

It was a beautiful day; the sun was out, and it was already getting warm, which made running attire an easy decision. Definitely no sleeves. The race started with around 160 people running the half marathon. We headed out of Crissy Field, down the Marina Green, and turned around at the Safeway before running back to where we started. As we passed the start, the 10K runners were all lined up waiting for their race. We'd run only two miles and I could already tell I was still recovering from being sick. My body felt tired and heavy, but I knew this was a race I had no expectations for, and could take it as slow as I wanted.

We headed to the Presidio, and it was just after mile three that we hit our first set of stairs that took us up toward the bridge. We continued our ascent until we reached Lincoln Blvd, where we ran along the trail that ran beside it. From here it was a nice and easy downhill section before diverting down towards Baker Beach. We had a bit of a flat stretch, but it became quite tough when we had to run through thick, dry sand. The sand killed me, but luckily it wasn't for more than a quarter mile, and at the end was an aid station with M&Ms, trail mix, and all the goodies you could imagine. I awarded myself with a handful of M&Ms.

We headed off the sand and onto the paved roads of Seacliff Ave and El Camino Del Mar. I've run through this area during other races, and the houses are incredible and provided a slight distraction to the fact that I was again making a pretty good climb towards Land's End. We jumped onto the trail at Land's End which marked the most ups and downs of the course. Lot's of short steep uphills and downhills, and plenty of stairs. Thankfully, the trail was heavily shaded, but it didn't make it any easier. My legs were tired.

Just after mile seven, we made our way down the curving trail and the long flight of stairs to the Sutro Baths. At this point, I'd made it to the turnaround and I knew everything I had just done, I had to do again, going in the other direction, and it started with climbing the stairs next to the ones I'd just descended. At the top of the stairs, there was an aid station where I refilled my water bottle. More M&Ms and a dixie cup full of Coke and I was ready to make my way back. The Coke was a test, I'd never had soda during a race before so was a bit curious to see if the sugar would help. I couldn't tell if it did, but it was good.

By the time we exited the trail that ran through Land's End, I was thoroughly exhausted and knew I still had sand and the very long uphill along Lincoln Blvd. I made it to the top, passed Baker Beach and knew the rest was downhill. Soon after, I found myself back in Crissy Field running the last mile and half toward the finish. I finished with a time 2:07:41. That was an average 9:45 pace and earned me 6th place out of 28 in my division. For a true trail race, I was very pleased. I'd managed to run the majority of the uphills, while walking a good portion of the stairs. Trail running was a bit tough on my ankle, especially in the sand, but it held up really well, and nothing could beat running along the coast, with incredible views on a sunny, clear day.

(checking my watch as I prepare to cross the finish)

Like with all trail races, when I finished, I felt like I'd run a marathon versus only a half marathon. I was pleased to find out that there was a huge spread of candy, cinnamon rolls, brownies, snack mix, fruit, cliff bars, and a ton of other munchies at the finish to indulge in. I really worked up a sweat on this run, and was sufficiently coated in salt, and felt I earned the right to devour anything I wanted. Which I did.

Trail runs: I love them, but they kick my ass. I've decided not to have a separate PR for trail races. The elevation gains are just too different, and therefore, you can't really compare them, just like you can't compare trail races to road races.

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