Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Giant Race - 8/27/11

A trip to Switzerland last year kept me from running this race, and after hearing all the good reviews on it, I registered early this year since I knew it would sell out, which it did. The timing fit in perfectly with my marathon training schedule as it was a recovery week requiring lesser mileage. After a typical Friday night these days of no alcohol and a pasta dinner, I went to bed looking forward to a flat and semi-shortish run (in comparison to what I have been doing) in the morning.

Being that I was oncall and needed to have a laptop nearby, Annelyse and I decided to drive down to McCovey Cove for the start. We picked up Zoe and Kirsten on the way, and encountered a wall of cars trying to get into the parking lots. We decided to veer off and park on the street in a two hour parking space. Zoe was doing the 10k, and I knew I'd finish the half marathon in under two hours, so we figured one of us could move it in time. The advantage of this was the start was a mere block away. And while we never actually moved the car and were well over our two hour limit, we lucked out and didn't get a ticket.

We left the car, checked our sweats at gear check, and ventured to the start where I got to wave a quick hello to Hannah, Meaghan, and Connie who were all running the 10k. I jumped into the corrals near the front and after a few words from Olympian Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who was running the half marathon, we set off in perfect running weather - cool and overcast. I had some lofty goals for this race. With the exception of the hill at Fort Mason, it was flat. I wanted a PR, and having looked at the race results from last year, I wanted to place in my age group. I went out fast and my first four miles were all under a 7:14 pace. The lanes heading out to Pier 39 on the Embarcadero were closed down allowing us ample room to run.

It was near Pier 39 that the 10k turn around point was, and where we split off. Myself and the rest of the half marathoners ran around Aquatic Park to the base of the hill that climbs up and over Fort Mason. While short, this hill is no joke. Luckily, it's one I run ALL the time, so I was more than prepared for it. And your reward for getting to the top is a downhill through the park to the Marina Safeway. Shortly after we passed Safeway, I heard some people calling my name, and realized it was two girls from my running group who were out on their Saturday morning run. I love my running group, and it was fun seeing some of them on the course.

As we ran along the Marina green toward Crissy field passed the Yacht Club, the wind picked up a bit. This is usually the case around this area, and while it wasn't that strong, I definitely felt it. It always just makes me feel like I'm working that much harder. My pace dropped a bit, and my legs were feeling fatigued from all the miles I'd been putting in the weeks previously. I took my GU earlier than usual this race thinking I would need it. Right after doing that, there was a water station at the warming hut where the turn around was. I took some water this time to wash down the GU, and being the horrible basketball player I am, when trying to throw my cup in the garbage bag that a small child volunteer was holding, I hit him in the face. I felt horrible, so had to go back and apologize.

We were now headed back to the finish along the sand path at Crissy Field. We had six miles left, and this is where I was feeling the worst. I was really starting to question if I was even going to be able to PR. As we came off the trail, we ran beside all the runners heading toward the turn around point. Almost immediately I passed Annelyse for a quick high five before continuing on. Further down the Marina Green, I saw Emily and her mom as well, and we yelled out a quick hello. I then saw something odd, the entire 2:45 pace group had stopped and were all taking a picture together. It wasn't until later that I was told Brian Wilson of the SF Giants was out there cheering everyone on and taking pictures. This clearly explained why Emily was so busy typing on her phone when we passed. I don't follow the Giants, but it was clear by his dress and the casualness of it, that this was something Brain Wilson did on his own accord. Big props to him for taking time out to give a bunch of runners a big thrill.

(Emily and her Mom with Brian Wilson)

Next, it was back up and over Fort Mason, and we headed to the Embarcadero. There were many more tourists and spectators out now watching us all run passed. I had no idea what place I was in. The field was very spread out and I was running with mostly men. One lady passed me at mile nine and she was the last female runner I saw for the rest of the race. I struggled the last few miles, and it took everything I had to hold a decent pace. This course I could run blindfolded. Not only does it follow the same route as a lot of my long runs I did before joining my running group, but I also run it at least 1-2 times during the week. I knew exactly how far I had left, and AT&T park couldn't come soon enough.

Finally, the stadium came into view, and slowly I began to close down on it. I ran by Red's Java House and soon after rounded the corner of the stadium where I saw Hannah, Meaghan, and Zoe waiting for all of us half marathoners to come in. The runners entered the stadium through a gate at center field and ran along the outfield in the dirt toward the finish in left field. I was finally done, and I was exhausted.

Before we were funneled up the stadium seats we were given our medals, yogurt, granola, and water and walked just outside the third baseline to the stands. It was pretty cool being on the field, but I will admit, my yogurt had all my attention. We then walked along the concession stands and gathered our goodie bags, race shirts, Tim Linecum bobbleheads, and even more food and drinks. I must say, the giveaways for the race were quite good, although I'm not sure what to do with my bobblehead.

I made my way out of the stadium to where my friends were, and was thrilled to run into Mary who had just finished the 10k. I slurped down my chocolate milk while waiting for the other two half marathoners, Kirsten and Annelyse, to finish. When everyone finished running, we all went for brunch where I had exceptional coffee, and maybe the best breakfast burrito of my life. Thanks to Kirsten for introducing me to Sunrise! Sitting there inhaling our food, we all realized (or those of us that kept track) that we each set PRs, including Annelyse who beat her PR by over five minutes, and Kirsten who is getting so close to breaking the two hour mark. Not a bad day on the race course!

In the end, even though my watch mapped the course at about .15 miles long, I did set a PR, but I didn't place in my age group. The field doubled this year, and there were some really fast runners (not to mention an Olympian). I did manage to pull off a fifth place finish out of 322 in my age group though. While I did PR, this was a much harder race than I anticipated, and I'm sure the 50+ mile weeks were taking a toll. I've also realized that while I'm running these high mileage weeks, if I'm trying to PR, I do much better when I take the day off before the race to let my muscles rebuild so they aren't so fatigued on race day. Another lesson learned.

Race stats:
Overall Female: 21st of 1405
Age Group: 5th of 322
Chip time: 1:37:49 (7:28 avg pace) - race was .15 long
GPS time: 1:36:47 (7:23 avg pace)

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the PR! Good job finishing so quickly, too -- I heard the finish got STUPID crowded around the two hour mark, to the point that some runners couldn't even get across the finish mat. Neat race!