US Half Marathon Redux

Today I ran the US Half Marathon in San Francisco for the second year in a row. I went into this race knowing that it would not be a fast race. But I had enjoyed the race last year (despite all the rain), so I decided to run.

Prior to today’s race, I hadn’t run more than 5 miles since the NWM on October 16. I had bronchitis through most of October and took about 9 days off of running. I did a few short runs this week, but nothing that really counts as training. I was a little worried that I would still feel a little sick today, but no cough, no sore throat, no runny nose, woohoo! I felt good the entire race, my legs got a bit tired (mostly sore feet) but that makes sense considering my lack of training. I am happy to report that I beat my last half marathon’s time by about 7 minutes so I feel pretty good about my performance.

Thankfully, today was fall back and even though I woke up at 4am I was able to get about 7 hours of sleep (maybe the most before a race). I headed up to San Francisco, easily found parking, and made my way to the starting line. There seemed to be many more runners than last year, but maybe that was due to the rain last year. The weather was perfect, cold and clear morning. The city and bay looked great and provided their normal wonderful scenery as I ran. I had planned to do the “run 1 mile, walk 1 minute” plan. I ended up running 3 miles, walk a minute, run a mile, walk a minute, run 2 miles, walk a minute, run 2 miles, walk up hill, run 3.5 miles, walk a minute, run a mile, walk a minute, run to the finish. This was due to how I felt and the congestion of the Golden Gate Bridge.

So apparently due to Presido Park Project, the race organizers couldn’t use their previous race course. What this meant was that runners were only able to use the west sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge and we ran up the Marin Headlands (yikes!).  Having 5000 runners on one sidewalk on the GG Bridge wasn’t fun. There were a few bottlenecks and I stood without moving for about 4 minutes (I included this when figuring out my race time, as far as I can tell chip times haven’t been posted yet). I have seen/heard a lot of racers complain about this and no it wasn’t fun. But you know, I’m glad that we were still able to run the race and use the GG Bridge. I felt like the race organizers did a good job of communicating this change and it was beyond their control so it was bottlenecks or no GG Bridge. I was less excited about running up the Marin Headlands but running down and seeing the breathtaking view made up for it.

I made my way back and crossed the finish line to retrieve my metal water bottle (I love that they do this!) and my medal… oh wait no. I guess there was a snafu in the medal manufacturing and they made the medals for the April race. So we will have our medals mailed to us. I also heard a lot of complaints about this too but it sounds like it was out of the race organizer’s control. They announced it at the beginning of the race and offered discounts to future races (that to me was enough to cover the mistake). Last year they mailed my shirt to me and I received it fairly quickly, so I’m confident I’ll receive the medal in due time.

 

Overall, I’m pretty happy about today’s race. It wasn’t fast but better than my last race and makes me think with some training I might (fingers crossed) be able to finish the Big Sur Half Marathon in 2 weeks under 2 hours.

 

Racing in the Rain

A year ago, I had not run more than 6 miles in one outing. Around this time, last year, I thought about running my first half marathon. Last weekend, I completed my fifth half marathon this year (and I’m signed up for my first marathon on May 1, 2011). The craziest part to me is that I completed three of these half marathons in five weeks.

Kevin and I headed in San Francisco on Saturday, Nov. 6. It was a beautiful, clear day and it seemed so unlikely that the weather reports predicting rain for the following day could be accurate. We had decided to take BART into the city to avoid finding and paying for parking. We checked into our hotel and headed out to hop a shuttle to the race expo. The shuttle, expected to come every 20 minutes, took 45-50 minutes to pick us up. By the time we made it to the expo, shirts had already run out (apparently not all the boxes of shirts made it to the expo but they are mailing them out to us), and the shuttle driver told us that his was the last shuttle of the night. Well, we headed into the expo (held at the Sports Basement, a nice sports shop), picked up my bib and timing chip, as well as a pair of running pants (on which I saved 15% thanks to my race entry). Kevin convinced me that it might be better to have them instead of just my normal running shorts (he was right!). The race organizers got the shuttle service to pick us back up and we headed back to the hotel. Kevin and I then headed out for a delicious Italian dinner (carb loading!) and then back to the hotel so I could get plenty of sleep.

As usual, I kept waking up, worried that I would over sleep. With the time change, this probably could not have happened, but nonetheless I worried. I got out of bed at about 5:30 and heard the rain. Dang it! When I got down to the lobby, I saw a few people with trash bags. Perfect! That will keep dry and I can just toss it before the race. I found a hotel employee, got a bag, made a few race friends (Dora & Greg), and we headed out to the wet starting line of the US Half. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting in the rain (wet but thankfully not very cold), the race started and off we went.

I had a good idea of what to expect of the race course,

as the hills seemed similar to those I ran at the NWM. After running up hill for a few miles, we headed out to the Golden Gate Bridge. Running over that bridge equally terrified and excited me. I am terribly afraid of heights and I don’t even like driving over the bridge. I worried that it would be even worse in the rain. Actually, I really enjoyed running over the bridge. What I did not like was the volume of the rain and cars, making it difficult to hear runners behind me and a few moments of bumping into a fellow runner. A quick turn around after the bridge and we headed back.

I had not planned on PRing at this race. I knew that my body was tired, the hills would wear me down, and well the rain didn’t improve matters any. I tried to just maintain a steady pace. However, my race bib had my name on it and along the way random spectators would cheer me on and I couldn’t help but run faster at those moments! I can’t tell you how great it is to hear people cheering you on throughout the course! On the final hill, I allowed myself to walk a bit just so I could conserve some energy. I came over that hill and could see the finish line. Then I saw Kevin and I knew I was almost done. Once I saw him waving and cheering for me, I took off and sprinted to the finish line.

The organizers gave us great medals and a reusable stainless steel water bottle. What I really wanted, however, was my jacket that Kevin had. However, it took me forever to put it on, my fingers had gotten so numb. Finally, I had my nice, warm, dry jacket on and Kevin and I headed back to the hotel. Fast forward through a long, hot shower and a delicious Belgium waffle breakfast, and we headed back home.

This is my last half marathon of the year. I have a 10k Turkey Trot coming up and that will be my last race of the year. This has been an incredible running year for me, and I loved (almost) every moment of it!