Ahhh Kaiser. A race I had no desire in running that turned out to be my PR race.
I signed up for this race on about 4 days notice – I had zero expectations, I had barely trained (the longest run I’d done was a 10-mile race 2 weeks ago, and had run exactly two times this week), but yet it was a big half-marathon in SF, on Superbowl Sunday, and in beautiful weather. I’ve been really working on speedwork (but over short distances of no more than 5 miles), so why not give it a go? I knew I had to do it.
A former co-worker of mine was also running the race, and she coincidentally lives about .5 seconds away from me, so we decided to carpool in the morning. She hadn’t raced in a while, but had hopes to break 2:00, and I wanted to beat my previous PR of 1:55 (even if it was just by a second. Seriously 1:54:59 would have been just fine with me.)
I woke up at the lovely 6am hour Sunday morning to pitch black darkness. Always a great way to really get things going. After subsisting on a mini Luna bar for the 10-miler (and ending absolutely famished) and the 5K, I reverted back to my marathon training ways, and went with the tried and true for breakfast.
Whole Wheat English Muffin, Almond Butter, Honey, Cinnamon, Pumpkin Pie, Spice, Banana
Paired with a steaming hot mug of black coffee with added cinnamon. (Attention runners- cinnamon has some qualities in it that ahem help aide in digestion before early morning races.)
I updated my playlist (well first I deleted said play list, then I added back all of the songs about 3 minutes before I was due to head out the door.)
I grabbed my Garmin, tune belt, phone, headphones, a lemon-lime Gu, and headed to the car. I picked up Melissa and we headed to Golden Gate Park. We had heard there was a parking garage at Fulton and 10th but we saw no such parking garage. After circling around the block, we started to get a little nervous… we had about 30 minutes to race time and I needed to get my bib, while Mel needed to check her bag.
Then it happened.
While driving in the opposite direction, I spotted a moving truck (read: taking up 5 spots on the street) pulling away, opening up a large section of curb for parking, about 25 feet from where the race started.
After completing what I’m sure was a highly illegal manuever, and narrowly avoiding an oncoming bus, we were the proud owners of the most perfect and coveted parking spot. This was going to be a good morning indeed.
After seamlessly getting my bib and checking Mel’s bag, we did a quick stretch, and got ready to run! We started about 5 minutes behind the gun (thank goodness for chip timing!), planned to meet at the finish, and took off.
Mile 1 summed up in one word? Weaving. I think I added about a tenth of a mile during that first stretch trying to get around everyone. It was definitely a crowded race, but luckily, the streets were wide, and not too tough.
I decided once I crossed the start line that I was going to try for all sub-9:00 minute miles. If I could do it for 10 miles, I could do it for 13 right? How hard could it be?
The first couple of miles looped around Golden Gate Park and the Panhandle and were a little boring, had some small rolling hills, and sufficiently had me entirely lost. I don’t usually run in the park, so I had absolutely no idea where we were going, or how much further. (I also forgot to even glance at the course map so I had not a clue where this race ended.)
Right around mile 4.5 we hit JFK Drive, a blissfully wonderful 2.5ish downhill/flat stretch that took us to the edge of the park and to the Great Highway. Miles 7-10 was run along the Great Highway, with the ocean to our right, and the sun shining overhead.
Can you tell where the downhill portion was?
Seriously, what’s not to love about a course like this?
Especially when you get to run along the ocean.
It got a bit hot, but nothing unbearable. A huge upside to this race was that there were 7 water stations. 5 water only, and 2 electrolyte only stations, that were so well stocked, easy to grab a cup, and really saved me. I took my Gu right around mile 7, and it was the perfect amount of fuel for the race. It gave me the energy I needed to finish hard. I also took electrolytes at both stations (mile 6.5, 8.5, and 11.5). The nice part about the out-and-back on the Great Highway is that we hit two of the water/electrolyte stations twice.
To battle the boredom of the out-and-back, I started playing a “pick off the person directly in front of you” game. This woman smoked me, but you can’t say I didn’t try.
I felt solid the entire race. Clearly running at a faster pace for my shorter distances (in the 8:00′s) was paying off in a big, big way. The best piece of training advice I could ever give out is to run faster you have to train faster. It’s hard, and it hurts, and it sucks at first, but as someone who has never run this fast in her entire life, it works. I never felt like stopping, or slowing down, and seeing the 8:xx on my Garmin only pushed me further ahead.
See 8:00 minute miles? I knew we’d get chummy this year.
Apparently there are no smiles and waves when running 8:xx miles. Just sheer determination. And TOE STRIKES!
Right when it got to be a bit much, we hit mile 10 and the turn-around point, and back down the Great Highway we went. I had just assumed the race ended at the Great Highway, but oh no. That would be too easy.
Coincidentally at mile 12.5 I was hit with a pretty intense side stich. ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME. I was holding the most consistent splits of my life, and now this is going to happen? It hurt to breathe in, it hurt to breathe out, and I was incredibly concerned I was going to walk the last .5 miles of the race. This was also of course when the race directors decided to be cheeky and cute and have the last .5 miles to the finish line be uphill. What kind of a sick joke is that?
I sucked it up and pushed hard.
While my Garmin said 1:49:58 as I crossed the finish line, my official time was 1:50:36, and while officially it wasn’t a sub-1:50, it was damn well a 5 minute PR from my last half-marathon in November, in the thick of Marathon Training. I also crushed my sub-9:00 minute/mile goal.
I like the look of this.
The below shot would be my “YES sub-1:50!” face before I realized the error of that damn half a second.
(and yes that is an arm warmer in a triple knot around my sports bra. I’ve lost 2 pairs of arm warmers in the past 2 races I’ve run, and I was not about to lose my beautiful sweat wicking ones that were a Christmas present from boyfriend.)
I blame this for that half-a-second delay. Also, lady to my right, I apologize for slamming into you after we crossed the finish. You just can’t slow down the kind of momentum I was feeling.
Which led directly into a “WHERE IS THE CHOCOLATE MILK?”
(Arm warmer #2 would be wrapped around my wrist. Basically the picture of efficiency.)
A few minutes after crossing the finish line, Mel came flying through with a beautiful SUB-2:00 time. As we navigated to the food and shirts, I ran into one of my very best friends (and bride-to-be!) Stacey, who quite literally killed it and ran a personal best of 1:33, placing 15th in her age group. Speed Demon.
I thought this was an excellent race (and no that isn’t just the 5-minute PR talking.) For the massive amount of people who ran it, it was extremely well run and efficient, and there were little to no lines anywhere – the bathrooms, the bib tables, the bag checks, shirts, snacks, etc. There were more than enough water and electrolyte stations that were incredibly well-staffed with volunteers, and ample medical tents if people needed help. It was a fast and flat course, and I will absolutely be back for next year’s race.
Extra credit to the Clif Bar booth who so graciously gave me an entire Chocolate Coconut (best flavor EVER!) Clif Bar post race rather than a bite-sized piece on a toothpick. People don’t forget.