Sunday, July 26, 2009

San Francisco Half-Marathon

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 4; 16th Edition
423.6 miles raced in 2009

Race: San Francisco Half-Marathon
Place: San Francisco, CA
Miles from home: 738 miles
Weather: 50s; cloudy

It is a rare occasion anymore where I go to a race and during the run I don't have a particular goal in mind. Be it pacing, Charity Chasing or pursuing a personal best, I usually have something going on. Not so much this weekend.

While I was able to have glorious time speaking and signing books at the San Fran Expo, I knew that because of my rapidly approaching US Aquathlon Championship race, this half-marathon would be more or less a relative jog.

I chose to run the 1st half marathon offered (covering the first half of the marathon course) as opposed to the latter covering the second half in 0rder to run across the Golden Gate Bridge. It is hard to believe that a few years ago, the golden Gate bridge was not part of the course. Any race in San Francisco worth its salt needs to incorporate this beautiful structure. Now races need to work on making sure you can actually see it.

Race morning:

There is no one temperature i have been accustomed to this year. From California to Mississippi to Washington State to Florida to Indiana to Kentucky to Nevada to Fargo to Minnesota and to all points in between, I haven't experienced any one particular climate for any length of time. In fact, I have gone from one extreme to the other on numerous trips. On race morning, near the end of July, I was not expecting 54 degree weather with a chill in the area. While Mark Twain has been mistakenly labeled the author of the quote: "the coldest winter I have ever spent was a summer in San Francisco", whoever said it was right. The temperature definitely created a brr factor, one which made me wish I was racing!

Fortunately, I was not "racing". I don't mention it very often but for more that a year now, I have had an Achilles tendon problem. It has hampered me and worried me. Unlike sore muscles, you just do not want to mess with an AT. Well, either the AT has gotten a little worse or I have just become a little more aware of it lately. I honestly think it is the latter. Regardless of the cause, it hasn't stop the niggling little pain. So just "running" would be good idea. I did, however, want to throw in some speed. With the run portion of the Aquathlon being a 5k, a distance so short to me that i often run double that before I can even wake up my legs and have them tell me what sort of day I am going to have, picking up the pace today was a must.

As we counted down the start to the race, at the ungodly hour of 5:30AM, I was ready to go while holding myself in check. The word "Go!" was shouted and away we went.

Normally I can break down mile times and tell you how I was feeling. Fortunately for the brevity of this report, I neither saw half of the mile markers nor hit my watch to see what my splits were. You see, about half of a mile into the race, the 3:00 pace group leader appeared behind me with his charges. I figured that a 1:30 for the half seemed like a good idea, so I decided I would
stay with this group. The stay was made even more friendly when a few of the runners mentioned they now had a "celebrity" in the group. I honestly, turned and looked around to see who they were talking about before realizing they meant me. "Great," I joked. "Pressure!"

With the first 3-4 miles being about as flat as you can be, the group was well on pace for their 3:00 goal. We passed Chrissy Field where I ran my 12 hour race last fall and i remarked about how the weather could not have been more different. I would have loved these conditions in that race. up ahead, the Golden Gate loomed to our right. well, at least I think it loomed. The fog obscured just about everything.

The second real portion of this half-marathon was the climb to the bridge and then the out and back across the fabled span. The hardest hill on the course is what takes runners to the foot of the red spans and the group handled this hill like a champ. We then crowded into one lane with a few runners abreast, as we crossed over the Golden Gate Strait and headed towards Sausalito. The aforementioned fog made visibility off of the bridge close to zero. No Alcatraz was spotted and no sun to be seen. I have to admit that I was a little winded. I could not have been more glad to be running the 13.1 miles instead of the longer distance all of these fellows were running.

Before the turn-around across the bridge, I saw my running friend Kim Duclos, as 2:44 marathoner who was out to hopefully get a little paycheck (She ended up taking 3rd overall! Way to go Kim!) I cheered her on and could see she was in fine form. After turning and heading back, tons of runners came into view. I have always been a fan of these out and backs that allow runners to see and cheer for each other. I saw no fewer than half a dozen good running friends and we were able to slap hands and wish good luck. Crossing the bridge meant nearly 10 miles was done. one of the wonderful things about this is the fact that I only had a 5k left to do, not 16 miles. Man, halfs are wonderful.

As we started down one of the bigger downhills left for half-marathoners (and marathoners too, if I recall the course properly), I started to handout some advice to the runners on how to tackle both the up and the down. I hadn't really been paying attention to the time and having not seen mile markers or mile markers being relatively absent, I hadn't even been clicking my watch to see if we were on pace. when we hit the mile 11 mark I could see we were a few minutes ahead. I know the pacer was doing an even effort pace, not necessarily an even split but with the first half of the course being the harder half I wasn't sure his pacing was all that right. But it was not my place to questions so I kept my mouth shut.

Climbing through some of the streets of San Francisco, I could see we were rapidly approaching the place where the marathoners would turn away and leave the halfers like myself with about a half mile left to finish in the Golden Gate Park. At the split, I stopped running for a bit and turned back to see the runners who may have fallen off the pace group a little bit. I stood there for about 30 seconds and cheered on the ones I recognized and told them that they were dead-on (for those who were) and simply encouraged a few more until a large gap in runners forced me to return to my own race.

Up a small hill and then down a nice gradual slope and the finishline lay right ahead. Only a small gathering of people were on hand but as it was still only 7 AM, the weather was cold, and this half was no where near the festivities of the finishline for the other races I was far from surprised.

I encouraged a few runners near me to sprint towards the finish and let them pass me as I smiled and said Good morning to the people gathered. A few steps late and I was finished.

Overall: 39 out of 7953
Men: 39 out of 3458
M 30-39: 13 out of 1255
Tag Time: 1:29:22

Not a bad day for a jog. Although I will say this: Leadville took more out of me than I thought. I was definitely feeling some of those hills in San Fran and was more than happy to be done with the race. As we were far too early to wait for the buses to take us back to the start (where I would then have to run 2 miles back home) I shared a cab with two other runners to a place about half way and then walked back. It was still a chilly morning and the warm shower in my hotel was greatly appreciated. Yep. Warm shower. Forget those ice baths!

Now it is just a week of rest until my race in North Carolina at the US Aqauthlon National Championship. I am ready to get that underway!


Unknown said...


It was good meeting you in the cab after the SF Half. I hope you found your way to your hotel from the Palace. I enjoyed your blog on the race. I had similar feelings about the 3:00 pace group (how many reached their goal?) and the lack of visibility on the bridge. Good luck in the Aqualon.


Kenley said...


It was good to meet you during the SF Marathon! I ran the Full SF Marathon with the 3:00 Pace Group. At Mile 21.5 I fell behind making a turn, when my hamstring tightened a bit. Never had that problem before during a race. I just couldn't quite keep the Pace going. At Mile 21 I was 5 seconds ahead of what I ran at Boston, where I finished in 3:02:33 The Turns at the end of the Marathon course really took atoll, I was wishing it was a straight line to the finish like Boston. Thanks for the advice on the downhills, that was the best advice given to me during the race. Want to read you book. I am running in CIM and been on a New Training Plan to break 3 hours on the CIM course.