Tuesday, July 27, 2010

San Francisco Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 5; 22nd Edition
678.3 miles raced; 350 yards swam and 9 miles biked in 2010

Race: San Francisco Half Marathon
Place: San Francisco, CA
Miles from home: 738 miles
Weather: 50-60s; Overcast with slight humidity

This was a weekend filled with eventful happenings.   First, my friend Audra was able to crush her personal best in the marathon by 13 minutes and qualify for Boston for the first time. I was expecting her to be able to get that coveted BQ but I don't think either of us thought that it was going to come so easily!

Second, I received a copy of John Ball's book, Living Well, Running Hard.  It is an inspiring story about his life of running and beyond while dealing with Parkinson's disease.  Look for a review here on my blog soon.

Third, I spent some time conversing with Martin Parnell who is running 250 separate marathon distances this year hoping to raise money for Right To Play. This organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world.  I had been following Martin's quest all year so it was serendipitous that we would meet here.

I also ran the entire half-marathon in a skirt.

I was asked "Why a skirt?" to which I usually answered "Why not?"  Nevertheless,  I received many comments on my legs during the race, which made me laugh as the shorts I usually wear show far more gam than the skirt ever did.  But I guess I decided to wear the skirt because, well, honestly, why not?  The girls at runningskirts.com are friends, offered me one which matched my Lin Socks top and I thought, this should be fun.  Many people asked me how it felt to run in a skirt and besides the time when I flashed the girls at the lululemon cheer station (don't worry- the skirt had a lining underneath) I can say that I never once thought about it.  That is a pretty big compliment, I would say.

But I was also at this race hoping to continue to try and get a little closer to taking a shot at my half-marathon PR, even though I knew, for a plethora of reasons, "hoping" was probably as close as I was going to get.

While the second half of the full marathon course (the "half" I chose to run) was far easier than the first half, I would dare say it is not "easy."  I also, after seeing the logistics involved with running all the different races this weekend, can say I am glad I have nothing to do with this planning. Wow, what a task!  Most things I thought of that I wished were a little different were met almost instantly with realizations why they could not be so.  (e.g., Clocks after every mile?  Impossible.  With wave starts and three separate races going on at the same time, any clock would be just gibberish to every group but one.)  Instead, I lined up with the rest of the runners and decided to have a good time and perhaps a fast one to boot.

The first few miles felt rather good and I would say I was in the top 25 or so at the time.  There were some fast boys and girls here on this day as was evidenced by the 1:05 winning time for males and 1:18 time for females.  This, in spite of course probably more difficult than last weekend's Napa to Sonoma Half, allowed me to push a little hard simply because of the competitors in front of me.  In addition, passing marathoners, even when you know they should be running slower than you, is quite a jolt.

One slight difficulty in the schema of the races again fell under the purview of lots of people going lots of directions in lots of different races.  Somewhere around the third mile as runners from the first half were finishing in one direction, runners of the second half had to make a sharp right hand turn to circumvent a lake in Golden Gate park.  Myself and female master's runner took a few steps in the wrong direction before needing to about face and head the proper way. Just a slight problem but one that definitely confused others as I saw more than a few marathoners in front of us show confusion as to which way to go.  Perhaps a few more volunteers here could solve that confusion in the future but it was not horrible.

Nearing the halfway point the female master's runner caught up to me and said that when she had made the wrong turn (and hadn't heard my shout to her to turn around) that she knew she was going the right direction when she found the "tall guy in the skirt up ahead."

Hitting the Haight-Ashbury section was both a pleasure to the eyes as we took in the sights and sounds of this famous section of town but also one for the legs as we hit a mile-plus long straight-away with just enough difference in elevation to make it interesting.  Now, even though I enjoyed the relatively flat section, it proved that comparatively speaking, I am not a great runner on a flat course.  Runners I would easily cruise by on an uphill, or crush on a down, would stay easily at my side or float forward on these flat sections. That is definitely something I would like to delve into deeper to find the meaning but since I knew there were plenty of both hills to come, I hardly pressed too hard on the flats.

The course contains a couple of sections where there are "alternate routes".  I am not 100% sure why they are deployed (My guess is to allow runners in the half who are easily identifiable as ones in the half to run partially free of the marathon hordes in front of them for small sections) but they were a little disconcerting.  I try to always follow to the letter the commands of race officials, especially whey they are members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (and here I am not kidding.  The SF Marathon employs many friendly, cheering and smiling members of the club to help keep order on the race course.)  Doing so separated me from a few of the halfers I was racing on more than one occasion and it always felt like I was losing touch with the peloton so to speak.  But before too long we would be right back together and all was well.

I tried my best to enjoy all the city had to offer, even though I was trying to get a 1:23 or so for a time. I offered encouragement to marathons I passed, played to the crowd as many enjoyed my skirt (even though most thought it was a kilt) and tracked down a few of the runners who had passed me in the preceding miles.

Finally crossing the finish line in a time of 1:24:41, I was pleased to be done.  It was a minute faster than last weekend and I felt better at the end of this race than I had last weekend.  My 34th overall placing (and 11th in my age group- man, my age group is tough!) were decent showings, all things considered.  Racing my way back into racing shape has actually worked for me.

I fully expect to go much faster this weekend at the Crandall Canyon Memorial Run, especially because I will not be participating in any week long festivities and will actually get to sleep in my own bed until the day before the race.  I expected to miss some of the sites that the first half marathon has to offer but in all honesty, the rest of San Francisco gave so much to us runners with its own scenery, crowds and support that nothing felt remiss at all.

I had a lovely time meeting great people and had a fantastic crowd for my presentation the day before the race.  I fully expect the moniker that the Wall Street Journal gave the race (as one even Marathoners fear) to swell the ranks of runners next year and I hope to once again be amongst those running.   


la maratonista (AKA Jenni) said...

Nice skirt! Glad you enjoyed your run in SF - they've done a great job improving this race over the years, and I think it will only get better!

FYI, the "alternate routes" are there so that they don't have to completely shut down major thoroughfares due to the marathon. Shutting down Market Street makes for a serious clusterf*ck!

Jeff O'Hara said...

Great Run, Great Re-cap - good luck next year! always a favourite run.... and great weekend! lets hope more get involved next year..... Cheers Jeff