Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Weekend in San Fran & 1/2 Marathon Race Report

Where do I begin with this blog entry after a weekend of such greatness?  If you just want to read about the race then scroll on down otherwise I would like to blab a little about this lovely city. 

See how much I love it? 

I Left my Heart in San Francisco 
Accustomed to the mild temps here in America's Finest City I didn't imagine traveling to northern California in July would come with such chilly winds.  Angela and I went straight from the airport to the Mission via the BART to hear Edie Carey, one of our favorite independent artists, sing at Dolores Park Cafe.   The moment we stepped off the subway I shivered and dug out my jacket.  It felt like San Diego winter.  Of course, like always, I felt instantly at home on the sidewalks of San Francisco despite the cold.  We saw people riding around on their commuter bikes just like in good old Chicago.  I watched a group of girls wearing colorful scarves and hats walking down the street with their embroidered yoga mat bags slung over their shoulders.  A line of chatty 20-somethings grew progressively longer outside a homemade ice-cream shop as we sat inside the cafe watching out the window.   We ordered sandwiches and a glass of wine as we waited for Edie to begin her set.  She performed beautifully as always, but this show was far better than any before.  Behind her fog was rolling over the hills as she played her guitar and sang to us with her hauntingly beautiful voice.  We were in silent awe of her and the city's glorious backdrop.  At that moment I was feeling nostalgic about city life.  For a moment I missed it.

The Expo & "Is that Dean?"
I am overwhelmed by the mad house that is the RACE EXPO.  The crowds and the noise slightly freak me out.  I grabbed my t-shirt, bib and all that other good stuff and wanted to make a bee line for the door but was forced to stay.  I had to walk through the entire expo because Ang wanted to take a peak.  I am so glad she dragged me through the chaos because we spotted Dean Karnazes just moments before he left.  I don't remember what I was doing at the moment, probably rolling my eyes or sighing, when Ang nudged me to say "Isn't that Dean?".  There he was, up close and personal.  Face to face, our eyes locked, and he realized we are running soul mates.  It was amazing!  Okay, he never once looked at me, damn it, but a runner can dream.  I actually couldn't believe how itty bitty he is in person.  I mean, he is buff, don't get me wrong but he is a little, tiny, buff man.  I realize that little tiny buff man can run like nobodies business so I was star struck.  I didn't run up and try to talk to him like I could have and maybe should have.  Instead, I pulled the paparazzi move and just took pictures of him with other people.  To the left is the picture of him and the unknown woman that I cropped out, sorry mystery woman!  I have to mention that I saw Tori Spelling later that day at a book signing.  Two celebrities (kind of) in one day!  I felt like a lucky lady.  


The 2nd Half Marathon - Holy Steep Hills!
In the San Francisco Marathon you are able to choose the full 26.2 or the 1st or 2nd half.  I already knew when signing up for this race that the 1st half marathon is far more scenic than the 2nd.  However, the 2nd half starts later and is less hilly.  I now realize what they mean by less hilly; it is less UP hilly and more DOWN hilly.  The 1st half goes over the Golden Gate Bridge and is basically one scenic turn after another.  The 2nd half, my half, started in Golden Gate Park and winds through for 6 miles before exiting.  This portion of the race is pleasant as you run beneath trees and wind this way and that.  We did a few U-turns and hit a few hills and I felt great on every incline.  The hills were a nice confidence booster.  My only issue with this part of the race was the crowding.  Half marathoners were merging with full marathoners and the crowds were a definite obstacle.  At times I had to run up into the  bumpy grass on the side of the road to zip around people.  I wanted to go faster at a few points and couldn't manage to weasel my way through the mass of runners.  This became slightly frustrating but I got over it quickly as I realized many of those people were at mile 16 while I was at a measly mile 3.

Once we made our way out of the park and onto the streets we ran through the Haight-Ashbury District.  I expected there to be many spectators, like in the Chicago Marathon, but instead it was silent.  It felt eerie, almost like running through a deserted city.  Silence, literally.  I think I heard crickets at one point.  Okay, exaggeration.  There were a few disheveled people that were clearly woken from their slumber in an alley by the stampede of runners.  They were kind enough to cheer us on.  Now I feel bad that I woke the homeless at an early hour, but hey, we needed their support.

Along the way there were random crowds and many people yelled nice things at me like, "Go Kate!" "Nice pace Kate!" and "Damn girl, those are some short shorts!"  The last thought may or may not have been in my head.  I wore shorts that I normally only wear for yoga class.  They rode up my behind the entire way and became shorter and shorter.  By the end I was running in panties.

While there were some uphills in Golden Gate Park there were some extreme downhills through the neighborhoods.  When I say extreme I mean as close to vertical as a street can get before being considered a cement wall.  Most runners took to the downhills cautiously but I decided to hell with it and blasted down those streets.  One misstep and I would have face planted it pretty badly, but luckily I came out unscathed.  After those crazy down hills I returned to flat surfaces and my body was out of whack.  I felt like I pulled something in my left butt cheek, to use the layman's term.  My feet were throbbing from the intense impact but I knew I still had a ways to go.

I don't exactly know where we ran after the Haight-Ashbury but we wound through some industrial areas that weren't so pretty.   Even so I didn't mind because hey, I was in San Francisco!  I hit mile 10 and thought "Only 3 to go? How can that be?"  I felt strong and energized and assumed we were only at mile 9 or so.  That shows how much I pay attention along the way.

The Results are in...
I went into the last stretch feeling strong so I pushed it.  I sprinted the last quarter mile and dashed my way through the finish.  That felt amazing by the way.  Ahh, I love reliving those moments of personal glory.  My goal in this race was to finish in 1:50 or less.  Angela and I tried to stay near the 1:50 pacer.  Oftentimes we were ahead and other times right in line with the group.  By the end I had no idea where I had left them.  I wish I could say I left them 5 minutes behind, but not quite.

I finished with an overall time of 1:48:05 (8:15/mile).  I am happy with it :)  It gives me a new goal of 1:45 in my next half marathon.   This was my 1st official half as last year I ran 13.1 of the Chicago Marathon to cheer Ang along, finishing in 1:54:00.  I had a pretty big improvement in only 9 months.

After you cross the finish line there are the usual goodies handed out.  I loved the jamba juice smoothie I was handed immediately after and enjoyed the bottle of cranberry Joint Juice.  Yum!

I would highly recommend doing the full or either half of this marathon, if only to give you an excuse for a weekend getaway in SF.  If you don't mind waking up around 3:30 AM then I advise you to choose the first half, because trust me the views will be far superior to the 2nd half and they will make all of those grueling hills worth it.

I am already daydreaming about my next San Francisco visit... who's with me?