Yes, it's true - I have now achieved a new personal record for a half marathon. On a whim, I decided to run the second half of the San Francisco Marathon yesterday. My official chip time was 2:08:13 which averages to a 9:47 min/mi pace which I am so happy with! My other two times from last fall were 2:13:35 (Nike Half) and 2:08:34 (US Half). You might wonder why I would be so thrilled with an improvement of roughly twenty seconds, especially when combined with the fact that the other two races were a lot more hilly. Well, here's why...
First, I was not planning to do this race, or any other endurance race before the big marathon. I was scheduled to run 12 miles this weekend per my training plan which I normally would have run with the Nike Club up in SF Saturday morning. But unfortunately, I had a work-related thing to take care of that day so I had to do the run on Sunday morning instead. I could do it on my own (not!), otherwise, I would have to head up to Danville, where Nike organizes their Sunday morning training runs. But then while having dinner with JL (no longer JM) on Thursday, she helped me realize that there was another option for getting my long run in - through the SF marathon!
I registered online by Friday morning. The first half was already sold out. It's a much more scenic run, but also hilly AND would start anywhere between 5:30-6:10AM *yikes* !!! So I had no problems with running the second half which started at Golden Gate Park around 8:30AM and finished by the ball park.
But here's the thing - I felt sort of prepared and trained for this race since I had been doing 8-10 mi runs leading up to this, but on the other hand, I didn't feel properly prepared at all. For the other halfs, I had already done 12 and 13 mi runs before the race with the proper tapering down of mileage in the weeks before. Not so with this one... because I hadn't planned to do the half, I already had run a combined 10 miles that week, not to mention the wacky weekend before where I did a combined 22 miles of walking and running just on Saturday and Sunday alone!
Anyway, cut to Sunday morning. It was an early one! Even though my start was after 8AM, the shuttle busses from the finish to the 2nd half start in the park left between 6:30-7AM so as a result, I had to be up a little before 5AM. I’m glad I got on that first 6:30AM shuttle though, because the lines for the bathrooms weren’t too bad when we finally arrived at the park. The lines would quickly get ridiculously long all the way until the race started.
I tried to do a quick warm up jog but my legs weren’t feeling too great and not only that, I started getting a slight cramp in my right side! Egads, not a good sign, but I just ignored it. At least, we had perfect running weather! Cool, a little overcast, and even a little misty in the morning.
The race had pace leaders (well, technically, they were Clif Bar pace leaders) that held signs with balloons listed with their intended finishing time. And those pace leaders held those signs and balloons for the entire race – even the full marathoners! Anyway, I found Mr. 2:10 which meant he would finish the 2nd half in 2 hours and 10 minutes. That was right around my finishing time for my previous two halfs so I stuck around him near the start and followed him to set my pace.
I was doing OK for awhile, but after the first aid station, I quickly fell behind. After the second stop, I had completely lost sight of those balloons all together. I was a little disappointed knowing that I wouldn’t be getting a great time but I kept chugging along. Occasionally, I would glance at my heart rate monitor to check my “status” but I just sort of paid attention to how my body felt to determine how hard to push myself. I actually never checked my time at all during the race and I really liked how the mile markers didn’t have clocks, as well.
Anyway, the first half of the course was through the Golden Gate Park – it got a little more interesting once we exited into the Haight area. There were more spectators then and the streets had all these random signs with SF trivia and inspirational comments. Some were random though - does anyone care that the two towers of the Golden Gate Bridge contain a combined 23 ladders? Now here’s the weird part... once we were outside of the park, there were a few areas where the course had alternative routes to allow traffic to get through. So at times, the runners would split up into different paths and then meet up again later on. Around mile 8, we had turned a corner to meet up with the other runners and you’ll never believe what was around the corner – Mr. 2:10! I had lost him miles ago and here he was! I’m thinking he started out the race at a faster pace because early on he wasn’t too far behind the 2:00 pace leader considering that he was supposed to cross the finish line 10 minutes later. I didn’t feel like I had run any faster in the middle of the race. Anyway, I ended up passing him – not intentionally, I was just keeping my pace since I was pretty comfortable with it. The rest of the race went by pretty quickly, despite the lack of any good scenery. Normally, I start feeling beaten down by mile 12 but the AT&T Park was at mile 12 so that was kind of fun since there were a lot of fans there getting ready to see an SF Giants game that afternoon.
I only started sprinting to the finish once I could actually see the finish line – as I got closer, I saw the clock read 2:12-something. I was a little bummed until I realized I was part of the second wave start. After I crossed, my watch read that I finished in 2:08-something – YAY!!!
The medal and the food stuff afterward were OK. The nice thing was that I was able to catch up with JL and ML afterward (their friend had run the full marathon) before their big departure from SF. It was also nice and sunny by that point as well – perfect timing!
After chugging lots of fluids, eating, stretching and whatnot, I finally headed back down home where I continued to drink, eat, and stretch. I iced my legs too. Afterward, I took a well-deserved nap but then woke up with a horrible headache. I felt nauseated, too. Was this because I was dehydrated? I thought I was OK on that front but maybe not.
Anyway, I’m glad I did it! Way more fun than running around some trail in Danville. :)