Sunday, February 3, 2008
Race Report: Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon
Wow - that was a crazy half, but I survived! It wasn't a super difficult race but it did have two challenges: 1) The weather and 2) the course.
The day started at 4:45AM for me. Ouch - that was harsh. I hit the road about an hour later to drive an hour north to SF. I finally got up there around 6:40AM for an 8AM race start. They had us park toward the finish area along the Great Highway which is along Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. It's been raining like crazy here lately and as soon as you got of your car that morning, you knew that running here was not going to be easy. It wasn't raining yet, but it was really windy! Rain was forecasted so I brought my never-been-used poncho with me just in case it got super-rainy at the race start.
After parking, we then all got in a long line to hop on board one of the many yellow school busses waiting to take us to the race start. (By the way, these things now have seat belts!) It didn't take us long to get to the start in Golden Gate Park where the weather was much nicer. I decided to go ahead and sweat check my poncho. I then made a pit stop, caught up with a friend of mine, did a warm up jog, and got in line in the start corral.
No Chip Timing :(
I probably should have tried to find a spot a bit closer to the actual start line since this race was based only on clock time but instead I squeezed in by the 9 minute mile sign (the slowest one they had next to baby joggers) . I started getting more excited once we all got packed in, listened to the national anthem, and then waited for the race to start. Once that kicked off, I finally crossed the start line about 4 minutes later.
Through Golden Gate Park
The first half wasn't bad at all - we started in the middle of Golden Gate Park and then made our way to the panhandle, turned around and then ran back through the park. There were some elevation changes, but for the most part it was a nice, flat course with plenty of aid stations. Weather cooperated for the bulk of the race but I was prepared for the worst. I went with my trusty North Face jacket that I knew would block out the rain while still being pretty breathable and combined it with my Nike capris.
Seeing the elites in action
Because of the way the course was routed, I passed the finish line between miles 6 and 7. I think at that point the clock read 1:07. We suddenly saw a lone runner appear around the bend so we all cheered him on as he approached the finish. We found out from a volunteer that he was actually in 2nd place! Wow, those people were crazy fast. (I must have just missed the winner who finished in 1:06:44.)
The Buzzkill (aka Great Highway)
The first seven miles through Golden Gate Park were pretty enjoyable but then you have to deal with the dreaded Great Highway for the rest of the race. On some days, it's probably a pretty run since you're right on the beach but not during race day - instead it was gloomy and windy. I find this part of the course to be pretty monotonous - it's a straight three mile out and back. So you're running and running and running and you know you're just going to repeat it all over again. (And yes, I realize I already whined about this during my Nike recap.)
I finally get to the turn-around point around mile 10 where I was hoping it would be smooth sailing from there. Only a 5K left, right? Well... not quite. I had two surprises waiting for me...
1) The wind that sort of helped push me along miles 8-10 was now fighting me back for miles 11-13 - oh joy!
2) It started raining. Hard. Combined with the wind, it actually felt like little stabs on your face.
I don't know - I found it all amusing. It's times like this when you think, "Maybe my friends are right. I *am* crazy for doing this." But honestly, it wasn't that bad. It was uncomfortable but I kept telling myself that it was better than hot and humid weather. And it was. Maybe my jacket was so soaked that it was clinging to my skin but at least I didn't have to worry about feeling faint or wanting to throw up which is how I felt during Chicago and Disney.
So I kept running along. I was starting to fade toward the end so I picked out runners in front of me and just sort of visualized them pulling me along. I was trying to fight the temptation to take a walking break so close to the end. It worked pretty well and sometimes I would even pass my target runner.
Reaching the Finish
I was pretty excited once we approached the park again and my stint on the Great Highway was over. At that point, I felt comfortable with picking up my speed and sprinting toward the finish.
Final clock time: 2:16:55, 10:27 pace
BUT in my books...
Garmin watch time: 2:13:36, 10:12 pace
I'm pretty happy with that. My goal was 2:10 but since my last two major races were marathons in the >12:00 pace range, I'm happy to know that I can still manage a half in the ~10:00 pace range.
For $40, this was a pretty good marathon considering we got a T-shirt and a medal out of it. I'm not sure if I would run it again, though. On one hand, it's a nice way to kick off a "holiday" knowing you're going to pig out later. On the other hand, the second half of the course is super boring - not to mention that the weather there is hardly ever in your favor. Who knows? I could try to set a new course record there next year.
And before I forget, congrats to Kirby for surpassing her goal with the awesome finish time of 1:42 - woo hoo!
Anyway, some pics... Here's a cheesy photo I took of me in my race T and my medal before I headed to the Superbowl festivities. I was tempted to leave the medal on, but ultimately left it off - I didn't want it to interfere with all my snacking. It would be so sad if my medal accidentally got dunked into spinach dip or something.
And then a close-up of the medal. They usually don't give them out but I guess they did one this year because it was the 25th anniversary of the race. It's definitely the nicest medal I've ever received for a half.