Thursday, November 6, 2008

Race Report: Nike Women's Half Marathon

First things first... YAY!

OK, back to running...


Uh oh - my friend, KB, posted her Nike Marathon race report which means I am *really* behind. So here goes:

The race was an absolutely wonderful experience - just like I hoped it would be. With this being the fourth one in two months and having the most challenging course out of the bunch, I decided not to stress about time and Just. Have. Fun. And that's exactly what I did!

  • PERFECT running weather - cool temps in the 50s and overcast. I would love to have these race conditions the next time I attempt a full marathon (don't know when that will be... it will happen though!)
  • I found myself smiling during the race... and crying as well (good tears - more on that later). I never once thought, "This sucks. Why am I doing this?" - which may or may not have crossed my mind during some of the other recent races...
  • I loved the hills! Seriously, they rocked. Yes, they made the course challenging, but they really helped to break up the race and make it fly by. Instead of thinking "7 more miles, 6 more miles, 5 more miles" etc, it was more, "OK - small hill coming up and then it will be flat for a couple more miles, but save your energy because the big one comes at mile 7" etc. It doesn't sound fun - but it was! And you can't beat the views.
  • Even though I did not run for time and even turned off my pace display on my Garmin, I still managed to finish this ridonkulous course...

    (Note: This is actually the elevation chart for the full. After mile 12, the half marathon course was actually pretty flat to the finish...)

    ... in the same time I finished the relatively flat SJ RnR half (actually - five seconds faster!) - I LOVE COLD WEATHER!
  • I finished strong and was able to maintain a sub 10:00 pace for the last 1.1 mi of the course
  • I felt no pain during the race (OK, Tylenol helped with that) or afterward! I found this amazing because I was limping around like an old woman after the Chicago and San Jose halfs. I flew down the downhills so I was totally expecting to regret that afterward. Sure, my body was sore for a few days but it was nothing major - it was more like I had done a hundred lunges or something. But there were no sharp pains in my left knee and I could walk up and down the stairs just fine the next day!

I had an early wake up call at 4AM. I live about an hour south of SF, so I arrived at Union Square a little before 6AM. It was a familiar scene since this was my third year running Nike. Lots of Team in Training purple, lots of bright lights on Union Square, and lots of crazy commotion in the start corrals. Luckily, there were no lines at the potties so I made a visit there first.

I then headed to the Club Run VIP tent which was where the expo was held. I hung out there until we were ready to start. It was a really nice set up as usual, complete with:

- Lounge areas
- Big stretching area with mats
- Refreshment bar with coffee, water, mini luna bars, and more
- First aid station with sunscreen, vaseline, band-aids, lip balm (Luna freebies), etc
- Fun music
- Private bag check

It had been awhile since I'd been able to run with Nike, so it was really nice to see so many familiar faces again. They weren't people I necessarily knew, but they were ladies (and some men) that I had been used to seeing every weekend for our long runs in SF and/or Danville. It was nice to see my favorite pace leaders, who were off the clock and running their own race that day. I was already starting to get "giddy" for the race.

Once we got closer to the start time, one of the coaches gathered us all in one of the rooms to do the warm up, similar to what we would do during training. Talk about getting energized! Yeah, we hooted and hollered while doing our squats and what not. Exercise is fun!

At this point, I felt like I was at a party and it just got better because KB arrived! We took a quick pre-race pic:

And of course, I had to take a pic of her lovely shirt. I should have fixed it better but I think you all know what it says:

With about 15 minutes left until the start, I ventured my way to our start corral with the other Nike club runners. Another perk - being right up front! Here is the view from my start position:

The Actual Race

Joan Benoit Samuelson spoke, the national anthem was sung, and off we went! I almost teared up at the start because I was genuinely so happy - the weather, the familiar faces, the familar course, the sense of relief knowing this was my last half of the year... it all combined to pure giddiness. But I didn't really cry - that happened later.

And for all the fast runners that had to weave around the Nike Club which included all those packs of walkers and slower runners (um, that would be me) - I'm so sorry! I tried to stay out of your way as best as possible and kept to one side of the road.

The Hills (this time, I'm not talking about Lauren and Heidi and crew)

Being pretty familiar with the course, I knew exactly when I needed to mentally prepare myself for the challenging climbs. The first three miles were rather easy and enjoyable but once we got to Fisherman's Wharf, I knew the hills would be coming soon.

They had a course detour this year because we had to avoid Aquatic Park. This really wasn't a big deal but the detour included two short blocks of inclines - luckily, I was prepared for this because one of our past training runs included this portion on the route so that we could get familiar with it. They weren't too bad but then we get to Fort Mason which is that small blip you see on the elevation chart between miles 3 and 4. The funny thing is that it doesn't quite feel like a blip when you're running it - it definitely slows you down. I think I may have heard a couple of runners behind me say, "This is it." and I sure hope they didn't mean this was "the big hill" because they would be in for a big disappointment.

But once we got over the hill, it was back to more fun, flat running along the marina. Then after mile 6, it was time to tackle some serious hills. I think they changed the course here, too, because I could have sworn we ran further down Crissy Field before heading up.

But anyway, I won't bore you with the details... but it was hard. I did push myself a little bit so that I only walked during the water stops.

On the way up, I passed one of the Pedi-care stations (not pedi-cure). I knew this meant free socks so even though I had no place to put them, I grabbed a pair anyway and just held on to them for the rest of the race. I actually used them to wipe my sweat, heehee. Anyway, they had other things for your feet at the station like vaseline, band-aids, etc.

As other runners have mentioned, this is a very heavy Team-in-Training event. (I actually ran it as part of TNT last year.) And sure, the purple cheerleaders don't really care too much about us non-purple folk, but I pretended to not notice. In my head, they were all there to cheer and support ME! I have to say, it is kind of fun to run a race with so many "coaches" lining the course. I especially liked the one that alerted us to when we were getting close to the top of the big hill around mile 7. It was cute because when we did get to the top, one of the runners said "Good job ladies!" and we all cheered for ourselves.

On my way down the hill, I really tried to let my legs and gravity take over. That was a little scary but fun to fly by people. Then we had some more hill running around mile 9 but I knew it was all downhill after that, literally. The view coming down the hill by the ocean was so amazing!

Then it was off to Golden Gate park. I knew we would have just a couple of miles there. One of my favorite moments was seeing the sign where the full and half marathoners split because last year I did the full and it was so fun to be able to return to the shorter course this year. A lot of the runners yelled "Good Luck!" to each other as we went our separate ways. After the split, the half marathon runners made their way through the Ghiradelli mile where we received those delicious chocolate squares. (I was tempted but I waited until after the race to enjoy them.)

You eventually could hear the music and the announcer and the rest of the commotion from the finish. We made our way out of Golden Gate park and turned right on Great Highway - finish line was in sight. I got a huge smile on my face as I finished the last stretch. I hadn't been checking the clock too much during the race so I was thrilled when I saw a 2:17 on the clock as I had been expecting to finish this one around 2:25-2:30 based on the previous half's.

Crossing the finish:

Red carpet treatment, of course:

Garmin Splits:

1: 9:24
2: 9:51
3: 10:05
4: 10:42 (Baby hill)
5: 10:09
6: 10:13
7: 12:43 (Monster hill)
8: 9:22 (Wheeeeee!)
9: 12:01 (Monster hill)
10: 10:03
11: 10:17
12: 10:57
13: 9:46
0.20 mi: 1:47 (9:01 pace)

Official Results

Overall Time: 02:17:03
Overall Pace: 10:28
Overall Rank: 2655 / 11533
Female Rank: 2436 / 10939
F30-34 Rank: 421 / 1887

Post Race

After the race, I went through the finisher zone where I received my necklace, a little blue Tiffany bag, a water bottle, a banana, a heat sheet (so welcomed because as soon as I crossed that finish line, I thought, "woah, it's cold out here!"), and the Nike shirt. Time to get some food! I got one of those little free Jamba Juice smoothies and the bowl of yogurt with Bare Naked granola. I forgot that I had a hot buffet waiting for me at the Club Run post race tent so I headed there next.

The post-race tent for the VIP runners was pretty much the same as the previous two years - definitely a nice treat which included:

- Buffet of both hot and cold foods with a special dessert section that had a chocolate fountain
- Coffee bar with an espresso machine
- Big seating area with tables covered with white tablecloths
- Massage tables - I heard there was about a two hour wait, but they did have a little lounge area next to it where people could wait
- Fancy porta-potty's... I should have used one just to see what it was like. They were raised up... reminded me of the kind they had during the Avon 3Day breast cancer walk
- Same big stretching area with mats
- Bag pick-up

After I had stretched and eaten, I headed back to the finish line to cheer on KB. She is crazy fast and I knew she was going to finish in under four hours. On my way there, I stopped by the finish area stage to see Joan Benoit Samuelson announce the winners of the half marathon (the one that didn't have controversial results).

I quickly found an empty spot along the Great Highway. The nice thing about KB's pace is that she was easy to look for because there weren't that many people finishing then... usually 1, maybe 2 runners at a time. I eventually saw her making her way to the finish... she finished her FIRST marathon (on a hilly course, no less!) in 3:48. That's why I call her hard core, or HC for short.

I found KB as she was making her way through the finishers' area. I was so excited for her! I saw the look on her face and I could totally relate to that sense of relief and exhaustion and being emotionally overwhelmed by what you had just accomplished, etc etc etc. I gave her a big hug and could feel those damn tears coming on. She went on to get her T-shirt and stuff and while I went to meet her on the other side, I had full-on tears coming down my face. I seriously had to tell myself, get it together, girl!

It just reminded me so much of when I finished my very first half marathon - which coincidentally happened to be Nike in 2006. After I finished, I found my friends at the finish line and as I was telling them how it went, I just started crying and I couldn't even talk anymore. I couldn't tell if it was because I was so tired or so proud or what... I remember thinking, I don't know why I'm crying! Ah, races... too funny.

Here's us afterward with the ocean in the background. The heat sheet made a nice skirt, dontcha think? And as you can see, I also busted out my brand new pink Nike marathon hoodie.

The Goodies

The race shirt... I think it's cute but the dark brown parts of the design sometimes look like sweat spots. And it's crazy long... granted, I received a size L (I don't like shirts too huggy) but it completely covers my tush! Also, it seems like it is a similar material to the shirt from last year which is called DriFit but in my experience, it doesn't do much to wick away sweat. But it is cute, though.

The "medal" in its fun little blue package:

Close-up of the pendant:

The back of the pendant:

Here is my collection of Nike necklaces... hmmm, looks like some might need some polishing.

All in all, it was a great race experience - the kind where you think, wow, I'm so glad that I am a runner and that I could take part in something like this. I would love to run this race year after year. I definitely plan to get my running friends (local or not) to throw their name into the lottery.

Other race reports:
21st Century Mom
Aron (Spectator report!!!)
Marathon Maritza
Miss Allycat
Running Knitter

Sorry this was so long... if you made it this far, wow - I commend you. Seriously.


Viv said...

Audreu, girl your race reports are worth the wait. First off congratulations again on doing wonderful on such a challenging course. Secondly, you are making this one sound like a race i would love to try. I never really thought about it till your post. Thirdly I love the finish line pic what a smile!!

Mica said...

Wow, your race report made it sound like so much fun, even the hills (which I bet were super-hard)! And you look awesome in the pics, hardcore!!

joyRuN said...

Fantastic race report! I LOVE "7: 12:43 (Monster hill), 8: 9:22 (Wheeeeee!)" - too funny :)

The VIP perks sound really awesome too...

tfh said...

Hey, you're the one that had to do all the running! Reading about it is easy in comparison. Plus, you do have GREAT race reports. You made me want to throw my name in the lottery for sure, although I live across the country. Great job!

RoadBunner said...

Great report! I'm so glad you had such a great experience for your last half of the year. I agree about the hills...they help to break the course down into smaller segments.

Marcy said...

Great report chica! CONGRATS! OMGosh that course is so hard!

I do want to do that sucka one day though. After some serious hill training of course LOL

Nitmos said...

Nice job! Your 13th mile was one of the fastest!! Congratulations.

Cindy said...

I always enjoy reading your race reports! i would LOVE to do that race sometime. the necklaces are such a nice souvenir. i don't know about those hills though :o
great job!

Run For Life said...

Awesome report and you ran a fantastic race, I'm glad you had a good time!

Julianne said...

I enjoyed reading every word of your NWM race report!! You did really great. I can't belive you finished around the same time as the RnRSJ?? That is sooo impressive considering the hills. I also can't believe you liked the hills??? You are nuts! You did really great, though. Great race and great race report Audrey!!! :-)

Jenny said...

Great race report!!! It sounds like a fun race, now you have me thinking about it for next year! So, you get the necklace if you run the half? Someone had told me you only get it for the full marathon...

MissAllycat said...

Congrats on a rockin' race...and way to stay strong on those hills!!

Amanda said...

Well worth the wait to get the report - you guys are so awesome for running this race! And I don't think I could ever say that hills are fun to run...

RunBubbaRun said...

Nice race, congrats on your finish.

I think I have to find my way to those VIP tents next time. Looked like some good food inside there.

*aron* said...

awesome race report girlie!! it was worth the wait :) CONGRATS on an amazing race! that course is not easy and those hills are killer - way to rock them! YAY!!!

Laura said...

Great race report and great race! You definitely made it sound like fun, and I like your perspective on the TNT coaches :)

Danica said...

Your race report is amazing! Love it! :) Sounded like so much fun and a great race, and I'm super jealous of your nike garb annnnd that sweet necklace! Man, remind me that my first marathon has to be one with the TIFFANYS necklace involved. Seriously! :) Great job and I loved reading it! You're pictures are too cute.

Anonymous said...

I love your race report. Way to keep a smile on your face and have fun with it.

I also liek your collection of

bill carter said...

Wow! That is one of the greatest race reports I have ever read. It sounds like you had an amazing experience (and ran a great time on a tough course) and everything was so professionally done. I have done so many marathons where the post race consisted of a medal, some water and a crusty bagel, and a long walk back to my hotel that well... I really just want to do the Nike Women's Half someday.

Congrats again on a great race and yes I am a little jealous:)

Marathon Maritza said...

Great report! I'm glad you had a great time and loved the race! I love that picture of you coming down the look like you are raising the roof! :)

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