Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon

This race was not a planned race but rather a last minute "Hey, I think I want to run that, too!".  Having moved to a new area just a few months ago, I hadn't planned any local races because I wanted to get my bearings.  I was also waiting to hear news about the Boston Marathon so I wasn't really looking for a race.  However, I get antsy if I don't have a race to look forward to.  So many in my new running group were signed up for the San Jose Rock & Roll Half Marathon this year.  I ran the RnR in San Diego a few years ago and though it was fun, it was just too big and too expensive for me.  SJ RnR was not on my list.  But everyone kept talking about it and I needed something so I signed up about two weeks before the race.  I had told one friend that I wasn't going to sign up (price was close to $120 for this half marathon!?) unless I found a promo/discount code.  I found one that made the race half price so that seemed like a good deal.

Anyway, the days leading up to the race were warm and the forecast for race morning was more of the same.  With an 8am start, I knew I'd be melting in the sun halfway through.  I started thinking about a costume and just running it for fun.  The day before the race, I put together an Elvis costume that I wore for the race.

I have to admit, RnR is not all terrible.  They do a lot of things really well in a race, esp for such a large race.  When I registered I had a momentary lapse of reason and thought maybe I could pull off a new PR so I entered 1:39 as my estimated finish time.  This put me in Wave 2 which was a pretty nice place to be when there are 20 or so waves, each starting 1 minute apart.  I think it was 1 minute apart, maybe 2.  There were still waves waiting to start when I passed the start line after the first loop.  That had to have been several miles into the race...

Race morning, my friend Cheryl picked me up and we drove the 15 minutes to the race start.  This is another thing I loved about this race: it's close to home!  With an 8am start, she picked me up at 6:30am and we had more than enough time to park, use a hotel restroom, snap photos, etc.  I didn't get out of bed until 6am.  I love that.

I saw Deena Kastor at the start line.  She was also in Wave 2 but a few people back.  She's a very tiny woman -- if it weren't for her DEENA sign, I may not have even seen her.  She was pacing the 1:45 group with another runner.  The day before, she ran a blistering 5k in under 16 minutes.  She's my age.  I yelled to her and waved.  She looked a little confused but smiled.  Maybe she wasn't expecting a strange female Elvis?

The race began fast.  It always does.  Cheryl had moved into Wave 2 so we started together.  We have similar running strategy and have for years: start fast, hang on to finish.  Secretly, my only goal really was to beat her (!!!) and since she had just run the Big Cottonwood Marathon two weeks earlier, that wasn't going to be a problem.  That marathon sounds like a nightmare for those of us who don't enjoy running downhill.  The descent and elevation of that race is insane.

Cheryl and I parted ways just a few blocks in.  I started fast and she was more conservative, for once!  Around mile 3 or 4 I caught up to a guy from the local running group.  He was representing Race Guards so he was easy to pick out.  He and another Race Guard were holding what appeared to be a very steady 8:00 pace.  I never got up to him, but kept him within 30 yards for miles.  What a treat to have someone to pace off of!  That was really my goal for the race, aside from beating a friend who had just run a brutal marathon: maintain a 8:00 pace. 

It was around mile 9 that we came to a narrow section due to cheerleaders and other spectators.  This caused me to fall behind my pacer but a mile later I came up on another guy from my running group and followed him all the way to the finish.  Finish line goodness: saw a friend from SF so we waited together for Cheryl to finish, lots of good eats and drinks, cold beer at the running group meetup spot, a fancy brunch afterwards with Cheryl and her family, and really just a fun morning.  I was so very pleasantly surprised. 

Good about this race: location, flat course, lots of cheering sections along the course, route takes you through some beautiful San Jose neighborhoods, finish line party in the park, the fun of dressing up for a race...  I could see this being a huge PR race if I had trained for that.  Maybe next year!

Bad: nothing.  I've already signed up again for 2017!

Mile Splits:
1-   7:41
2-   7:45
3-   7:49
4-   7:51
5-   7:55
6-   8:05
7-   8:13
8-   8:05
9-   8:20
10- 8:07
11- 8:17
12- 8:31
13- 8:14
Official Finish: 1:47:35

My watch, of course, had the course at 13.6 miles and my pace an average of 8:05.  Of course, that doesn't matter since it was a timed event with a marked course, but it makes me happy to know my effort was a little better than what the official time says.  Though, I'm happy with a 1:47, too!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

The San Francisco Marathon

The San Francisco Marathon kicked my butt.  Period.  I knew it would be hard for several reasons.
  1. No specific training for this hilly course.  During the last three months nearly all my runs have been on tracks.  That kind of training is not going to get one far on the streets of San Francisco. 
  2. The course itself is tough.  Races like these are often thought of as "hilly in the first half, flat in the second".  That's not entirely true.  My experience has shown that these are even more difficult (for me!) because your energy and legs are spent by the time you get to that "flat part of the course".  It doesn't seem to matter how conservative you are in the beginning miles, you can't underestimate the beating of relentless hills -- often steep, too! 
  3. Third, race size.  I don't care how many waves there are or where you are in your wave, in a race this size it's going to be hard to find your groove.  Crossing over the Golden Gate Bridge and back is an incredible experience, except at this race everyone is squeezed into one lane of traffic, the metal connector plates are slick, and you are pretty much stuck running with whomever you are next to when you start the bridge.  And you are just hoping that no one is walking or stopping to take photos -- but they are.
Splits from my GPS watch are as follows:
1- 8:22
2- 8:57
3- 8:39
4- 8:28
5- 8:32
6- 9:26
7- 8:50
8- 8:27
9- 8:40
10- 8:34
11- 8:49
12- 9:12
13- 9:13
14- 8:35
15- 9:20
16- 9:25
17- 9:33
18- 9:22
19- 9:20
20- 9:52
21- 10:30
22- 8:33
23- 10:15
24- 11:00
25- 11:40
26- 11:21
27- 9:29
Final- 26.90 miles, 4:12:17

Several things about this race were different for me.

1.  Carpool...  I usually go alone and if I do go with another person I'm still the one dictating when, where, and how.  Not so this time.  When I registered I looked at the parking situation and figured there was ample parking and not to worry.  I didn't know about Parking Panda -- a pre-purchase parking plan.  Weeks ahead of time there were lots of spaces, but when I looked to actually book a spot there were few left and they were all around $50 and over a mile from the start/finish.  No kidding!  The race starts early and walking around downtown San Francisco by myself at 5am didn't seem like a good idea.  I asked everyone I knew (which wasn't very many since we had just moved here).  Finally, I found a woman in the running group who had an extra seat for the ride up.  Ride down would be on my own (they were running the half marathon and would be done long before I finished), but that was okay since the family was coming up.  We figured out a plan.  Another guy and I would meet at her house, she would drive to another guy's house, and he would take over from there.  Halfway to this guy's house she questioned which way to go.  Oh boy.  Fortunately that all went off pretty easily and we were in the City in no time.  There was no traffic at that time of day which was awesome and strange.  He drove us as close to the start as he could and we hopped out.  We had less than 25 minutes until race start.  Having to go by another person's schedule was not ideal for race nerves.

2.  Port-a-potty...  I found the port-a-potties quickly but the line went on forever.  I don't know the area and nothing else was coming up on my iPhone (hotels?) so I got in line.  Only problem was the line didn't move.  In fact, it appeared to be getting longer with folks making new lines or something.  I'm not sure what was going on but I knew I needed to use the toilet.  I hadn't been able to have a B.M. at home because I don't normally wake at 3:10am.  It would be a nightmare if I didn't go before the marathon.  I decided to do the thing everyone hates the most: ask to cut.  I hated myself for doing it but a girl has to do what a girl has to do.  I walked up to the front and asked the couple who were #2 and #3 in line if I could please go in front of them.  I explained that I was in a weird carpool for an hour, still needed to check my bag, and my wave was starting in 5 minutes.  The guy didn't say anything but the woman said they had been waiting for 30 minutes and basically it was too bad for me.  I hated to ask and then to have them say no?  Ugh.  Fortunately, the woman in front of them grabbed my arm and shoved me toward the port-a-potty that had just opened.  I wish I could have hugged her and thanked her properly.  When I came out, the guy who had been part of the couple went into my port-a-potty.  Our line was waiting for 5 port-a-potties so I apparently moved pretty fast and did not make them any worse off than they (we all) were already.

3.  Gum...  After that, I sprinted to the gear check.  Of course it had to be the last truck.  It was so far.  I got to the truck, threw my bag at them, and ran back to the start line.  My wave started as I was heading back.  I also realized during this run to the start that I had forgotten gum.  I never run without gum.  Ever.  My throat gets dry and I find breathing labored.  Gum helps keep my throat wet.  And I didn't have any.  I asked a woman but she just stared at me like she didn't understand my question.  I don't think she spoke English.  So, off I went to the start line.   By the time I got to my corral, they were all gone and the next wave was moving forward.  I tied my keys to my shoe, waited for my GPS to kick on, and started the marathon.

4.  Keys...  Keys should not be tied on shoelaces.  If it's one key, it's okay.  A fob is okay.  A key ring with a fob and many keys is not okay.  I had planned to leave all the keys in the Explorer at Tammi's house and only carry the fob but my morning was not my usual and things were forgotten.  Two miles of jangling and annoying people went by.  Then a guy ran up alongside me and held out my keys.  Yes, the same keys I had tied to my shoelaces.  ?!?!  He said they had fallen off and the fob was still in the street "back there".  What??  I had to swim upstream, locate my keys, and move to the side out of everyone's way.  I put my keys and fob all back together and carried them in my hand the remainder of the race.

5.  Bib...  It was windy along the bay.  I had secured my bib on my fancy bib holder.  Safety pins are so last year.  Ha!  My bib flapped and flapped in the wind.  Around mile 3 I looked down to find my bib was attached at one end only.  It almost came off and blew away.  Away!  Juggling a water bottle, my phone, and my keys, I reattached my bib very, very tightly.  I put my hand on it from time to time throughout the race to make sure it was still fastened securely.

But there were also all the other typical race issues that are just part of the game...

7. Golden Gate Bridge... This is the highlight of the race.  Unfortunately, one doesn't get to really enjoy that part of the course.  It comes up pretty early (mile 3? 4?) and there's a hill going up so that thins the crowd slightly.  Crossing over the bridge we are limited to one lane each direction.  There's still cars whizzing past but there is a little separation.  Still, the crowd that had thinned on the uphill to the bridge are now funneled across the bridge.  And, it's San Francisco, so the bridge is wet and the metal plates that are evenly spaced on the bridge are slippery.  And, it's San Francisco and it wasn't totally fogged over, so runners were stopping to snap photos.  Seriously.  It's a slow and careful run across and then again back over.  You really had to be paying attention to what was happening in front of you and to the surface in front of you.  It was still awesome, but I really wish it was at the end of the marathon course when one could really enjoy it. 

8. Split... After crossing the GGB, you run a few more hills before finally descending into Golden Gate Park.  At that point, half marathoners move to the left and marathoners move to the right.  We can see their finish line. 

9. Second Half Marathoners... The cool thing about this race is the option to run either the first half or the second half of the marathon course for your Half Marathon.  If you choose the second half, your start line is soon after we split from the first Half runners.  And since they start their race about 2+ hours in (for me), I was able to run past them before they began.  Maybe it's 2.5 hours.  Anyway, to have this awesome cheering section in the middle of GGP at the midpoint of our race was really cool.  And they are runners so their cheers mean a little bit more than Average Joe who doesn't even know what a marathon distance is.  This was one of my favorite parts of the race.

10. Course Monitors... San Francisco has THE BEST course monitors.  A Harley motorcycle club volunteers.  Yes, you heard that right.  Harley Bikers in their motorcycle attire and attitude were directing us and cheering.  That was pretty awesome.  Apparently they do it every single year.  Sweet!

11. Golden Gate Park... After circling and running the length of GGP, you enter back thru Haight Ashbury and run towards downtown.  Haight Ashbury smells and is dirty but it's also at the top.  This is good and bad.  Great if you love steep downhills, but bad if you don't.  And my tired legs were not happy about the steep descent coming out of that neighborhood.  But the other really cool part about having a Second Half Marathon is that while I was descending the hills, the leaders of that race were flying past me.  It was crazy how fast they were running down these very steep hills.  I love watching people race as much as I love racing so this was a thrill for me.

12. Street closures... Even the SF Marathon cannot ask the City to close all streets all morning long.  Their compromise is the close certain blocks and reroute runners occasionally.  It's a little odd to approach a merging of runners but at one point the road closure happened right in front of me so I was the first people to run past an intersection.  The very funny course monitor yelled out, "You are in the lead!  Go for it!"  I'll never be "in the lead" so that was fun.

13. Diane... One thing I really love about running is the ability to pick out runners from behind.  I know exactly what my running friends look like by their form.  Around mile 22, I saw Diane whiz past me.  That was fun.  And then to bump into her again at the finish line?  That's kind of crazy in such a big race, but there she was when I entered the beer garden. 

14. Finish line... Regular finish line activities and stuff.  But a beer garden off to the side was pretty nice.  Finishers received a complimentary Lagunitas Brewing beer (one of my favorites!).  And as I slowly managed to sit myself down against a temporary metal fence with a "little Sumpin'" in my hand, the sun came out.  The awesome, warm, radiant sun came out to warm us up.  It was the perfect finish.

Post race, I found a bathroom at a nearby shopping center to give myself a sponge bath and change.  Best idea I'd had all day!  Then I stopped a guy on the street to ask where he got the sandwich he was eating.  I was famished and that falafel sandwich hit the spot.  Then I made my way to the train station, bought my ticket and waited maybe 5 minutes for the next southbound train to take me to Daly City.  My family magically arrived at that train station at the same time.  They picked me up and we drove back into the City to watch the SF Ballet perform at Stern Grove.  Absolutely perfect.

Official race stats:

Full Marathon
Runner DetailsRace Results
Name:Cherl Willardson
Hometown:Corvallis, OR
Overall:1989 out of 6025
Women: 413 out of 2038
F 40-44: 47 out of 292
Age/Grade: 56.60% Place: 1212
Finish: 4:12:11 Pace: 9:38
Chip Time:4:12:11
Gun Time:4:27:17
Split Times
2.5:20:35 Pace: 8:14
5.5 Mi:48:41 Pace: 8:52
7.5 Mi:1:06:59 Pace: 8:56
13.3 Mi:1:58:39 Pace: 8:56
17.1 Mi:2:36:42 Pace: 9:10
23.5 Mi:3:40:44 Pace: 9:24