Monday, November 8, 2010

Race Report: US Half

Warning: long post!

I'm just back from a wonderful weekend in San Francisco. It was a carefree weekend--the first in I don't even know how long. Probably a year and a half, really, since I had a few days that were both kid- and work-free. Oh, and then there was that race you're here to read about.... :) Here's the recap:

While in flight to CA, I realized that I had no memory of packing my Garmin. Then I thought about the packing list I'd made the day before and realized that it, too, had not included my Garmin. Fail. At least, I thought, I'd done races before without it. But still, fail. But my flights went smoothly and by dinnertime I was sitting around a table with old and new friends enjoying yummy food and laughing.

We slept in and lounged around, then went out in the afternoon/evening for the race expo then some touristy things. The expo itself wasn't much, except that I did introduce Frank to the world of Gu and double-layer socks. I love that she let me geek out about running! Also, I like the race shirt. Check it out. The back is nice too.

After expo-ing, we headed to Muir Woods, aka, the redwoods. Due to its obvious popularity, it took a while to find a place to park. When we finally did and I got out of the car I saw this, to my complete surprise. Runners, this is for you:

I'd read runners' blogs about Dipsea. I'd certainly heard of it. But to tell the truth, I never knew what people were talking about. As I learned on Saturday, they are referring to "The Race from Hell." I saw one tiny piece of where the Dipsea trail cuts through the park, and I understood immediately how it got that name. It's a 7-mile race through Muir Woods. Not even through it, but up the side of the mountain apparently. Anyone completing this has my total runner respect. It is the real deal. And completely gorgeous.

A few more pictures from the park.

Frank, me and Jess

As it approached the park's closing time we packed it in and decided to drive down to the beach. I'm pretty sure I was the only one of us who loved the drive down, but I did. It was so reminiscent of those long drives up and down Spruce Knob all those years ago. The vague fear of rolling over a mountainside to one's death overwhelmed by friendship and the gorgeous scenery. It was total zen for little ol' me. The beach wasn't bad either (to say the least!).

After we left the beach, we drove into Sausalito for dinner at a little Italian place. It seemed sort of like something out of a movie, picturesque, upscale, and with a character of a waitress who told us not to order spaghetti and meatballs because she thought it was kind of mediocre. Who does that?!? It (the spaghetti) was lovely.

We headed back to San Francisco to get settled in for the night.

I'd looked at the weather earlier and I knew there was possible rain on Sunday, but I wasn't sure when on Sunday. As soon as we got back, Frank (a nickname she had when I met her, btw) and I checked the hourly forecast. Then the radar. Because the hourly looked like this and we wanted not to believe it.

6am: rain, 100% chance, 60 degrees
7am: rain, 100% chance, 61 degrees
8am: rain, 100% chance, 61 degrees
9am: rain, 100% chance, 61 degrees
10am: rain, 90% chance, 61 degrees

Expletive. Expletive. Expletive.

We decided that for our own sense of self-worth, we had to at least get up in the morning, get dressed, and go down to the start line. We had to at least make an effort to try to make ourselves toe the line. We couldn't go all the way to CA to intentionally oversleep our race. Even if it was 60 degrees and raining and our bodies hurt with various runner injuries. We still had to at least go.

Morning rolled around and by 6am we were in a cab headed to Fisherman's Wharf for the start. We found the start area then promptly found a building overhang to huddle under to stay dry for a while. When the noise of the start area grew louder, we decided to head over, port-a-potty and line up. And once we did that, I don't think either of us really thought there was any turning back. We had to do this. Even if we did verbalize that it was probably one of the stupidest things either of us had ever done. And even if we both knew that, in all likelihood, all PR bets for me were off.

I've never seen a crowd more anxious/excited for the gun to go off. We were all ready to get moving. Finally, mercifully, it did.

Miles 1-4
Miles 1 and 2 passed easily, even if everyone was completely soaked by that point. The first water stop was around mile 2 but I didn't even see it until I was almost past it. Why? Because it was about 50 feet to the side of the course and was ONE TABLE. I decided that was fine, I probably wouldn't have stopped even if it had been more obvious. So on we went. The second water stop came up around mile 4. This one was on course and it was time for a drink.

Let me just say it: I have never seen water stops more disorganized. Ever. The cups were empty and stacked on the tables, a free-for-all for runners to try to grab. A guy, ONE volunteer, was pouring quickly into them and occasionally just putting the pitcher down for runners to dip their cups into for timeliness. It was disgusting. And Frank had to ask him three times to pour her more because she barely got anything in her cup the first two times.

Miles 5-9
Somewhere in mile 5 I lost Frank, at a water stop I think. In mile 5 also came the first real shock of the morning--I turned a corner to find that we were running about half a mile down a steep, muddy trail. At first I was afraid of slipping, but a woman from Nova Scotia next to me gave me a little pep talk about it and I picked up the pace again. There was something fun about getting that truly filthy. It became my own little Warrior Race.

Then we were up and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and coming back. Even in the rain, even with me soaked, it was beautiful. To see the fog and the boats and the waves. Pretty surreal. And yes, the Full House theme song popped into my head every now and then. Ah, TGIF. By mile marker 9 we were off the bridge and headed back.

Miles 10-11.5
From mile marker 9 to mile marker 10 was a leg out, then the turn around was just past mile marker 10. It was at this point that I realized that I'd held back too much. I still had WAY too much in the tank at mile 10. I realized immediately that after the muddy goat path around mile 4, I'd gotten too apprehensive about not knowing what the next turn might bring. Even though all bets were off the moment we arrived on site in the rain, I was still frustrated with myself for having left so much slack. I should mention in here that there finally was a well-organized, hygienic water stop. Finally.

Mile 11.5-13.1
I think I did a respectable job at the kick. I kicked about a mile and a half out, then stronger at a mile out. It was probably the best kick I've pulled off, but also probably because I held back too much earlier on. Part of this stretch (and about half a mile of the last section) were right along the beach. I sort of had to pinch myself that I was running with the surf splashing up around my feet. Again, even in the cold rain, it was really beautiful. By mile 12 or so we were a little further off the beach and on a street. I just put my head down and ran. I walked up one insanely steep and very short hill, then poured it on through the finish. The finish felt great. It really did, even knowing then (even without my Garmin) that I hadn't PR'ed. I *did* get cool new bling.

Official race results put me at 2:17:02. At first I didn't believe it. I thought for sure they had somehow added 10 minutes by accident. Since they haven't rescinded the race results yet I have to accept that I really ran a 2:17 half. Other stats:
Females 20-29: 333/705
Gender: 697/1623
Overall: 1637/2976 (I should mention here that there were 5,000 registered participants)

Things I learned this weekend
  1. What people are talking about when they say Dipsea
  2. That it really does help a LOT to know a course beforehand
  3. That yes, Garmins really do make a difference
  4. That sometimes nature's got you beat, and you can't do much about it
  5. That my Detroit Marathon jacket is fabulous, but not in fact waterproof
  6. That San Francisco is really beautiful
  7. That a little down time, and friends, are really good for the soul
I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little disappointed about my finishing time. But at the same time, I think I did reasonably well for me for those conditions. And doing something kinda stupid every now and then just reminds me that I'm still alive. I wouldn't change that for the world.


Black Knight said...

Congrats on the race, you are in the first half of the pack! Nice shirt and medals.
Beautiful report and photos.

Stephanie said...

Congrats! SF weather can be brutal...I was less than stoked to run my first marathon in the cold rain. But, nothing is better than the views SF gives you!

And, at the least the schwag was nice!

TNTcoach Ken said...

Way to get your stupid on! Now you need a waterproof jacket for your next wet adventure..... Congrats.

Running Diva Mom said...



Saw your note about my treadmill review. the running platform is about 8 inches off of the ground. hope that helps. it rocks for the price, seriously.

Damaris said...

awesome medal! and SF sounds amazing. Dipsea = NUTS! I'm really jealous that you got to see the redwoods.