Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nike Half Marathon...Oh Yeah...We Ran it!

So...the race was on Sunday...and we got there on Friday what did we do on Saturday.

Seriously? We were in San Francisco.

We shopped. We ate. We walked.

None of these things, by the way, are stellar activities to be doing the day before running a half, but whatevs we were in SF.

So, when last I wrote...we were finishing up dinner at John's Grill, and quite frankly, the night wouldn't have been complete without this...
Signature glasses from John's Grill that just "accidentally" made their way into various handbags.
and this...

A woman walking down the street was carrying this fabulous handbag! We asked her where she bought it and she said "Australia." I'm not sure I get the whole patriotic symbolism of the nerd-cow though. I'll have to ponder it some more.
so by the time we got back to the hotel room we were ready for this...
Elsie and Mik...they were done!
But the next morning we were up bright and early(ish) and decided to go for a little warmup run to the Embarcadero.
It was still a little warm...for San Fran...I'm just saying (yeah...she'd gonna kill me for this one)
We ran about 2 miles, then stopped at the Farmer's Market at the Embarcadero and had one of the prettiest latte's ever...seriously, it was a work of art. 
Then we walked back to the hotel (Elsie, Betty, and Mik)
After breakfast and showers, we decided to do some shopping...or at least some of the herd did. I wandered around Macy's for awhile, but didn't really feel the shopping bug. So at one point Elsie, Mik and I decided to walk about two miles to North Beach for some Italian food.

The Trans America Building - Walking through the Financial District
Past Chinatown
Just not something you see every day
Finally...all I really wanted was a Pelegrino and a Panini
So we hung out and felt cosmopolitan, but I was thinking...geez, I've logged about five miles today...not sure this is the best pre-race day activity to be doing.

So what do we do to add onto non-helpful pre-race activities? A glass of wine of course. we were walking around North Beach, we walked past a place called Rose Pistolas. When we were on the plane flying up to SF, Betty sat next to a guy who gave her a list of places we needed to go to. It was on his we went. Eventually, the rest of The Herd and friends showed up.
Madge and Momma reenact a scene from Lady and the I don't know who is the lady and who is the wait a minute. I think I do....
Oh no fear...I can run a half mary tomorrow. No problema (say Betty and Mik)
We stopped at another restaurant for an early dinner (because they could seat 12 of us at 6pm on a Saturday night with a last minute reservation...) and then decided to walk some more....through Chinatown on our way home.

Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with the streets of San Francisco...NONE of this is easy walking. The walk into Chinatown was UPHILL, the walk out was DOWNHILL, but all of it is really entertaining.
Alberta, Momma, Daisy, and Sandy in Chinatown
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE DEER STICKING ITS TONGUE OUT AT???? (One of the windows at Barney's)
Amazingly, we were all in bed by 9:30pm...In fact, I'd say that my roommates were asleep before 10. Me? Not so much. But I tried.

Good thing because the wake up call came at 5am. Truth be told. I was already awake, but by 5:30, we could look out onto the street and see people walking toward the race. It was ON!
DAMN it was dark at 5am! 
I just LOVED that we were about two blocks from the start of the race. When we did this race a couple years ago, we ran into some troubles at the gear check. I studied the race materials and noticed that it indicated there would be gear checks on both sides of Union Square. Yay I thought. We'd just walk up Stockton and check in our gear at Stockton and Geary...the other back checks were at Powell and Geary...which is also where the racers were lining up. We got stuck there a couple years ago.

And we're off to the races!
Here's where things went bad AGAIN!...we walked up to the gear check buses about 6:30 and one of the volunteers told us that they weren't using those busses YET (WTF? The race starts at 7am?) and that we should head to to other side to check our like dutiful little ducks, we did. Only by the time we neared Powell and Geary (we had to cross Powell to get to the bag check) it was complete and utter GRIDLOCK.

Too many people walking up Powell to the start. Too many people walking to the start from the other side of Powell on Geary. Too many people already in their starting corrals (the 9-10 minute pace group was lined up on Powell and the 10-11 minute pace was lining up on Geary) converge around Union Square...arguable the largest groups in a women's race). It was absolute madness...and sad...and frustrating because I KNEW it was going to be a CLUSTER EFF to get to the gear check on the other side of Powell, which is why I was really happy that there were gear check busses on Stockton.

It was truly one of the scariest things I've ever been in. About 10,000 women all trying to get to THE OTHER SIDE (oh...did I mention there were porta potties on Powell too?). Thank god it was about 90% women, or I think there would have been fights, but for the most part, everyone in the crowd was helpful, polite...way more "excuse me's" and "I'm sorry" and "oh my bad's" than I would every expect in a race that wasn't 20000 women (and 2000 men). We lost Mik in the crowd (actually, she was smart. She saw that we were never going to get through, so she turned around and ran down Market to Mason to check her gear.)

If I ever do this race again...I hereby swear that I will get to the gear check by walking up Mason.

Alas...I talked to someone later in the day who said that they walked right up to the busses on the Stockton side and had no problem. They probably got there about 10 minutes after we were sent away.

So..despite the gear check debacle, once we did get our gear checked and calmed down, it was time to get to the start.
He was shouting to some friends about how he'd just checked his "bag." Really? I love San Fran! 
Again...thank GAWD for the green. It's how we spotted each other all morning! was crowded
And we're off
 So...Alberta, Elsie, Betty and I started together. I cannot emphasize enough how crowded the beginning of the race is...and also, since we were on the streets of SF, how we really had to pay attention to who is around you, who is walking in front of you (four or five abreast...grrrrr), potholes, dropped clothes. It's a pretty treacherous start. Betty and Elsie moved over to the right side and ran on the sidewalk, so they got ahead of us. Alberta and I just trotted along and tried to stay together (again...yay for the green).

About a mile an a half in, my Garmin had some pretty strange readings and was indicating that I'd already run three miles and for 30 minutes (HUH? I mean I know we were running SLOW...but 30 minutes to run two miles? THAT'S RIDICULOUS!)  I figured the satellite signal was bounding off all the buildings and screwing things up, but I realized later that it was because I'd neglected to reset it from the previous day's run. (DUMMY). So at mile 2 I told Alberta I was just going to reset my Garmin and start it over. This had a really interesting effect on me for the rest of the race because whenever I looked at my Garmin, I'd see that I'd run 7.6 miles and I'd end up FEELING like I usually feel at 7.6 miles, not like I'd run 9.6.

Or maybe it was because I'd been running so slow. So here's the best I can piece together my pace for the first few miles:

Mile 1: 10:45
Mile 2: 11:30
Mile 3: 11:31

So...maybe it was the slow. But no matter, the Nike Women's 1/2 is just a beautiful run. I loved running past fisherman's wharf, past the bakeries, past all the cheerleaders and with all the women (and a few men).
Alberta, cruising through Fisherman's Warf 
Around the 4th mile we hit the first of the infamous SF hills...a short little jaunt up a hill...around a corner, and up another hill. Alberta and I hung in there with the 11 minute pacer (who rocked and who was giving everyone around her excellent advice about taking it easy on the hills...using our arms). With those hills come some of the best views of the Golden Gate I stopped a couple of times to take some pictures. Those stops aren't represented in my Garmin times (because I had it set to auto pause), but it accounts for about five minutes of time during the race.

Mile 4: 12:30
Mile 5: 11:03
Mile 6: 11:27

I think I took this near Marina Park.
Alberta and I and a lousy picture of the bridge. 
This is as we were headed up toward the Precidio. It looks like a lousy-foggy day, and it was cloudy, but it was rather warm and quite humid. 
We caught up to Speedo boy who was cheering everyone up the hill. 
My whole goal for this part of the run was just to run the hills, no matter how slowly, and although there are some pretty slow times here...I ran all of 'em, and I am really proud of that. Actually some of my slowest times are NOT from the uphills though, but are from when I was running DOWN some hills. That Mile 9 split is almost all downhill and includes a stretch where you lose about 300 vertical feet in less than a 1/2 mile. It's just brutal on the knees. I watched one woman wipe out. I decided to take it REALLY SLOW.

Mile 7: 12:45
Mile 8: 10:51
Mile 9: 12:46
Mile 10: 12:09

Somewhere around Mile 7, I lost Alberta. She hadn't done much training (being a boxer and all). To a certain extent, I sort of regret not running more closely with her, and Betty and Elsie. They ended up finishing only a few minutes behind me. It would have been really nice to have crossed the finish line together.

Here's another thing about is so full of distractions (in addition to the neighborhoods and scenery) that you almost forget how far you're running. One of my favorites was the bra exchange at Mile 7. I could have exchanged my sweaty bra for a new Nike one. I wish I'd known about it. I would have worn an extra bra (one of my old Target Champion bras) and just gotten a new bra. Unfortunately, I really like the bra I was wearing, so I passed it by.

Around Mile 8, volunteers were passing out orange slices. We were in, what must be, one of the chi chi neighborhoods, lots of gates and mansions, and here we are sucking on oranges and leaving our orange peels everywhere. I suspect that Kaiser (the volunteer organization manning the station), must do a kick-ass job of cleaning up after us.

Headed toward some point (Los Reyes, Lobos? I can't was breathtaking BTW)
Those are busses and the finish line up ahead, but we weren't going directly there...we first had to take a left at the bottom of this hill.
Finally, by mile 10, we were out of the hills and I could pick up the pace a little bit...only by then (no matter what my Garmin said), I'd run 10 EFFING miles...a mile more than I'd run since Napa in July...and it was still super crowded...and there was still one more hill to climb as we ran back into Golden Gate park. (I do think that any race that has you run past the finish line at Mile 10 and then has you make a left turn before you get to it is just being mean).

As I ran through Golden Gate park, I started getting just a little bit annoyed with all the people around me (really...we were pretty much shoulder to shoulder the whole way). On the race photographer website there's a video of me at about Mile 6 (which was part of one of the first hills), and I was moving along and this woman in front of me came to almost a complete stop. I nearly ran up her backside! If you are so inclined to look at the crowd, I'm in the yellow hat about. If you are not so is a still shot.

In other words...WTF? I love the two women on the right who hare having a wonderful chat and who have MOVED THE HECK OVER TO THE RIGHT!
Mile 11: 11:56
Mile 12: 10:56
Mile 13: 10:21
Last little bit: 2:18

So my Garmin time says 2:35:26 - Which is about 10 minutes slower than Napa to Sonoma and 13 minutes slower than the San Diego RnR half in June. My official finish time was 2:40:08...which means that I stopped along the way for about 5 minutes to take pictures...which sounds about right to me as well.

I never thought this would be a PR race...that's for sure.
Waiting for my Tiffany.... 
Me with Irene and Elsie and Betty (right behind Irene) at the finish.
Like almost all other things at this race, the race area at the end was organized and efficient (as efficient as you can be with 20,000 runners who are, shall we say, not completely firing on all mental cylinders). We gathered our bagels, and energy drinks, and t-shirts and (of course), our Tiffanys and looked for Mik and Alberta. The cell phone service at the beach was HORRIBLE, but we eventually found each other. The Gear Check system enabled us to get our gear quickly and the changing tent? Well...lets just say that nobody cared who was ready to change ALL their clothes and who was not. I always manage to make BFFs with someone in the changing area who just needs someone to lean on.

Even the shuttle bus system was pretty efficient and about as good as it gets for a bus ride across SF that is always longer than you want it to be.

Once back, we showered, met the rest of the herd, and headed off to Johnny Foleys for some good grub and beers, and to debrief the day before most of the herd headed off to the airport.
Smartest thing I did that day...As we walked by the restaurant on our way to our hotel, I stopped in and made a lunch reservation for 12 in "about an hour and a half." Our table was waiting for us when we arrived. I LOVE that place.
All our bright yellow shirts and sporting some serious bling!
All in all...a perfect weekend. I am so very blessed to be able to have these adventures with The Herd, and am so very, very glad all of the ladies (both running and non-running heffers) are really truly my BFFs. I absolutely cannot wait for our next adventure together.


  1. You guys look awesome in your matching shirts & bling, the shades are pretty sweet! Nice work on what sounds like a tough course with the crowds and hills!

  2. County office gals were a blast, run was incredible (except your well documented bag check line - which btw - you made sound nicer - it was pretty scary in that mess), food and drinks marvelous and overall - it was a weekend I'll never forget. So proud of you for running the hills - your neighborhood runs really paid off!

  3. Looks like a great weekend Alice!

  4. Now THAT is how you get together to run 13.1 miles!

    Fun & style - I need to go running with you guys :D

  5. I sure have a lot of catching up to do! I still haven't completed my blog post.

    Yeah, it was crazy crowded! I just happened to find myself in a corral by accident and just stayed there.

    It was fun hanging with the herd and friends. :) Thanks for including us.

    My sister actually said she thinks she could do a half marathon, especially after watching some of the finishers come in. We might be trying for Nike next year, but we'll see how ambitious she feels when sign ups come along.

  6. Best birthday celebration ever! Thanks to the amazing friends & herd, im launched into the next running decade! Happy to post a 35th in my age group : ) can't wait for the next adventure- younger next year!!

  7. Great report! Love the pic of everyone with the shirts and bling....

    Congrats to everyone!

  8. Awesomeness at its best!

  9. You guys always have so much fun! I REALLY want to run that race! One of these days. Although, I keep reading about how much of a cluster the time before the race is.

  10. I think I'd be seriously claustrophobic doing that race. And for someone who walked so much the day prior (and, yes, I am familiar with those hilly streets), I think you put in a decent effort.