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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where R U? - Elsie's BDay Post could be a really bad pun related to my lack of blogging recently...

But really, it's what happens when 14 women go to San Francisco spend a significant amount of time texting "Where R U?"
  • Where R U now?
  • Where will you be?
  • Where have you been?
  • Where are you going?
And variations on THAT theme.

So...I've been a bad blogger recently, but really, part of the reason for my non-bloggyness (other than being crazy busy with teaching and my other various projects) is because last weekend's Nike Womens Marathon weekend was about MORE than running a half-marathon.

It was Elsie's surprise birthday weekend in honor of her XX birthday (she'd KILL me if I told which one, so I won't...let's just say it was a "special" that deserved some serious recognition!) Of course, she KNEW she was going to SF to run a half. She KNEW that Betty, Mik, Alberta and I were joining her. What she didn't know is that Momma, Wilma, Daisy, Clarence, Madge, Work friends (Cindy, Joan, & Sandy) were joining us.

Let me tell you...keeping THAT secret was no small was something that we started planning shortly after we "won"and got into the Nike Women's Lottery back in April. EPIC blog post about Elsie's BDay/Half-Marathon Weekend in the City, could also be titled...Herding heffers; Herding catsl It's really about the same thing...

By the way...this is going to be a long one (really? a long blog post from Alice? What a surprise!)
At Elsie's on our way to the far as we know, she has NO IDEA what we have planned
Of course I was lucky enough to be selected for the optional morning feel up.  Woo Hoo! 
So...other than the morning pat-down, feel up, the rest of the flight was relatively uneventful. We even were on the same flight as Irene and her sister Donna and some other SDTC peeps. Once we landed in San Francisco, we hopped on the BART to get to our hotel...which was just two blocks away from the start of the race. We stayed at a place called Hotel Palomar. I highly recommend it.

As I was standing on the BART, I thought for sure Elsie could see that I was texting Cindy (who had flown up with her crew the night before), letting her know how far away we were, how long it would be until we got off the BART, but Elsie remained oblivious to it all.

I really thought we'd blown it for sure as we got off the BART and walked toward our hotel. As we rounded the corner, Mik and I could see Cindy and her crew walking toward us. Suddenly Mik looked at me and physically turned Elsie around.

  • Mik: Alice...I need to go (quickly scanning the street, she spots the Virgin Records store sign and points) there.
  • Alice: Really? Why?
  • Mik: (looking at me for more help than THAT offerred) because...uh...because...Alex (her son) needs some, some
  • Alice: Music stuff?
  • Mik: Yeah...that's stuff
I LAME is that. MUSIC STUFF? ((shakes head)). Betty should have been with us. She is a MUCH better liar off the top of her head. Mik and I really suck at it. No matter. I guess it worked because even though Elsie was looking at us like we were a little loopy, she didn't say anything and by the time we turned around, Cindy and crew had ducked back into the hotel lobby. When we walked in, I could see Cindy hiding behind a luggage cart. Surprise #1 was up.
  • Cindy, Sandy & Joan: SURPRISE!!!!
  • Elsie: OMG...What are YOU doing here?
Apparently they'd been lying to her for weeks about sick aunts, vacations to the desert, and doctor's appointments...LOL.

Of course, we went to the room for Mimosas! I mean it was almost 11am at that point. Then Mik, Betty, Elsie and I headed off to the Nike Women's Marathon Expo

Outside the expo on Union Square...can we talk about the weather in SF that day...85 was gorgeous!
One word about the Nike Expo...and the whole Nike Women's Marathon experience...this is really an event that is organized around women ( offense dudes) organized by women. Everything is so darn organized (well...except the bag check...but more about that later), it's downright awewome. We walked in, picked up our bibs (timers were on the back of the extra shoe tag), and were out in several minutes.

Unlike other expos, there are only a handful of vendors...none of whom would be Nike business competitors, so unless you like Nike products, it's not the expo for you.

After that, we walked across the street to the Nike store.
The sign above NikeTown in Union Square...Team in Training is a MAJOR sponsor/partner.
Elsie's name on the wall
Betty pointing at her name
Mik's name was near the ground
And yours truly
By the was REALLY WARM in San Elsie decided she needed some flipflops. Luckily the Nike Store had some...that were really squishy. 

Yes...we are 12. The sticker on all the shoes read "Squeeze Me" and because we are such good friends, we let Elsie walk around Union Square with one on her back.
Lunch at the top of the Hyatt...Donna, Irene, Me, Betty, Joan, Cindy, Sandy, Mik and Elsie
Outside the Hyatt was what I'd call a paparazzi we posed (Charlie's Angel style for Betty)
I don't even know what's going on here...
But wait...there were more surprises coming. One of the reason the Hotel Palomar was such an excellent hotel was the hosted wine-bar happy hour. Our next stop. 

It was really dark in the wine bar, so my pix stink...but they did give us our first opportunity to sing Happy Birthday to Elsie

Finally...we went back to our rooms to get ready for dinner...Elsie's birthday dinner. I was still expecting about 10 more people to show up...6 more heffers and a couple of Elsie's brothers who live in the bay area. As we were getting ready, the herd started texting Betty and I funny one-liners from THEIR flights up to San Francisco...and while were were trying really hard to NOT laugh at texts and NOT comment on them in front of Elsie, we would occassionally slip up and...

Betty modeling the bed blanket as a reasonable shawl 
STILL SHE DID NOT NOTICE (although, at this point, I think she must know SOMETHING IS BEING PLANNING)

Finally... Momma, Daisy, and Wilma were in the hotel and I couldn't take the texting and fibbing any longer. 
SURPRISE!!!! Daisy, Momma, and Wilma... just randomly geting off an elevator in the Hotel Palomar
SIGH! We had a few more surprises coming...but by then, I think she knew what was going on...the Herd had arrived in SF to celebrate.

We walked over to John's Grill (a landmark...) for dinner where we were joined by Clarence and Madge and Alberta (who ended up driving to LA and flew out of there). (WHEW). We had a lovely table on the second floor.

Meanwhile, I'd been trying to get in touch with Elsie's brothers, who I'd emailed earlier in the week, but all I had was a work number for one of them.  We waited awhile, had some cocktails and wine before dinner, and I was getting worried that they weren't showing up when suddenly the waiter started pouring champagne.
  • Me: Who ordered the champagne? (I figured it was Elsie's work friends)
  • Waiter: Someone downstairs
So Elsie, Betty and I walked downstairs to find out who had sent up enough champagne for 14 women.
Elsie with brothers Adam, Bill and nephew Nick...everyone now ...AWWWWW! 
Yeah...I started tearing up too. about 9:00, we ordered dinner. Thank GAWD the race wasn't the next day and we had a whole day to recover...sorta...

OK...I thought I'd get the whole weekend down in one post...but that really seems like a good place to end this one, doesn't it.

Don't worry. There was a half-marry. We all ran it. It's a good story too. I'll get to it eventually, but until then. 

Happy Birthday one of my greatest inspirations! And the smartest dumb blond I know. I love ya girl!