As I had previously mentioned in an earlier post my wife and I signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon as part of our 10 year wedding anniversary getaway. Nothing says love more than 13.1 miles together starting at 5.30am.
We arrived in San Francisco early afternoon on Thursday (thank you US Airways and Mother Nature for our 3 hour delay) and once we were done checking into the hotel set out to explore the city. Now, when getting ready for a race the best thing is to get acclimatized (adjust to any differences in weather and time zones) and pretty much take it easy and stay off your feet before the race. Well, you don’t know our family. We don’t miss a beat. Always on the go and this was no exception.
We tried to start our trip off like typical tourists and explored the city. We jumped on a cable car which would take us up the streets and end at Fisherman’s Wharf. FAIL…the cable car broke down (lost hold of the cable) about 2 blocks after we started. They have a no refund policy and rather than wait to start all over again on another trolley we started what would be a pattern for us for the whole visit. We walked. Did I mention that San Francisco is quite hilly? Really? I hadn’t mentioned it yet? We very quickly discovered why people take trolleys…the hills are kind of steep. Not to be too disheartened we joked that thank goodness we run marathons or we wouldn’t have been fit enough to make it to the top of the streets.
We continued much in this vain throughout the weekend. Walking up and down hills including the climb up to Coit Tower. Quite a few steps in addition to the hills. By Saturday lunchtime we had to find a place to sit down for a break as walking down the hills had left our legs a little shaky…and we had a half marathon in just over 12 hours.
As I mentioned in my previous post we ran every day where were there too. What a great way to get out and explore a city. So yup, we were being really sensible just before running a half marathon. We had run the 2 days prior to race day just under 11 miles and had walked even further. Throw in some massive crazy hills and towers and we were text-book how not to behave before a race. Go us!!!
Okay, back to the race. After we toured Alcatraz on Friday (yes hills and stairs not to mention sea legs) we walked along the Embarcadero to the Concourse Exhibition Center for the Expo. Another genius move by me was to look at the map and say it looks walkable, not too far. Umm, try just under 4 miles and we had already run 5 miles and been on our feet all day. This is beginning to sound like how we do a runDisney weekend…my wife’s motto is “No Sleep Until Philly”. So we walked and walked (again, just a few hilly bits to conquer).
The Expo itself was nice, fairly low-key and not too big. I was surprised that being such a big city and a key event that there were not too many national vendors. I don’t recall seeing some of my favorite vendors like ‘One More Mile’ or ‘runDisney’ or major manufacturers like Garmin, Brooks and others. Overall, and my wife agreed, this seemed a very low-key event. In fact when we were talking with locals in the shops and restaurants and most of them seemed completely unaware there was a marathon going on over the weekend. The Embarcadero was decked out in flags for next month’s America’s Cup event and there were just a few marathon flags around the start line at the junction of the Embarcadero and Mission Street. Typically you see the signs of setting up, for example tents and port-a-potties but we didn’t see any en route to the Expo. In fact we changed our Saturday run plans to see if we could even see the start line (we didn’t). I’ll touch upon that later when I share the details of the race organization.
Having been on our feet most of the day we made up for our energy spent walking by pretty much eating all the samples they were giving out at the Expo. Well, when in Rome…The official race store was nice and both my wife and I grabbed a couple of tops. Lucky for us as San Francisco was colder than we anticipated and we found ourselves wearing our new gear over the next couple of days. The packet pickup process was pretty easy but the shirts were tiny. Everyone seemed to have to move up a size or two. I ended up with an XL shirt and my wife moved up to an S. People were saying that the shirts were too tight and one lady I spoke with said she couldn’t get here head through the top (it wasn’t that bad and I cannot recall her having a giant head!) Anyway, the shirts were nice long sleeved and looked cool. The Half Marathon was teal with yellow detail and the Full Marathon was the reverse. They both looked nice. We both got a race bag which was to be the only bag allowed to bring into the starting area for security reasons and there was a place to write down our bib numbers on the bag. I actually think this was a great idea as I always worry about just attaching a paper tag with a safety-pin to my bag which is identical to everyone elses. Nice touch.
We didn’t spend too much at the Expo but I bought a cool shirt that will remind me of the weekend and I will be wearing that as I run along the New Jersey Boardwalk this summer as it looks pretty cool. Finally on our way out of the Expo we got to see the finisher medal (which was the same for both the first Half Marathon and second Half Marathon) and were pretty pleased with the size despite it being smaller than the Full Marathon (for obvious reasons). We are pretty much spoiled with our runDisney bling and it has caused us to have high standards 🙂
Skipping forward to race day (Sunday 16th) we got up around 3:45am as they had asked everyone to get there 30 minutes early for extra security procedures. We also had decided to walk to the start line which was about 1 mile from the hotel. We were in good company as we seemed to be on the streets with lots of other runners (the hotel lobby was a popular meeting place I guess) and a few people were actually running to the start line as there warm up. The weather was a nice temperature. I had been worried that it would be cold by the Bay as previous years race recaps had mentioned the wind chill and cool temperatures and I was certain we would be cold up on the bridge. Last year the bridge was all covered in low cloud and certainly looked cold and that was in July, a full month later than this year’s race. Both my wife and I were dressed in t-shirts with a half zip top. I as usual was wearing my thin gloves.
Security was pretty smooth, just checking our pretty empty bag. Shari brought her mylar wrap from the 2012 Philly Half Marathon to keep her warm at the start and we lined up for the port-a-potties and headed to the corral with no problems. The Full Marathoners went off in Waves 1-3 and we were in the first Half Marathon wave in Wave 4.
We went off smoothly and the first thing I noticed which brought a smile to my face was that we were running alongside palm trees (although planted in the middle of the road) and I just thought, hey, this is California. It’s a nice day for a race. The sky was as crystal clear as you could get. No clouds anywhere which was very much a surprise.
As we rounded the Embarcadero, past Fisherman’s Wharf and onto the Marina we got our first glimpse (thanks to the clear sky) of the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. It was still about 3-4 miles away but clear to the eye. We continued on past the Marina, Fort Mason and Crissy Field and made our way up towards the entrance to the Bridge. One thing my wife and I noticed was the distinct lack of water stations and restrooms along the route. My wife pointed out that a lot of people (more than typical) seemed to be carrying water/hydration belts. They obviously knew better than we did. When we did get to the water stations the paper cups were very small, bigger than shot glasses but not much. We found ourselves grabbing two at a time when we saw a water stop. However, this did not stop us from enjoying ourselves.
At this point I should mention that this is the first long race where I did not use the Jeff Galloway method. I have been running progressively further without talking walk breaks just to see how I would fare. While we did walk through water stations and stop for pictures I pretty much ran the whole race. I’m sure I will be doing some form of run/walk for the Dopey Challenge next January it was good to see that I was able to keep motoring on without harm.
Once we hit the Bridge it was photos galore for my wife and I. It was a mixture of great weather, great views and great company but I was pretty giddy like a school boy up on the Bridge. I was running along holding my iPhone up in the air taking photos as I ran, taking photos of my wife and I and some running selfies. I just had a smile on my face from ear to ear. It was fantastic. I had grown up with images of the Golden Gate Bridge in my house growing up (my parents had visited San Francisco in 1979 and had framed photos of the skyline around our house) but here I was actually seeing the Bridge AND running it. My wife was also enjoying her self. We took plenty of photos of her jumping in the air (great for the knees mid race).
We finished the first span of the Bridge and arrived at the vista point on the Marin County side where we stopped to take in the view and take some pictures with the Bridge as our backdrop. At this point in the race we bumped into our friend Mayela who was running the Full Marathon with her friend Yasmin (her first Full Marathon). Small world for sure. I kind of had a feeling we would bump into her. It’s what we do 🙂 Anyway, we took photos together and they headed off and we got down to some seriously cheesy photo opps like only we can do 🙂
We grabbed a gel, some electrolyte drink and some water and headed back over the Bridge. We soon caught up with Mayela and Yasmin and ran the rest of the length of the Bridge with them. This included some very nifty over the head backwards photography by me as I was running (I was getting very accomplished in my running photography). We left Mayela and Yasmin as we reached the end of the Bridge and headed off up the hill (yes, a big one) up to the Presidio.
At this point there was a water station at the top and it was warmer than expected due to the clear weather around the Bridge (#overdressed) and we stopped to grab some electrolyte drink and water. I noticed as I approached that they had run out of electrolyte and were ‘mixing’ up a batch of powder and water…that explains why the electrolyte drink tasted funny. It wasn’t premixed and seemed to have been made up of different concentration at each station. That made me grateful the cups were not that big after all. After taking 3 cups or so of water (equivalent to about 1-2 in other races) we started our descent down by the coast line at which point I actually ran out of space on my iPhone and couldn’t take any more photos. At least I got the good views in before I ran out of space. My wife also has an iPhone which we used as back up but most of the views were in the first 10 miles of the race so I didn’t feel too disappointed.
As we were running down the hill and then up to some of the residential areas I overheard a runner talking and struck up a brief conversation with him. Of course the British accent was what caught my ear. When I asked him where was he from? He said he was from the North of England…me too! Where in the North? He said Leeds…me too! Again, small world. Thousands of miles away I bump into a local fellow 🙂
After the Presidio we ran through some residential neighborhoods which were quite hilly but nothing as bad as in the center of the city and they were pretty manageable and we made a turn into Golden Gate Park which was the finish of the First Half Marathon and where the Second Half Marathon started and joined the Full Marathoners.
As we finally split off from the Full Marathoners and turned towards the finish my wife and I ran down the finishers chute towards the line hand in hand. This was our anniversary trip after all. As we crossed the finish line we received our medals and headed to the finishers area for our mylar blankets and refreshments.
The post race food was different from the usual Philadelphia soft pretzel I’m used to. Irish coffee (yes real Irish coffee with whiskey and whipped cream), scones from Panera Bread, Hawaiian sweet rolls, organic Greek yogurt as well as fruit, natuaral chips and granola. I like West Coast finisher foods!!!
We stopped quickly by the Rose Garden in the park for a picture and then headed to the buses which would take us back to the start line and our walk back to the hotel. The walk back (again another mile) was a good way to rest and relax and keep moving. We didn’t really pay much attention to the second Half Marathon out on the course but we did notice that it must have been tough for the Full Marathoners to be running past the first Half finisher area in the park and seeing everyone ingesting alcohol and fancy foods. They would get theirs at the finish (along with chocolate milk, my favorite post race treat, which we didn’t get…and I wanted :-)).
After a quick shower we headed back out as we had a full plan for the rest of the day and the next day. First up, the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Running and Disney…who would have thought they go together 🙂
We are now planning our next destination race.