San Francisco Kaiser Permanente ½ MarathonWhen: Feb 3, 2013 (Super Bowl Sunday)
Start: 8:03 am (3 minutes late)
Shuttle to start: Free
Cost: Early birds are $55
Official Time: 1:54:03 13.1 pace: 8:42 (Finally broke my 12-Yr PR)
My Garmin: 1:54:01 13.22 miles pace: 8:38
T-shirt: Cotton long sleeves; extra $ for tech tees
Medal: First time medals were given to finishers
Course: Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway
#Runners 1/2: 5,700
#Runners 5K: 2,500Weather: Mid 40s
It was in 2001 when I first earned my ½ marathon PR. This PR today was only my 2nd PR and it came 12 years after City to the Sea. My results today has reinvigorated my interest in running more halves. The half marathon has, for lack of a better analogy, been like a middle child to me. I often ignored them because compared to the 5Ks and the 10Ks, which are short enough to train for-- the ½ distance has been overshadowed by my ‘cheapness’. The registration fees for some halves are as much as the marathon itself. Honestly, if I am going to train and also pay full price for the entry, I might as well go for the big one, right? If I can run longer then I see it as getting my money’s worth. I know it doesn’t make any sense to some people. And when I do run my half marathons they are more or less used for my training as a tune up race. It’s never really my full goal to go all out because in the back of my mind, I have to save the legs for the real thing, which has always been the marathon. Yeah, the marathon is my 'thang", but maybe not for long.
This time it was no different. I was not even planning on running this half and I only had two nights to think about it. A cousin of mine, had signed up in advance and due to unforeseen circumstances, plans changed so she offered me her spot. Luckily, Rhody Co Productions made it easy to transfer bibs. I literally walked up to the Will Call table on race morning and in less than 2 minutes I was squared away.
I’ve run this race in 2010 and loved the course. I kept telling myself I will do this race again, but the the cheap person inside of me prevailed: if I’m going to have to drive to the Bay Area I might as well make it to the full marathon. Driving 4 hours for the ½ seemed so wasteful. This time, since I have a free entry, why not? Plus, it fit perfectly well in my training.
I drove up the day before and I stayed with cousin. We had sushi and sashimi for dinner. I was happy with that since I love sashimi. I was not worried at all about lack of carbs. My thoughts were, this is not a marathon. It’s not that serious. (Not trying to sound like a snob to halves here.) I was only 15 minutes away from the start and since I knew exactly where I was headed, I was not nervous at all. I woke up at 4:30, drank my Gatorade, had one plain mini bagel, a banana and a Power Bar. I got ready in hardly anytime. I was so relaxed I didn’t even lay out my gear the night before like I usually do for marathon preparations.
I left the house at 6:00 and it was still pitch black. The nippy air hit me as I tried to get into my car. As I drove down the Great Highway, I started seeing orange cones that lined the course. Then I got the fluttering butterfly feelings. Uh-oh, not so relaxed any more. As I saw more cars looking for parking and runners walking briskly towards the yellow school buses, it was all the excitement of racing once again that came over me. I love this feeling!
I found a tight parking space and I was worried that I would be boxing the person to my right. I kept moving back and forth to give that person more room, but in my excitement to get on the bus, I did a poor job of parking. Finally the fellow to my left, helped me out and told me “Yeah, that’s good, there’s enough room for them to get out.” Thank goodness. I ran to the buses. I didn't know what my hurry was because it was only 6:30 and I had an hour and a half to kill. That’s the way I like to start my races. Get there in plenty of time to take care of business.
Running to the buses, got me a little worried. I felt a little wind. I knew we would be getting wind in the latter half of the course since we are by the Pacific Ocean for 6 miles. Ugh! Wind, here we go again. I put it out of my mind. Whatever.
As soon as I got off the bus (the ride was only two miles long) my first order of business was taking care of the bib transfer. It was hassle-free. They ripped my cousin’s bib and gave me a new number and a new chip timing tag. The organizer lady thanked me for taking the time to switch. (I remembered what Stan said, if anything had happened to me, at least they will know it was not my cousin.) It started getting crowded every minute. I did my thing, stretching, hitting the restroom, and chit chatted it up with a fellow blogger. Before we knew it, it was time to line up. They started 3 minutes later than advertised and I was some 3+ minutes away from crossing the start. It was that crowded. I do love crowded starts now. I have a different attitude. It gave me a chance to slow it down and not go crazy at the gun. It was elbow to elbow, I was watching closely the way everyone around me was swinging it. After all, I am just about the right height to get slugged in the face if I was not alert.
Mile 1 was my slowest mile at 10:04. Like I said I was glad it was that slow, for it gave me a chance to warm up. It was cold and even with my gloves on, I was freezing. I had on my capris, a tank and my long sleeve NY marathon shirt. It was just perfect. I also took along my water belt, which I didn’t need since water stations were set every 2 miles.
We started in the middle of the park and headed out to the panhandle and made a U-turn back towards the GG park. Since it is an urban park, there’s a lot of little up and downs and it can get deceivingly tiresome if you are not careful. I took a conservative pace in the first 6 miles. For some reason, this first 6 miles seemed to go on forever unlike the first time I ran it in 2010. I felt then that it flew by. This year, it seemed longer. However I was still enjoying myself. I was looking at running outfits and not really paying that much attention to pace. Lots of folks wearing Lululemon; it could be a San Francisco thing. From time to time I would zero in on a person ahead of me until I can see that I am gaining on them, then I would look at my watch to see what my pace was. I would not pull back as I felt strong. As early as mile 6, I started honing in on picking people in front of me. I was patient however, I knew that if I kept up the pace and the leg turning over I can catch up. I felt such a boost after each one that I pass. This seldom happens to me. It seems it’s the opposite that I am always who ends up watching folks run by me. I would say, oh yeah, I remember that one, now I am eating her dust. That’s the way it goes. I love it. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. Today the stars are aligning for me. About 6 ½ miles, the lead runner came flying by as he was closing his race. Under a minute behind him, came Jameson Mora, wearing his Aggies singlet. I was amazed and I got some kind of adrenaline after seeing these guys pass by. Pretty soon the lead women started rolling by running with the fast men. Mile 7 and 8 were my fastest miles at 7:58 and 8:10. Their energy is infectious.
By the time we got to the Great Highway (no wind by the way), it was game time. The road was long and I could see the thousand bobbing heads of the sea of runners ahead of me. It was hard looking up because it gave me an idea of just how far still I had to go. I was happy not knowing. I would look up to see every once in a while if I could make out the U-turn. I knew the U-turn was somewhere past the SF Zoo, on Sloat. But there were no signs of people turning yet. That meant, the road was still up ahead. It was fun for a minute, then when I saw the flag for mile 11, I pushed it a little. However, by this time, it was taking longer for me to completely pass my person of object, unlike earlier at mile 6. However slow I may have been, I was still passing, so that didn’t matter much. Just as long as I was not being passed by—by not too many people, that is. So I totally forgot that the last turn, was uphill. The point ten portion of the 13 miles had a nasty little incline. I thought I could push it one more, but as soon as I made that turn, I was deeply reminded of it in 2010. Are you kidding me? Yes, I had a name for this little hill.
I was so glad when I got over that last hump. I looked at the clock above me and it read 1:57. It didn’t hit me yet as I had not computed the net time from my chip time. I knew it was around 3 minutes. Even when I looked at my Garmin which read 1:54:01, it still didn’t hit me that I just broke my 12-year old PR.
The volunteers were great, they called out the mile splits however, I really didn’t want to know so, I drowned their call outs by blaring my iPod.
The medal was awesome. This is the 30th running of the KP ½ so they presented each finisher a medal.
The course didn’t seem all that hilly at all, contrary to popular belief.If you are looking for a cheaper ½, with lots of volunteers, great t-shirts and beautiful medal, try this one. Typical weather for SFO in February is low 50s to mid 40’s—perfect running weather. The shuttle is free. It was only a 2 mile ride, if you were hard-core, you probably could use the 2 miler as a warm up.
After passing through the finish chute, volunteers handed each finisher with a medal, a bottle of water, and chocolate milk .Further down was a tent with previous years t-shirts which they were selling for $5 a piece. It was well worth the price, but I had no cash on me. It was probably a blessing. All in all this is a well-organized half-marathon. I will probably return next year...and bring extra $5.