Race: Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon
Distance: 13.1 miles
Finishing time: 1:57:16 (8:52/mile average) Splits are below.
Food/nutrition: Gluten free toast, banana, 1/2 cup of coffee, water 2 hours before the race. Water during the race.
Course: Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, out to the Panhandle and back to Ocean Beach, down to the SF zoo and back to the park. Map is below.
The good: PR and no GI issues!
The bad: Pouring rain, headwind on the Great Highway, really cold, and had a Charley Horse in my calf the night before.
Outfit: My Run Detroit shirt (thanks Michael!), Brooks jacket and Brooks long pants with my fave pink Nike hat. Kept me warm and dry enough.
Mental strategy: “Hot coffee and hot brunch in less than 2 hours!” Focusing on an incentive to finish fast really helped.
I’m pretty darn shocked that today I ran the fastest half marathon I’ve ever done. I’m shocked because it had all of the ingredients for disaster — Calf cramp waking me up at 4am this morning & didn’t sleep well, Mexican food the night before the race, 40-45 degree weather and windy at the start (that’s freezing for us in the Bay Area), oh yeah and pouring rain. I should’ve been grumpy, unhappy, slow, “taking it easy”, and full of GI distress. But quite the contrary!
I got to the start area just a few minutes before the race started because I knew I didn’t want to stand around in the cold and rain for too long. This was a great plan because it really only took ~1 mile of running to get warmed up, so my total “stand around” time was only about 15 minutes. My hands were freezing while running for the first bit though; mittens would’ve been a good idea (noted for IM Lake Tahoe).
I always try and start races a little slower than race pace. I’ve made the unfortunate mistake of going out too hard in the beginning and not saving enough gas in the tank for miles 11-13. So mile 1 seemed like almost a walk and then I settled into a nice sub-9 minute/mile pace through Golden Gate Park. What I love about this course is that there are some rolling hills and you can really take advantage of the descents for speed. I felt like I was flying! My Garmin and heart rate monitor were great tools to make sure I wasn’t going out too fast, or too slow.
So the first 6 miles in the park were raining and cold, but with a lot of turns for varied scenery and rolling hills to keep things interesting. Then came mile 7, which I will call the Wind Tunnel. All of a sudden we turn left on the Great Highway along the Pacific Ocean and the wind hit our faces with such force that I knew my pace was going to slow dramatically. And the rain seemed to be picking up at this point, too. These 3 miles with the head-wind were by far the hardest of the race. There are no turns, no hills, no end in sight, just flat concrete road. OK the beautiful ocean is to your right but it didn’t seem as scenic as the park.
At mile ~11 we got to turn around and come back with a nice tail wind. Ahhhhh amazing! Coming back was so much easier and a great way to finish off the race. It’s still mentally challenging on that road because it’s pancake flat and a little boring, but the wind made a huge difference.
Usually around mile 10 I will take in a Gu or Clif Shot, but for this race I didn’t take any nutrition other than a full water bottle. I didn’t feel tired, or burnt out, or lacking in any energy. I kept a pretty even pace for the entire race and just didn’t feel like I needed any extra sugar. Turned out to be fine and I finished the race really strong. In fact, I was shocked how strong I felt at miles 11-13. These are usually the points where I tend to slow down, rely on Clif Shots, and start feeling achy. But I felt like a superstar today, and I really can’t explain why. My diet is cleaner? I had some chocolate (sugar) last night? I thrive in uncomfortable conditions like rain and cold? I don’t know! But I can’t complain!
After throwing my hands up in the air at the finish line and smiling huge for the camera I made my way through the finish chute to grab free food and my t-shirt (no race medals this year!?). I saw Pedro (congrats on a great finish!!) and eventually the Golden Gate Triathlon Club tent. I stopped to say “hello” and they gave me free coffee (thanks guys!!) and congratulated me. What an awesome and encouraging group; I think it’s going to be a fun year with them.
I was talking with the GGTC president, Sam, for a little bit to pick his brain on IM Lake Tahoe since he did it last year with the same coaches I’m going to be working with. He suggested going to preview the course asap, like in May, to understand what we’re dealing with very early on. Better to be scared from the hills and affects of elevation early in the season than realize it’s too late to put in the hill climbing effort.
All-in-all a very happy day. I’m proud that I got myself out of bed, into the cold and rain, and kicked some serious ass on the race course. Thanks everyone.
Swim. Bike. Run. Eat Plants.