OK, so I have been a bad blogger. It has been over a month since the 2010 San Francisco Marathon and too much work has gotten in the way. My apologies to those that I promised my recap and photos weeks ago.
This was one of those marathons that I looked forward to for some time. First, I was heading to one of the favorite cities of my wife, Ali. That meant she was in tow. Additionally, having run over the Golden Gate bridge a couple of other times, I looked forward to running in the actual roadway. I also knew it would be cool, so I thought that would be a good trade off for the hills that inevitably come with San Fran. Finally, after the race we were going to spend a couple of extra days touring some of the niche wineries of the Napa Valley. What more could one ask for?
We spent our time in the city in the Omni Hotel (500 California Street) which was an affordable and comfortable choice for the race. It was about a half mile from the Start/Finish, which was on the Embarcadero near just north of the Bay Bridge. It was reasonably priced for San Francisco, and offered runners complimentary bananas and bagels on race day. It was also a short walk from Starbucks and the Hyatt, which is where we caught a shuttle to the expo.
Temps in San Fran were as expected – low 60s and breezy during the day and low 50s and also breezy in the evening – and was perfect for running. According to Ali, much less perfect for spectating.
The expo was nice sized and had Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, as one of the featured speakers. Bart is such a cool guy, and no matter how many times you hear him speak he always makes it enjoyable and inspirational. Somehow I can go through an expo by myself and manage to never spend a buck, except maybe the necessary GU. Bring along Ali, and well… This time it was a TRX workout gizmo. She had started training on it in Sarasota and (off course) they were demoing it at the event. Cha-ching. $200 later…
The race shirt was pretty cool – a short sleeve technical shirt in royal blue with light blue lettering. The back design had a depiction of the Golden Gate Bridge and is one that I will definitely wear. In my opinion however, the trend continued with the nicer shirts going to the half marathoners. They were basically the same design but the colors were reversed and looked much nicer.
In advance of the race a bunch of MMs had been coordinating online to rendezvous for a pre-race dinner. Actually, it turns out there were a couple of MM dinners that night. In any case, the friends I have made in the NW this summer were kind enough to include me. Tory Klemensten remembered a cozy Italian restaurant in North Coast, Café Bejoule, and she and her husband Roy set up reservations for 12 of us. Lisa Reid (also running for wine), Ann Sloan, Tom Scott, all who we dined with in Portland, joined in the fun. Also along were Paul and Mary Beth Fournier from the Chicagoland area. It was good to see Paul again and he was celebrating the running of his 150th marathon. Tory’s sister and brother-in-law rounded out our party. We had a great time, laughed until we cried, and probably wore out our stay with management as we probably occupied about 25% of the restaurant and there was a long line outside.
One side note. In that long line, as we were walking out, was my cousin Loraina Miller, and her family from Mesa, AZ. Neither of us had any idea the other was in San Francisco, let alone dining in this small little restaurant – at that particular time. What a neat surprise! We should have played the lottery that day, for sure.
Race day came early. I was up at about 4:30 am as the first (elite) runners were off at 5:32. I was in Corral #7 and got to my corral early (for me) at 6:25 am for our 6:32 start. (Note to self, next time fib on your anticipated finish time like everyone else did so that you can run with your friends… ) We finally got away about 10 minutes late, with yet another wave behind us. Oddly, I didn’t see anyone that I knew, including fellow Sarasotan Donna Loud who was supposed to be in the same corral as I was.
Ali was also up early. She was taking the spectator shuttle, which was really a great feature. She was able to buy a ticket for a shuttle bus that allowed her to navigate the course and would allow me to see her at a number of places. Also being a Marathon Maniac, she had her new Sarasota Chapter MM jacket on as well, so I knew that she would be spotted by a number of MMs as well, which would make it more fun for her.
The first few miles were really congested – reminiscent of Miami where I was continually dodging people. The first hill came at mile 2.5 and was a sign of what was to come. Unlike Tacoma with its 83 hills, San Fran didn’t have as many hills, but the ones that were here definitely were more challenging. Steep ups and steep downs. I am a pretty decent downhill runner. Give me a quarter mile hill up and quarter mile hill down and while I will give way to a bunch of people on the upside, I will generally pass all of them back and then some going down. SF was different. With the grade steeper on the decline, there were a lot of times I either had to land on my heels or almost run sideways to stay in control.
We got to the bridge around mile 5.5 after a big climb. We would make the run over, loop around the SF Lone Sailor Memorial, then return back. Part of that I really enjoyed as for the entire time we were running against runners going the opposite direction, which meant I got to see a number of my friends that were either ahead or behind me. The down side was that it was REALLY congested, the bane of an interval runner. I was running 5/1s and for five minutes I would be running faster than everyone else in my group, then for one minute I am slower. I could pretty much find a way to duck out of the way along the curb when I walked but it really presented problems while I was running. C’est la vie.
I intentionally was trying to leave something in the tank for the back half of the course. Everyone told me the hills were early but the elevation chart told me differently. Coming off the bridge back towards Golden Gate Park we finally got some good downhills where I had a ball running. It was easy and I made up quite a bit of time keeping my pulse rate low (for me).
I saw Ali for the first time at mile 12.25 shortly before we entered Golden Gate Park, and it was a welcome site! She joined me for a walk break and she said she indeed had been seen a number of MMs. It was a great vantage point for her as the course actually converged on itself three times. She would see me just before I turned into the park, again at mile 13, and then again right after I entered the park, and then as I came out at mile 16.75.
Oh, the park. First, the entry was a bit confusing. It was where the first half marathon (there were two halves – one starting with us, and the second starting later at the mid-point of the course) and the full split. We turned right and the half went straight (more on that later). Oh the hils! The highest point and biggest climb was in the park. It seemed to me like we were either going up or down, primarily up, since we had a net gain of 200+ feet in the park. My goal of saving something for the park was a good idea, I just didn’t save enough. It was obvious by mile 16.75 this was definitely not going to be a PR day.
Coming out of the park I got to spend another couple of minutes with Ali and then I was off towards the finish. About mile 17 I caught up with MM Dave Mari from Chicago. He truly knows how to enjoy a marathon! Perhaps only Bart Yasso and Dick Beardsley have had their photo taken with more marathoners. Dave’s pose with outstretched arms, double peace signs and puckered-face has become legendary. I absolutely had to stop and join the club. Shortly thereafter I caught the “Walking Diva” Yolanda Holder. Yolanda and I tried to “self shoot” with her iPhone. Fortunately Dave caught us and saved the day. Yeah, time consuming, but fun.
About mile 19 I caught Paul Fournier. We ran together for a few minutes, but Paul was still having some nagging foot problems and I was out to at least do a sub-5, so I was off again.
Finally the big downhill that I had been waiting for arrived around mile 20. I was ready to set sail but once again it was a tough downhill. I did pick off about 100 runners, my guess many were runners in the second half marathon, but nonetheless it felt good to be able to pick up the pace.
By mile 23 mile quads had clearly had enough of the hills. What I wasn’t expecting was the big hill that appeared there. It was SUPPOSED to be basically flat to the finish past mile 20. Uh, not so much.
A scan of my Garmin told me that it was going to be close. I had clearly dilly-dallied too long taking pictures, walking with Ali, and walked up a couple too many hills. I had 36 minutes to get in the last 3.2 miles, and I knew that was going to be tough. I basically went into survival mode, the fun was gone, and even if I had to resort to 15 seconds/15 seconds I was going to keep moving as fast as I could.
By mile 24 it was basically flat. A few nameless runners leapfrogged back and forth with me the last 3 miles, providing the additional competitive incentive to keep the pace up. Running in along the waterfront and Embarcadero was a nice distraction as well. I needed it.
At mile 25 I was pretty well shot and had 11 minutes to go 1.2 miles. At the beginning of the race a no-brainer. At the END of SF, hardly. I kept churning using every mind game there was to keep pushing.
As I hit mile 26 my watch turned 4:58. I had been running as hard as I could go for the previous 0.3 and was just mad at myself for letting a sub-5 slip away. I could see another 5:00.21 like Chicago looming. I decided if I collapsed and puked at the finish I was still going to make it.
My finish video shows me zipping past 12 – 15 runners in the last 200 yards (well, maybe not zipping, but definitely at a much faster clip than everyone else) while my finish line photo shows I had absolutely nothing left in the tank. I crossed the line, looked down and stopped my watch. It simply read 5:00 (as the seconds weren’t display). Crap.
Following the finish we filed through the chute, got my food, and met Ali who had my congratulatory hug and kissed for another one finished. A few minutes later she got a text from the marathon – my official finish time. 4:59.58. I had made it and it took me three seconds to stop my watch! I always say if my time starts with a “4” and I am not injured that I will be happy. Both of those had occurred so a big smile crossed my face. I guarantee you I don’t ever want to cut it any closer!
The medal was a nice sized one, and also had a depiction of the bridge. Compared to a few others I saw displayed at the expo of upcoming events it was a disappointment, but it was definitely a decent medal compared to many that I have received.
So the question is, would I do it again? The simply answer is, probably not. I am definitely happy that I can say I ran San Francisco, but there certainly wasn’t enough luster to bring me back. Perhaps if I had been able to run with someone else that I knew, it may have helped. The run over and back across the bridge definitely wasn’t nearly as exciting as I had hoped. Actually, with the congestion, it was a pain. Then there are the hills. Those in Golden Gate park definitely weren’t any fun, and there were plenty of others. Then, with the exception of Haight Ashbury the city really didn’t even know there was a marathon going on, making for some scenic but mind numbing running. Sometimes the allure is much better than the experience.
One final note – I want to again congratulate Paul Fournier on completing marathon #150. That is simply fantastic!
Course: 3 (hills/congestion)
Fan Support: 2
Aid Stations: 3
Race Shirt: 4
Omni Hotel 4
Post Race: 2
Overall Cost to Run: 1