San Francisco Marathon Race Recap
Back in March, when I found out that I would be staying in San Francisco for the summer, I decided to sign up for the San Francisco marathon. I had no idea what I was in for seeing as Palo Alto, where I had lived for the past year, is a fairly flat area. But that didn’t deter me since I’m an easy sell when it comes to great races. So with more than three months to prepare and another marathon on the way, I went along with life, running, and finishing my first year of grad school.
Which brought me to June and my move into San Francisco. As my internship started I found less and less time to actually go out for runs in my neighborhood during the week. Though I was fortunately able to push myself out the door every Saturday morning to run with the San Francisco Road Runners Club. They are a great group of runners who really helped me complete all my long runs on schedule. Yet I had somehow forgotten about the hill aspect of the city…
The night before the race I set out my clothing and got into bed early. It still hadn’t hit me that I was about to run a full marathon. As I woke up at 4:30am, I wasn’t still fully aware of what I had signed up to do. But I suited up, fueled, and got myself out the door. Thank goodness a friend was there to drive me to the start line or I don’t know if I would have made it myself.
When I got to the start line I realized that the weather was absolutely perfect. I didn’t need any extra layers, or the disposable arm warmers I had made, and I prayed that the weather would stay in my favor. After dropping off my bag and getting into the portapotty line, I met a new friend who was also hoping for a five hour marathon. We talked strategy for a while before lining up in the corral. My plan was to run for 6 minutes and walk for 1 minute. The SFRRC uses the interval system so I knew the plan would work for me (for at least 14 miles).
At first I was embarrassed to be walking so quickly out of the gate, but I reminded myself that it would be in my best interest to continue with the plan. My strategy worked beautifully for the first few miles. I may have walked a bit extra up a large hill, but I compensated with additional jogging down the other side. By the time I reached Golden Gate bridge I was feeling pretty good. I knew that if I could make it up the large hill to the bridge, then I’d be okay (since it was the steepest on the trail).
Golden Gate bridge was crowded since they used one side and split it for runners going outbound and inbound. It was tough to pass slower moving folks and there was water on the bridge so it was slippery at times, but the views were beautiful. At that point in the race I was steadily with or in front of the five hour pacer and still feeling good, there was hope for a new PR.
The next few miles through the Presidio are now a blur. There were rolling hills (as one would expect in San Francisco) and very few spectators. And then I entered Golden Gate park. I’d looked over the elevation map a bit too much so I knew that I had to expect some rolling hills along the path, so I sucked it up and tried to push through the whiny voices in my head. It didn’t work out the entire time, as I reached the 16 mile mark I found myself walking more than I would have liked. But I was moving forward and still on track with my overall pace.
As I reached mile 18.5, I was relieved to see my friends. I’m a member of a running and drinking group and they were the water (and beer) stop. There were a lot of cheers and it was refreshing as I set out on the final 8 miles. Getting out of the park was more difficult than I would have liked due to tunneling situations where it was nearly impossible to pass. So I slowed down and was slightly more rude than I should have been trying to get around folks…
Miles 20 to 23 were mainly down hill and it was a welcome change. Coming down the hill, my new friend from the portapotties passed and egged me on. Thanks to her insistence I found myself picking up the pace. Although I was definitely hurting by mile 23. Of course that is no time to stop, so I pushed ahead to a flatter area. The terrain was flat, but it was rough.
Coming into the finish I willed myself to go harder. It took more than I had expected, but I knew that the end was nigh. My Garmin read 26.2 miles at 5:04 which gives me a new PR by nearly 5 minutes. I’ll admit that my chip time is 5:07, but according to Garmy (who I trust very much) I ran 26.57 miles on their course. I think I’ll stick with the lower number (who is going to question my logic, hmmm?!).
Overall it was a fun morning (since I was finished by noon). I’m not sure if I’ll go out of my way to run this race again, I had a few issues with the organization of the water stations and the alternating course changes. It was also disappointing that there were so few spectators on the course. It appeared that no on in the city was aware of the race.
Looking at my splits, I can tell that I need to find and stick with a new strategy. I steadily get slower along the course. Even with the intervals, I came seriously close to my CIM time, I’ll have to figure out why that happened since I’d very much like to speed up in the next year. I also realized that the half marathon may be my favorite race and I should focus more energy to improving that distance. I don’t have another marathon in the books (after NYC), but I’m looking forward to a year full of half marathons!
Marathon #4 is officially in the books, now onto #5 in NYC! What races are you looking forward to this next year?