Saturday, October 24, 2015

#werunSF (October 18, 2015)

Union Squre

They say three times is the charm. Three times I entered the lottery to run the Nike Women's half marathon in San Francisco and on my third try, as luck would have it, I was IN!

(Now, a little tidbit of information... I was full well expecting another rejection so I entered this year with a ho hum attitude and wasn't even sure I wanted to make the costly trek to San Francisco but when Nike invites you to run, no matter what, you run!!)

The months leading up to the race I trained smart. No one wants an instant replay of my Nike DC race. A lot of cross training, hill work and speed work but nothing that would scare off my calves. Unintentionally, a month before, I would run my hilliest half ever in Columbia, Maryland. No joke... I never once looked at the course elevation of that Iron Girl race because I just assumed it would be flat like when I was in DC.  Boy, was I wrong, but in a good way, it was a perfect lead in for San Francisco. 

I promised myself that if I could run a sub two prior to Nike that I would run the San Fran race for fun and enjoy the event for all it has to offer. Not expecting a 1:58 race time in Maryland because of all the hills, I was overjoyed to have that weight off and Nike SF could now be all about fun!

I flew out on the Friday morning before Sunday's race. The flight was long but I killed time by watching 80's movies... man, I miss that decade! With the three hour time difference I landed on the west coast at lunchtime and off I headed for my hotel. 

I rode the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) for the first time. That was ultra easy! I exited the Powell Street exit, bags in hand and when I looked up, there was my hotel... the Parc 55 Hilton staring right at me. Things were working out perfectly. 

After a quick check in and freshen up, I headed straight away to packet pick up. Literally, two blocks away. After that, I walked over to Niketown and Union Square to check out all the pre race action.

The city was filled with runners. The city was alive! 

Even though I travelled alone, you're never really alone at Nike events. There are so many girls traveling by themselves and everyone is so friendly, I had no trouble making new friends. 

After a pretty busy day, I was starting to fade. I decided to grab some take out pizza and head back to my hotel. Yep! The first night I was in bed by 9pm. 

Naturally, being on Toronto time, I was up at the crack of dawn. I had to force myself to go back to sleep. I think I finally decided to get up and head out just before 8am. It was just getting light out. 

Saturday morning Nike put on a little scavenger hunt. The aim was to collect as many special edition earrings from the list of seven. Two of the locations were pretty close to my hotel and even better, the same building as a Starbucks. I killed three birds with one stone nabbing 2 earrings and my coffee in less than an hour. 

The next hunt was a little more of a struggle. The lines for the earrings was long and getting out of control. I met a girl on my last stop and we decided to stick together for one more earring. We waited in line for an hour and a half chit chatting but after being on our feet for so long we agreed that the earring lines were taking their toll. I was happy with three and decided to head for lunch. 

My trilogy of earrings :)
Racing out of town is always a little stressful. Since I can't cook for myself, I have to find someone who can cook for me. I headed to the Daily Grill where they served me a perfect pasta lunch. It was so good (and agreed with my tummy), I ate there again at dinner. 

In between, I shopped, went sightseeing, grabbed coffee and people watched. I love traveling solo. I had no where to be and no one to appease. It was just a nice afternoon taking it all in. 

The Wharf and Bay Bridge

After dinner I walked off the calories and headed back to my room for 9pm. I got prepped for the early morning (race start was 6:30am) and hopped in bed for 10pm. Lights out.

All ready!

Shockingly, I got a great nights sleep. I usually don't sleep well in hotels but when my alarm went off at 5am I was up and at 'em.  

I had laid out everything the night before so getting race ready was easy as pie!! Double checked everything was in working order and off I went. 

What happened next was pure awesomeness!! It's just before 6am in the heart of Union Square... I had only 5 short blocks to walk but the streets were completely filled. It was as busy as the daytime and you could just see and feel the energy!!

I made it to the start and was to line up in the black corral. There was absolutely no where to warm up. The streets were crammed and there were runners and spectators for blocks and blocks. I shuffled my way into my corral and got ready to run. The two waves in front of mine were small so just several minutes after the gun it was time for us to go. 

If you can picture 25,000 runners at a start line, is pretty spectacular. It's also extremely contested. Making our way out was tough and slow. Trying to go around people was impossible so I just excepted the slower pace until about a half mile into the race when things started to move.

Start line... 25,000 strong!
 Now, you will hear me complain about miles 8 and 10 later on, but first, I'll give my thoughts on the first 5K of this race. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I found it tough. Not crazy tough but it's a continuous and gradual uphill to start so before I could even get my breathing going, I was already winded. I'd also been suffering from a slight cough leading up to the race which didn't help my already angry lungs. 

The first 35-40 minutes we ran in the dark. Footing was rough and some road conditions were not ideal but soon after the sun started to rise and were were flying up and down hills!!

The views were stunning, like no other race I have ran before (and I've been to some beautiful spots). Nike San Fran... you had me at mile 7! The sun was rising and we were headed downhill. From the top, you could see the perfectly lined homes and in the distance, the mountains and the bay. It was magnificent! As I ran, I wished I could make time stand still. I wanted to take in that view and savour it for just a little longer but sadly, races just don't work like that.

Mile 7... I think my fave!!

Mile 8 approached quickly. I went from being on a runners high to and OMG... here comes a giant hill. Up we went and that was a struggle. I had heard everyone talk about the infamous 'mile 10', I assumed they were mistaken and this was the hill they meant. On we went and I'm pretty sure Mile 9 was uneventful before... uh oh... mile 10. From the distance it didn't look so bad. It was long but not as steep as I had thought. That was, until we came around the bend. That was it! The mother of all hills!! For those at home, training on North Shore is wimpy compared to that hill. In fact, I'm not sure where at home you can find hills like San Francisco. This was long. This was gruelling!!

Ain't that the truth!!

Walk and run was my strategy. I ran a good portion and then stopped to walk. I also took out my phone to get a few photos. We ran and ran and finally the top was approaching. Not only could you see the end in sight but off to the left was the Golden Gate Bridge sitting so beautiful and still. The lighting was gorgeous. 

In previous years, runners weren't able to capture the view that we had because of fog. This morning, it was clear and breathtaking. Do I run or do I revel a moment longer in my amazement. I decided to slow it down. You only live once and there will be many more half marathons. There may never be one like this though, I told myself.

The view from Mile 10.
 I stood there a while longer and took a few pictures. I adored a good minute of that bridges beauty, then off I went again. As promised, the last bit of the race is easy breezy!! Nice downhill with cooler air and shaded from the warm rising sun. My lungs were loving it... still not sure about my quads...

Toward the finish, the course flattens. After the speedy downhills that seemed harder than it should have but I could see the finish up ahead and kept it going. After a quick left turn, I entered into the chute and crossed the finish, nice and strong!! 

I was happy. It was all done and I was able to collect my little blue box with the finishers pendent inside.


In a word, that morning was SPECTACULAR!! San Francisco is even prettier than I remembered. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to go and run and visit. San Fran is definietly one of my favourite U.S. cities .... I have only great memories of this trip!! 

As for the deets....

FINISH TIME: 2:05:47
OVERALL PLACE: 3240 (of approx. 25,000~Nike never releases actual numbers). 
Category PLACE: 214/1867 (top 12%)

... not too shabby!

Never complete until these guys hand you your little blue box!
All in all, I'm happy with my time. I knew I wasn't going to PB and given all my stops and photo ops, I walk away from this feeling really good!! 

Until we meet again Nike.... thank you!!


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