Sunday, November 4, 2012

US Half Marathon in San Francisco race review

The US Half race review.

US Half Marathon in San Francisco
I know I'm going to get some emails for posting about a road race but I can't help it. This is a really well run event. I have run this course twice before. The first time was this time last year and the second time was the US Half 2 "The other Half" in the spring. The medals from each event combined together to make one bigger medal. Its kind of cool I suppose. Lucky for me I ran that spring race and set my PR on it. I say that because I will literally never be able to do that again. I'm not just being pessimistic. That race is going away, sort of. The US Half has partnered up with Competitor Magazine to bring us The San Francisco Rock N Roll Half for the first time this Spring 2013. That's fantastic in my opinion because I've always wanted to run a Rock N Roll event. People say they are fun and really well put together but it has never fit into my schedule to run one. This inaugural event is definitely going on my calendar in ink.
Today's event was sold out from what I heard and that's not surprising. The one thing that might keep people away would be the weather. Last year it was cold. I wore a beanie and a long sleeve shirt for the race. This year was much nicer weather. I had arm warmers on for the first half but I was fine in my 3" split seams and singlet. The race started at 7am in Aquatic Park and headed south on Van Ness Ave for 1 block where we made a right onto Bay St. Bay St dead ends into Laguna where we made a right for 2 blocks and then a left onto Marina Blvd. We had skirted Fort Mason Park and were now heading along the water towards the Park Presidio. 6 aid stations dotted the 13 mile course and they were well staffed with as many as a dozen volunteers handing out either water or Cytomax. The first of these aid stations was just before the Presidio. I grabbed water and tried to take it down. It upset my stomach as I feared and I vowed to by-pass all the other aid stations. The reason for my extremely weak stomach was because of the massive protein amount I took in this morning. I started the morning with an Ensure High Protein drink and a MetRx Protein Bar. I normally eat or drink one of these before a huge effort but never have I had both. Protein digests slowly and even though it had been consumed an hour earlier, 600 calories containing 57g of protein is definitely not digesting completely in one hour and therein lies the problem. Trying to put out maximal effort and trying to digest at the same time is a gastrointestinal nightmare.

US Half Marathon 2012
 The nausea faded and my focus sharpened. This was the last of the flat section before we climbed through the hills and up to the golden gate bridge. The first hill was steep, Long Ave to Lincoln Blvd. We continued down hill on Lincoln Blvd instead of turning right and heading up to the bridge. Back down at sea level we turned up McDowell Ave for our 2nd decent climb after the hard up/ down we just finished. This took some effort but I managed to pass a few people on this stretch. Right on Lincoln Blvd and up the final stretch to the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is humped in the middle so it is a hill in both directions that most people don't take into account. I did and it helped to remind myself not to push the pace on the uphill side and let the legs go on the downhill side. At the north end of the Golden Gate we wrapped around the right side of the bridge on a dirt path that took us down to sea level again quickly. I flew down this hill letting gravity do most of the work and concentrating on my breathing. I was breathing deeply and trying to stay as relaxed and oxygenated as possible because I knew that almost as quickly as this side dove down the other paved path side would climb up. Again I climbed better than some and passed a few along the way up.

I passed the aid station at the top of the hill and headed back across the bridge. The bridge came to an end and we went back downhill to the Presidio. Shortly after reaching the bottom of the hill we did an out & back section and reached the 10 mile marker. 3 miles till the end of the race and most of it flat. I hit some of my fastest paces through this section and when I hit the hill at Fort Mason Park I pushed hard and passed several more people who just didn't have it in them. Down the other side of the hill is steep and I was flying fast. I pulled back at the flat with just a few 10th's of a mile left to go I needed to regather myself quickly for a final push. I dialed down the power, took deep breaths and tried to reset for one last sprint. No luck. I pushed and my pace just barely picked up. My legs were tired and I just did not have much left in the tank. I saw the clock in the distance 1:39 something. I knew I had a PR but I wanted to put an exclamation point on it by crossing the finish line in the 1:30's. My PR, which was set at the spring US Half 2 as mentioned before, was 1:44:00 and 1:30 whatever would sound better than 1:40 whatever. I gave it all I had and crossed the line in what I thought was about 1:39 50 something. According to the official results it was actually 1:40:02. AWESOME!!! I love progress and shaving 4 minutes off my PR is proof of that. My time puts me close to the top 5% of all finishers overall and that is amazing. I came in 199th place and believe it or not 75 of the 198 people in front of me were men age 30- 39.

The US Half gives a superb tech tee, long sleeve in November and short sleeve in April. Every running they give out a different kind of water bottle too and this years was the best. Stainless steele and painted bright red. They also give out custom medals that are some of the best I have ever received. This years medal was made to look like the GG Bridge with its faux rivets and super heavy feel. Post race food was plentiful and they always have Peasant Pies available, think breakfast calzone. I suggest the broccoli potato! Over all this is a must run for anyone who lives in the Bay Area. We have a few races that feature an out and back course on the Golden Gate Bridge through out the year. The Presidio 10k/10m & The SF Marathon are a couple big name races that come to mind but this race is executed just as good if not better than those in my opinion. I will definetly run the spring Rock N Roll event and I will be back next fall for another PR attempt!!! Until then.....

I will see you in the woods,