Last Sunday was perfection. My fourth half marathon is now complete, and everything from the weather to the refuelage was better than I could have asked for. And not only did I PR once again, rather I did so three times .
I woke up around 5am in order to get ready. My dad, sis, and friend (yes, it was the first time the girls joined me for a race and I was excited to have them!) all left around 5:45am so I would have enough time to pick up my packet since I wasn’t able to make it to the expo the day before.
I got to Washington Park around 6:40am, where the girls and I were dropped off. There weren’t a lot of people there yet at the time, so after I picked up my bib, we stood in a spot by the start line since we had an hour to kill.
Not much going on yet.
Despite being late June, I had actually brought my jacket since it was a chilly 50° F outside. But the cloudy and cool weather that morning was a promising foreshadowing of what was to come, and calmed my nerves about how the weather would be during the race.
My sister and friend were great entertainment (as always). We spent the hour taking funny selfies (my sis going a little too picture-crazy with my friend’s phone!) and by the time it was 7:30am or so, we noticed the crowds assembling for the 80’s-style pre-run warm-up!
Crowds picking up after 7AM, and the 80′s style warm-up!
After watching the crazy-fun workout, I made my way to the starting line, and kept my eyes peeled for a pacer to latch onto for the race. I wanted to challenge myself and pace with someone going faster than 9:50/mi, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to break 2:00 yet.
The start…of something new
Good thing I found a good middle ground—a 2:05h pacer. She was probably the most energetic pacer there was that day, since she was jumping for joy (literally) and could not wait to get started. I later learned her name was Beth, and I lined myself behind her hoping that some of her ebullience would rub off on me, haha
Our start was at 8AM, but they allowed the first (fastest) group a 30-second lead so the course wouldn’t get bogged down. At least it wasn’t like NWM last October where it took almost 20 minutes for my group to get past the start.
Once we did get past the start line, things fell into place quite smoothly. The first three miles went by very fast, since running down Shoreline Dr. was super breezey and cool. It was the perfect running weather, and everyone around me seemed to agree since last year’s race was like running in an oven. Our pacer was helping us hit the first three miles at or just under 9:00 min/mi, and thanks to her, I landed a new 5k PR of 28:01, according to my Garmin. New PR, #1.
The weather got a little warmer from miles 4-6, but only because our course had us run through some sunny and dry spots without shade. There was still quite a bit of shade though, and I felt that if I was getting too warm, there was a shady spot just ahead to help me cool off. I didn’t feel thirsty, so I didn’t even stop for water at mile 6 even though it would have been my first water stop in the past. Our fast and consistent pace helped me clock in a new 10k PR of 57:17. New PR, #2.
As Mile 7 came upon us, I was still feeling good with no aches and pains. We were running by the bay so I could feel the breeze, and take in the view of SF right across the way. I lent my ear to the stories of my pacer, who was telling our group about her aeroengineering career, of how she got into pacing, and basically anything to help keep us distracted from the fact we still had a little over 6 miles to go.
Around Mile 8, I ran through a water station and grabbed some water on the go. I didn’t want to stop since I was now the only one in stride with my pacer. In order to avoid choking in the process of drinking the water on-the-go, I poured the whole cup in my mouth and stuck out my cheeks like a chipmunk while steadily gulping it down. That method worked flawlessly for me, and that’s what I stuck with for the rest of the race.
At Mile 9, I started to feel some mild hunger pangs. Our pacer offered us electrolytes and shot bloks, but I didn’t say a word since I hadn’t exactly mastered the art of eating on-the-go just yet. I was still the only one on pace with my pacer at Mile 10, where we began to make our way back to Shoreline Dr. At Mile 11, I felt my toes pinch up, but I still trudged on. I noticed a Hawaiian Air plane take off above me (probably from the nearby Oakland Airport), and sort of wished I was on that plane for a moment
My pacer complimented me on my strength, and shared her “2 mile” story with me. She said that as a high school student trying out for cross-country, the coach said she could join the team if she could run just two miles. She did so, and the coach deemed her ready to join that season. Her message is that just two miles can open a lot of doors, and whether you are at mile 11 in a half, or mile 24 in a full marathon, the last two miles can make all the difference.
At Miles 12-12.7, my pacer, another woman who was in our group earlier who had caught up to us, and I powered through together. We caught two other women and urged them to join us to the finish line. At Mile 12.7 however, my pacer encouraged me to go faster and “leave” her, so to speak. I don’t know where the energy came from, but I felt my legs wanting to go faster, and so I ran faster and didn’t look back. I could hear her cheering my name about three times before I got to the finish—and her words, encouragement, and energy pushed me to a new half PR of 2:04:57 at a 9:23/mi pace. Thanks Beth ♥!
The course that gave me back a lot.
After crossing the finish line, I picked up my medal and found my Dad ready to give me a hug. My sis and friend were sitting on the sidelines, and wanted to take a picture posing as if they had completed the grueling distance. Funny thing was, I was standing in the picture as if I had went around the block for a breezy morning stroll! Haha.
Obviously it was now time to celebrate, and I did so by stopping by the vendor tents and
shoving savoring samples in my mouth.
I had a granola bar sample at the Rudi’s tent first, and then went back for a quarter of a PB&J sandwich on their bread. It was one of my favorite samples from last year, so I was glad they were back
Next, I stopped by the So Delicious tent next door, and was able to get a mini coconut milk vanilla ice cream sandwich from a lady who seemed pretty frazzled passing them out. I couldn’t blame her though—there was such a demand!
For some chocolate samples, I stopped by the OCHO tent. I liked the bite-size samples, but I loved the fact that this year’s chocolate-in-the-champagne-glass that all finishers receive was an OCHO bar! Last year, we got See’s truffles, but OCHO chocolate is not a bad replacement…not bad at all
I also sampled some Luna Protein bars (and had the girls grab some extra for me for “later”), and even tried kombucha for the first time! I wasn’t too much of a fan of the later, but I only had what seemed like three drops of the stuff—they were pretty stingy with their samples !
The massage line was pretty long, but not as long as it was last year.
I could have stood in line and received a post-race massage, but since I had my friend and sis with me, I chose to stand in line for the free photo booth. It was much more fun for all of us .
One line with barely any crowds was clothes pick-up, for when runners kept their layers and other extraneous materials in a baggie before the race to pick-up later.
After getting our finished photos, we left the post-race expo to grab some lunch. As we were leaving, we tried not to run into any kids who were running in the 1 mile race that was taking place along the perimeter of the expo. That would be a way to conclude a so-far pretty good race day, am I right?
I can honestly say that this has been my best half marathon to date. It helped to have a super energetic pacer who helped keep me distracted, being around people consistently throughout the race (since in past races I’d often find myself in “solo pockets” at times, usually during the 3/4 of a race), and having those people spark a competitive spirit in me. I guess the overall theme was camaraderie—running just seems more fulfilling and accomplishing when you are around people who have the same mindset and goal as you!
It was also my first half I went without fuel before or during the race. This wasn’t done on purpose, but rather, I tried to be more conscious of how my body was feeling. I ate solidly the day before, but when I woke up on race morning, I didn’t feel any hunger pangs. I decided I would snack later if I had to, but still didn’t feel the need to by the time I hit the starting line. Even though the hunger started to come about later in the race, I didn’t experience the “bonk” that runners usually experience during endurance running. I actually felt more focused, less distracted, and had no cramps/side stitches/bladder issues throughout the races. I don’t recommend this as a strategy for everyone since every body works differently, and of course, I refueled joyfully with all of the post-race samples and goodies, as well as with a festive lunch out with the girls (more on that in a future post )!
A perfect race that was ran in prefect weather, with moments that were shared with my best friends—what more could one ask for from a beautiful & breezy Sunday in late June?
Runner’s medal (I love this year’s design!) and all of the post-race goodies I swooped up
What has been your most-accomplishing race to date?