Sunday, June 9, 2013

See Jane Run San Francisco Bay Area Half-Marathon Race Report

This week has been what I hope is an anomaly.  Prior to the half-marathon yesterday the only exercise I got was the 4.5 mile run I did on Tuesday.  You might recall that I was sick last weekend and I basically parlayed that with the upcoming half-marathon into a week of doing almost nothing exercise-wise.  Food-wise I really cut back on my eating to compensate for the non-exercise.  LYING!  I ate as any good carbo-loading excuse making girl would given the circumstances.  I'll spare you all the calorie-laden details but trust me when I say the 1 pound loss I posted on Friday was not as a result of my hard work and focus.  In fact, it's one of those the-scale-lies weights.  But I won't pretend I wasn't happy to see a lower number.  Despite the scale's lying ways, I'm still inclined to take it as a good thing when it tells me what I want to hear.

So, Saturday night came and it was time to prep my stuff for the See Jane Run half-marathon.  I felt tired and was looking forward to getting the kids in bed so I could do the same.  Of course, as often happens, them going to bed is like a mild stimulant, I'm suddenly awake enough to stay up for hours.  What's with that?  Anyway, I think I finally drifted off to sleep somewhere south of midnight.  But I must have slept well because the next thing I remember is the alarm sounding at 5am.  Up and at 'em!  I had a tiny headache and I'm starting to wonder if sleeping with the ceiling fan gives me a headache, is that possible?  Decided I might take some aspirin or ibuprofen if the coffee doesn't cure it.

I had my cereal and coffee and took a few sips of water here and there to hydrate.  The forecast was for a hot day and I debated wearing a tank vs a tee but in the end chose a t-shirt, I didn't want my shoulders roasting in the sun.  I wasn't satisfied with my intestinal voiding and hoped more might vacate at the venue.  How do you like that for details?  I never knew running would involve so much attention to pooping.  Good thing Laurie and I enjoy such conversations (as do most crazy runner types).  I might have to dedicate a whole post to poop soon.  Oh the anticipation you must feel reading that!

Anyway, Laurie and I hit the road a bit after 6am.  Neither of us had ever been to the venue in Alameda so we allowed extra time for snafus.  Other than having to look for street parking things went smooth.  We found a spot about eight blocks away and made our way to the starting area.

Didn't realize how matchy I was with my shirt and hat.
Can you tell how sunny it is?  There was a good but not massive crowd and plenty of porta-potties.  We got our bibs and pinned up before heading to said porta-potties.  Unfortunately my intestines were being stubborn and I had to hope that running with half-full bowels wouldn't cause me any grief. 

I drank more water and I wondered how hot it might get, it was entirely pleasant out but it was only 7:30am - not sure what it would feel like two hours later running the final miles.  There was a group warm-up and more standing around and then boom! - time to start running. 

And then I realized I never started my Garmin, so I had to hang back for a couple minutes while it found satellites.  I ended up running at the back of the pack, which made for a tricky first few miles.

We were roped off to one lane of the road and most of the people were running a lot slower than me.  You know I'm no speed demon but by starting in the back I was with people running 13 minute miles and/or walking.  To avoid getting stuck behind other runners I had to run a bit outside of the cones most of the time.  Fortunately there were almost no cars so it wasn't really a big issue.  I'd decided before the race not to have any time goal - I just wanted to go with the run-by-feel/run-happy thing I'd been doing on my training runs.

So I looked down at Mile 1 to see I'd run a 9:18 mile.  I knew I should slow down, I knew starting out too fast is probably the most common race mistake runners make, so I reeled it in some.  Mile 2 was 9:48, still a pace I probably couldn't maintain throughout the race.  In general I'm a believer in reverse splits being the smartest approach.  Guess I wasn't feeling very smart.  And I had no idea of the route that lie ahead.  I was telling Laurie on the way in that in the past I would have obsessively poured over all the race minutiae in advance.  But now I'm happy enough with seeing a route description that starts with, "This beautiful, flat course...". 

They had water stops roughly every two miles and I drank a few sips of water while running at the first couple of stops.  Mile 3 saw me continue with what would become my steady pace for most of the rest of the race, close to, but not over, 10:00 minute miles.  And I pretty much set that as my goal for the rest of the run.  I had some Gatorade at the Mile 4 hydration station and was feeling pretty good.  In an attempt to avoid post-run intestinal cramping I planned to use as few gels as possible.  I figured I might need something between miles 6 and 8 but the Gatorade gave me enough of a lift for now.

The route moved onto a paved trail and included running over a couple foot-bridges.  The paved trail had a lot of bumps from tree roots pushing the paving up.  I watched my step pretty carefully, especially after seeing another woman take a dive.  We also ran on some wide sidewalks that included uneven concrete.  That, combined with a sometimes crowded group, made navigating tricky.  I decided around mile 7.5 to have a couple Shot Bloks.  Normally I notice a boost to my energy about 15 minutes after having them but not this time.  I think the heat might have played a part.  There were a few people cheering on loved ones and given that this is primarily an all-woman run many of the signs were a variation on "GO MOM!".  I took them as written for me :)  Those weren't my kids out there holding up the signs but I soaked in the love anyway.

Just past Mile 10 we came upon a bridge and passed a woman walking in the opposite direction, "The bridge is up".  Huh?  I didn't know what that meant (we don't have these bridges in my parts) but I came up and around to see that, yep, the bridge was up.  It's a drawbridge, and fortunately, it was on its way back down.  I slowed my pace considerably, hoping it'd be down before I got to it.  I hate stopping mid-run, I immediately feel my muscles start tightening.  But I got to the waiting crowd before it was all the way down.  I decided to stop my Garmin, I saw no reason why I should count this toward my time.  I didn't know how long we stood there, somewhere between 30 seconds and a minute I'd guess.  I jogged in place and grumbled to myself about having a friggin' drawbridge in the middle of a half-marathon.  Who does that?

Anyway, I told myself to quit bitchin' and run happy, which helped.  Besides, it's not like I was going for a PR or anything.  The sun was beating down on us and we were running on a (very non-shady) paved trail that butted against waterfront condos.  Up ahead I see a woman with a hose, spraying runners.  Fun!  I swerved to get sprayed and felt grateful for her thoughtfulness.  So I'm running along, pushing myself to stay under 10:00 minute miles when I hit the 10.25 mile hydration station and took another Gatorade.  I had a few sips and quickly realized they'd mixed it way too strong.  I was looking for a place to toss my cup when - BAM! - I was heading quickly and directly for the pavement.  I'd tripped over part of the sidewalk.  A volunteer was right there and he helped me up, "Are you ok?"  Thankfully I was.  I kept on running and did a mental scan.  My hands were scraped up, mostly my left, and my knee was scraped but not bleeding.  My left hand took the bulk of the fall actually.


Funny how I fell for the first time ever just a few weeks ago and here I am, falling again.  Anyway, I figured this ought to distract me for the next few miles.  Way to put a positive spin on it, Michelle.  I hadn't been sure if I was going to have more energy gel but I was definitely having to dig to keep my pace.  So/ I decided to have 2 more Shot Bloks in the hope it would help me sail toward the finish line.  

I wouldn't describe the last few miles as sailing though.  I had to keep telling myself to push on, keep going, only a 5k to go, all those things you tell yourself to keep moving forward.  I even remember telling myself I was a robot that runs - so just run.  Move your legs, one after the other, just keep doing that.  I wasn't dying, but it wasn't easy.  Probably should have taken those first miles a little slower.  I passed the 12 mile marker and did my best to pick up the pace for the final mile.  As I neared the finish line and the crowds got louder, running happy came easy.  I'm almost there!  I crossed the finish line and happily accepted my finisher's medal, "I Ran for Chocolate."

I Ran for Chocolate
Then I remembered to stop my Garmin and saw a time of 2:09:56 - cool!  Full Garmin stats here if interested.  I ran an average pace of 9:47, something I was really happy with.  The way my training runs had been going I thought I'd be fighting for a 9:59.  The official results are 2:10:40, which means I lost about 40+ seconds waiting for that bridge.  The good thing is, even the official results give me a sub 10:00 pace, if only by a hair.

I'm really happy with my placement too, finishing in the top half across the board.  I wandered around for a bit, looking for Laurie (I never saw her on the course) and finding food to munch on.  And I collected my finisher's t-shirt, a technical tee that I think is my favorite race shirt ever.  I will definitely be hitting the gym with this shirt. The fit is similar to the Rock-n-Roll shirt, now my second favorite race shirt, but it's black so it's bad for running outside.  This one will be fabulous for running outside, making it easier for cars to spot me. 

Selfies in the kids' bathroom!
I collected my champagne glass and started munching on the See's candy it was filled with.  But I skipped the champagne.  First, the lines were ridiculous and second, the last thing I wanted was champagne.  I tried to find a first-aid tent to clean up my hand but all I could find were paramedics helping downed runners.  In fact, there were more people on stretchers at the finish line than I'd ever seen at a race.  I saw 4-5 people getting IV fluids, oxygen and the like.  Must have been the heat.  I ran into another woman who was scraped up too.  Neither of us wanted to bother the paramedics for antibiotic ointment and a bandaid given the more serious things they were dealing with.

I signed up for a massage and found Laurie.  We walked around a bit, there were some fun clothing and fitness oriented vendors out there, and then my stomach cramps starting setting in.  I re-visited the porta potties and pretty much spent the rest of the day in some degree of discomfort.  I really want to figure out this issue, having a great run and then being in pain the rest of the day is not cool.  Eventually we found a paramedic standing around doing nothing so I got an antibiotic wipe and bandaid.  I am too wimpy so Laurie wiped off my hand.  OUCH!  She 'bout killed me.

Check out the cool bag we got too.
But at least my hand was cleaned up.  By then I was up for the massage. Thanks to the National Holistic Institute for coming out!  My ten minute massage was lovely.  Then we hit the road for home.

Honestly, I would not be in a big hurry to do this race again.  My main beef is the condition of the road we were running on, coupled with the drawbridge and the way the route was too narrow too often.  I guess with the theme being every woman (of every shape and ability) joining together and running for chocolate (and champagne) it's not a race about racing, running fast, or getting PR's so the pavement and whatnot are not a big priority for the organizers.  Still, I had a great day and I'm very happy with how I ran.

In the back of my head is a question about when, if ever, I'll want to shoot for a sub 2-hour half-marathon time.  For now I'm happy to shift away from a running-only training focus while I look forward to doing my first Olympic distance triathlon in September.  Between now and then I might do the local 4th of July 4-miler or some other short distance fun-oriented run, but otherwise, my running legs are taking it easy. 


  1. Congratulations! And I need to know what exercises you do to get legs like that! They look amazing!

  2. awesome job on your time! i'm nowhere near as speedy as you, so i will finish a half in about 2:28 most likely. but, you know what? i'm cool with that. i don't really run for time, i run for distance. SJR is supposed to start a half event here where i live in Austin, was supposed to start last year but was delayed to this year, but i haven't heard anything about it happening this year. so i kinda doubt it's going to happen. but i'm doing the Rock'n'Roll in december in San Antonio :)


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