Tuesday, June 2, 2009

See Jane Run Half Marathon Report

Yippee, a race!

(objects in pictures are less clear than in real life - stupid camera)

Well, that was tougher than expected. At least they had chocolate!

Probably as a result of ridiculously long lines last year, part of the early packet pickup process for this year's See Jane Run Half Marathon included chip pickup at the Oakland See Jane Run store. Although I wanted to see the newer store in Danville I decided to trek into Oakland Wednesday night to get my packet. The process was quick and smooth. I got my bib, bag, shirt and chip, checked the store in case they had anything I needed to buy (they didn't) and I was on my way.

Last year the goody bag was a wonderful reusable shopping bag. This year it was a typical plastic bag. Included were a mini Secret deodorant (trying to tell us something?), a white chocolate macadamia Luna Bar, a couple of sample packets of Life Fitness Instant Energy Beans (80 mg of caffeine and 200 mcg B-12 per packet; I'd be more hyped than if I was smoking crack), a sample of Flex Power Pain Relief Cream, a $20 off $75 See Jane Run coupon and a bunch of other ads and race fliers.

The chip was one of those Eternal Timing tags; a big hard cardboard-like thing. I'm not fond of them because of the size, even if they are lightweight they don't really fit right when your foot bends. I also find them more difficult to attach to my shoe but that could be because I'm so used to the real chips.

front of the shirt

The shirt was again a light-weight Moving Comfort white v-necked short sleeved tech shirt. Forgetting how big they ran last year, I ordered a 1X. I'll be happy sleeping in it, it's way too big. How odd that a race, even a race for women, actually gets shirts in real sizes. Hopefully next year I'll remember to order my real size instead of going up a couple of sizes. As I'm not fond of white shirts I don't mind that I won't be running in it.

back of the shirt

Even though the previous weekend I had a great run I knew I wouldn't do as well at the race because my breathing wasn't smooth for the past few days. When I got up on Sunday it was overcast and cold and I had hopes that my sinuses and lungs would be happy with that but no such luck. I revised my estimated finishing time from about 3 hours to hopefully about 3 hours.

With my wonderful grasp of directions I decided I'd better cough up the extra $5 parking fee for the lot near the start and finish areas. I had visions of wandering around for hours after the race, looking for my car. For my sanity I parked in a location I could find later. The paying/parking process went quiet smoothly so I was very early for the race. It was due to start at 8:00 am and I got there before 7:00. I wandered over to the start, used the porta potties a couple of times and stood in line to check my sweatshirt.

And stood in line. And stood. The gear was being stowed in plastic garbage bags and tossed in the back of a truck. People would get to the table, bag their stuff, tear off the bottom of their bib and attach it to the bag. This was taking forever. It was getting closer to the start and the line snaked around the entire area and finally someone had the genius idea to go down the line and pass out the bags so that they just needed to be turned in. Perfect, line gone!

I think there were about 1500 people running the half and around 1000 running the 5k which started a bit later. The area was crowded with women and their families. It was obvious that there were some people who had done this many other times, and some people who were running (or walking) their first race. I saw maybe a dozen men with bibs and I'm not sure how many actually did the race. Although there were pace markers along the road I saw many people obviously lining up too close to the front.

The gun (or whatever it was, I didn't hear) went off a little late but even way back in the last group it didn't take much time to cross the start line. I had on a tank top and shorts with gloves and standing around I was shivering. I started off very smoothly and slowly, trying to keep myself from having breathing problems right at the beginning. It worked well since we also had a tail wind there. The large group pounded down the street.

I tossed the gloves after about a mile or two and heated up (have I mentioned that my internal thermostat has been wonky lately?) more than I had hoped. It was completely overcast, about the mid-50's and windy. Since it was behind me I didn't mind the wind at all but I wouldn't feel the same when we were going the return direction.

It was fun doing some people-watching and eavesdropping on some conversations. We women sure do chatter when we're running and not trying to win a race, don't we? I felt good the first 3 miles until we hit the bridge, then slowed down some. By 5 miles my breathing was getting bad and my legs were getting tired. I understood the first but the second had me baffled. I had done good training, I had eaten well during the week, it should have been easier.

By mile 8 my 9:1 run:walk was out the window. I was doing a steady 4:1 at that point and it was working to clear my lungs and rest my legs. But at about mile 10 I was toast. Legs and lungs were rebelling and my brain wasn't very happy. We were on the trail at that point and I got pretty grumpy because of two things.

There was a woman who was doing what I thought was a 2:2 run:walk and we kept leapfrogging past each other. Her watch or whatever beeped her intervals was loud. Annoyingly loud. Because we were such polite women we'd pass each other then move over to the right. So instead of going straight it was weave around, weave back, weave around, weave back. I tried walking more and it didn't help. I tried running more and that didn't help. I tried running and walking her exact pace to stay behind her and that didn't even work. As the trail was congested it was very annoying (and I imagine I annoyed her as much as she annoyed me).

One point of repeated congestion was a group of deaf cyclists. Actually, deaf bike riders since I hesitate to call them cyclists. One young woman was wearing flip flops and it would be upgrading some of the bikes to call them beaters. I think they were a tour group and yay good for them for getting out and enjoying the shoreline, but it was readily apparent that there was a race going on and they could have used a little courtesy because hey, they were deaf, not blind. Their leader would speed ahead and stop to let the rest catch up. And they'd all block the trail while waiting. Then they'd pass again, one by one, sporadically, without (of course) calling out to let us know they were coming. Then it would happen all over again.

As a frequent trail user I'm a firm believer in sharing the trail with others, be they runners, walkers, cyclists, skaters, families, dogs, whatever. I don't care who you are or what your circumstances are, share the damn trail. Politeness doesn't hurt. And if you keep getting in my way and obstructing the trail and almost crashing into me and other runners I'm going to lose my sparkling good nature. No, I didn't say anything to them (what would be the point if they couldn't hear it) and I didn't even give them dirty looks. I just quietly fumed and wished they would move along.

When we crossed the bridge for the final 3 miles things got better and worse. Since we were running in the street there was more room and we didn't have to weave around anyone. The bike riders went somewhere else. But the wind picked way up. It was, no joke, about a 20 mph headwind. Direct headwind. Smack in our faces pushing us backward. Although I knew it was coming I wasn't physically able to handle it well. My 4:1 became a whenever:whenever. I ran from crosswalk to crosswalk, walking whenever I had to (which was frequently). I was actually a little faster than I had been on the trail, probably because I could go in a straight line, but it felt as if crawling would have been quicker. I had my buff pulled over my nose and mouth so that the wind wasn't directly on my face; I'm sure I looked remarkably strange but at that point I didn't care because it helped me to breathe.

We finally reached the park with the last 1/2 or 3/4 mile and changed direction enough that the wind was no longer as bad. It was farther to go than I wanted since by my Mr. Garmin's reconning the first 3 miles were just over 3.1 miles (I never saw a 1 or 2 mile marker). Most of the other mile markers were very apparent and were a mile apart. I cut tangents whenever I could so that didn't make up the difference.

There was a chip mat a bit before the final finish mat so the announcer was calling names of finishers. I put on a burst of speed with my little remaining energy and crossed in 2:54 (pitiful, even for 13.25 miles). There I came upon the one thing I would have changed about the race: the chip removers were literally right at the finish. You had to come to a dead stop immediately and I'm sure I wasn't the only person to get dizzy and nauseous from the sudden halt.

I got my medal, this year more of a traditional medal than last year, and looked around for my chocolate. I had been told at packet pickup that this year they wouldn't run out of chocolate because they had two vendors, but I didn't see any.

shown for scale (the bittersweet wrapper is empty)
(certainly not shown for clarity, stupid camera)

I was just starting to get my dander up when I saw the booth with not only chocolate, but champagne glasses to hold them. Cool! There were 3 piece in the glass, 1 from Hershey, 1 from Ghiradelli and 1 from -- uh -- some fancy other place (sorry! I threw away the wrapper without writing down the name! but it was good!). I ate the fancy stuff immediately (but kept the wrapper to take a picture and remind me of the name - whoops) and walked on.

as presented

There were lots of choices for food and beverage. There were bottles and glasses of cold something-ade (I don't drink the stuff so I didn't notice which it was). There was a table with fruit, cut up bagels with peanut butter and stuff to put on them if you wanted, Strawberry Bliss Attune Bars, bags of Popumz in chocolate cookie dough and probably more that I didn't even notice.

back of the glass

Popchips had a table where they were handing out samples and small bags of their original and one other flavor chips. Bear Naked had a large booth where they were handing out the small bags of their Fruit & Nut flavor granola and they had samples of each of the different flavors covered with fresh yogurt and blueberries. Continuing along the line was the shirt pickup for people who hadn't received them earlier and they were handing out extra goody bags to anyone who needed a bag (this contained the same things as the bag I had gotten on Wednesday with the addition of a sample tube of Aquaphor).

Sweat bag pickup was a breeze, possibly because most of them were gone. But the people there were helpful and seemed efficient and I'd be surprised if anyone had troubles. I don't think it took more than a minute to get my stuff.

Then it was time for champagne (this year it was Barefoot - my favorite cheapass wine). There was what looked like a table with just beer and next to it the champagne table. The champers table had a very very long line. But then I saw that at the end of the beer table a man was pouring champagne into plastic glasses and there was nobody, but nobody, in line. As I walked up a couple of other women did too. The first woman had him pour the champagne in her new glass. The second picked up the pre-poured plastic glass which contained about 2 ounces and asked if he'd fill it up. Yep he did, so I did the same thing (except I told him not to fill all the way since I was driving).

Although there were lots of groups of people sitting around on the grass, there were many tables and chairs set up so I found an empty table near the finish line and plopped myself down to start consuming food and drink. Once I had cooled off it was chilly so I dug out my sweatshirt while I ate the Bear Naked/yogurt/blueberries and drank the champagne. I watched the finishers coming across the line, by this time mostly either walkers or women like me who just pooped out along the route. Everyone looked incredibly happy to finish. I was surprised so many were still out there.

I hung out for a while and then decided I'd better get on with my day. The champagne had given the day a rosie glow and I'm surprised I still felt as crappy as I did. My legs were tired and my lungs hurt when I inhaled. No worse than for a regular long training run, but I had hoped the booze would be more anesthetizing. Don't get me wrong, I was certainly still sober. Just happy.

In retrospect, I'm very impressed with the race this year. I'm not sure if I feel we got complete bang for the buck but that's because it was ridiculously expensive ($91.99 at the end of April (including Active.com fee), plus $5 parking) for a local low key race. But with that, we got a decent shirt, a goody bag, a couple of free samples, abundant finish line food, sufficient porta potties throughout, enough water stops with helpful staff passing out water/ade/gu, good street control (except for the trail which certainly wasn't the organizers' faults), a varied route (for Alameda), a nice medal and a very strong feeling of sisterhood. That last item is almost priceless, even for someone like me who ran alone (but Bree, Anita, Sandy, Mary Ann, Pam: I missed you!).

Now if next year they could just get rid of the wind!

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