Monday, July 30, 2007

San Francisco Marathon Second Half

The weekend was full of getting up early and running and friends and family. I'm tired, more because of the getting up early part than the running. And because it's Monday, of course!

Friday night as I was driving home from work I got a call from my bro inviting me to meet them for dinner and a movie. Hmmm, I had tons of stuff to do so I finished driving home, started some laundry and turned right around and drove back to Walnut Creek. I decided I had time for dinner, not for the movie. I met them at Huynh, a newish Vietnamese restaurant. The place was completely empty but most of the tables had reserved signs. I asked for a table for 5 (my nephew had a friend with him) and was given a table way in the back. Good idea.

We ordered drinks. I had a longan berry martini; the longan is related to the lychee and tastes similar (at least in a cocktail). It was good but for my second drink I had a ginger limeade which was fabulous. What? Yeah, I had two, have a problem with that?? The food was good but not meant for not-quite-10 year boys who like to eat only plain white rice. All of the dishes we ordered were at least somewhat spicy and a couple were very spicy. The boys didn't even like the rice because it was yellow. I think they just wanted to save their appetites for movie junk food. I thought the food was very good although overpriced. Hey, it's Walnut Creek; if you want cheap food go somewhere else.

It will be interesting when Le Cheval opens a couple of blocks away. They already have quite a following from the Oakland restaurant. I'm not sure Walnut Creek will support two upscale Vietnamese restaurants and it's my guess that Huynh will suffer. The third Vietnamese restaurant in the downtown area, Da Lat, probably won't be a direct competitor because it's not trying to be fancy.

Saturday morning I met Sandy, Anita and Bree at the Rockridge BART station and we transited over to San Francisco to pick up our race packets and go to the expo. The location is perfect, just steps from the BART station. We picked up our numbers and chips and walked across the street to the real expo. There were several booths set up outside the expo, one with Starbucks handing out samples of their new raspberry mocha frappuccino. Oh yummm. I'm sorry to say I had to go back and get a second sample. Since I always get my drinks without any whip and sugar free and fat free, this little half ounce taste was positively sinful.

After wallowing in the raspberry striped whip cream we went into the expo tent to get our shirts and see what trouble we could get into. Lots, as it turns out. At the Rock n Roll booth Sandy met up with the daughter of a coworker and stopped to chat. The daughter (who was working at the booth) told us about the race registration specials they were having and Sandy and Bree thought they'd probably sign up for the San Jose Half. I hadn't wanted to do that race since Portland is two weeks earlier, Nike is the week before and New York is two weeks later. Several minutes of peer pressure later we all registered. Yep, all four of us plunked down our credit cards, saving $15 off the regular registration price and getting a free race tee shirt. Like we needed another tee shirt. Oh man, I'm worn out just thinking about all those races. At least San Jose and Nike don't require any travel, just getting up early in the morning. Very early.

I also bought some gu since the price was very good and they were willing to mix flavors in a box. I asked for half vanilla bean and half espresso love and the young guy mixed them and took my money. I had been counting when he put the flavors together and it didn't seem right; I recounted and found that for the box of 24 he had only given me ten of each flavor. Whoops. I pointed out the mistake and he gave me six gels to make up for it. Nice!

We tried all the different samples of all the foods and drinks and gels you're not supposed to try the day before a race, bought some shorts, looked at brochures for races and got lots of free stuff (water bottles, pens, etc., etc.). We picked up our shirts and again I was disappointed in it, although I know lots of people were very happy. They've done a tech shirt the past several years, short sleeved in different styles for men and women. The women's shirt is light weight, v-necked, fitted and on the small size and isn't really my cup of tea since I like loose shirts. This year it was white which is my absolutely unfavorite color although again, many people prefer it. It'll go in my treadmill shirts pile. Maybe.

We finally decided we had spent enough money and it was time for lunch. We walked across the street to the Ferry Building and decided to eat outside at the MarketBar. I had a wonderful BLT (and a beer) (my type of carbo loading!) and was happy and ready for a nap. We BARTed back, finalized our plans for the next morning and drove off.

I did my weekly grocery shopping on the way home and got enough fruit and veggies and frozen dinners to last for a while. Yum, twofer watermelons. I know what I'll be eating for the next several days. I spent the remainder of the day resting, knitting, reading and doing stuff around the house.

Sunday morning started horribly early when my first alarm went off at 4:05 am. Oy. I turned off the second alarm that was set for 4:10 am and got up. I hadn't slept at all the night before, afraid I'd oversleep. Typical pre-race sleep pattern.

I did all the morning things, ate my oatmeal, got in my car and blearily drove back to Rockridge BART where we were meeting. Funny thing, there's no traffic at 5 am on a Sunday. Although I was about 15 minutes early Bree was already there. Anita showed up next, also early. Sandy showed up last, about 10 minutes early. We had said that the last person to arrive had to drive so I guess that's why were were all so promptly. Bree said she'd drive anyway so we piled in her car and took off. Since there was still no traffic we arrived in San Francisco way earlier than we'd anticipated.

With all that time we decided to drive around and find a perfect parking spot. Most of the early spots were taken by people running the full race, the first half or the 5k. We snagged a perfect spot that people had ignored since the sign said no parking from 12pm to 6pm on Sunday. Hey, if they had meant midnight they should have put the correct time. We were right at the bus line for the second half so we just sat in the warm car until we decided we had to get going.

The bus was a posh liner, not a school bus like they've used in the past. The driver took a scenic tour of SF, probably to avoid the race that was already in progress. We weren't in too much of a hurry because our wave wasn't going to start until 8:25 am and we were looking at over an hour wait outside. We finally arrived and decided to start with the porto potty line which would only get worse once everyone arrived.

It was perfect race weather but awful stand-around-and-wait weather. It was very cool, drizzly, breezy. I was happy I had a disposable poncho and gloves and a jacket I would check before the start. We stood around, stood around, stood around some more. Waiting waiting waiting. Yawn. Back to the (now exceeding long) potty lines. Check our sweats. Wait some more. Finally the first wave left, the second wave, then it was our turn. Yay, finally we'll warm up.

Sandy and Anita went ahead since they were looking at finishing in about 2:30. Bree and I wanted to take it slower with a finish time of 2:45 (her idea) to 2:55 (my idea). We had decided to do a 4:1 run:walk, also walking any steep hills. That ended up working perfectly. Our running was faster than normal but with the frequent recovery walks it didn't feel that way.

The route for the second half is great, probably the reason I signed up to do it for the fifth time (six including the year I ran the full). I love running through Golden Gate Park, I'm always amazed that such a beautiful place is so close to where I live. The weather is usually perfect running weather and yesterday was no exception. While the rest of the Bay Area is dry and golden, the Park is green and lush.

We ran on, chatting and gabbing and having a great time. We ran up the inclines and smaller hills, ran down all the down hills, took our walk breaks, didn't notice the miles passing by. Well, that was mostly because of the bizarre way the race marks the second half. There are mile markers for the first couple of miles, but when we join up with the full marathon the markers are for them and the half markers are coincidental. Like 4.9 miles. Then 5.9 miles. Meanwhile, there was one short mile and at the end there's a .2 mile. It's the only thing I really dislike about this race but obviously doesn't bother me enough to make me not run it. I imagine that anyone racing the second half could get peeved because their splits would be screwy, but for recreational runners like us it isn't a huge deal.

We ran out of the park and through the Haight. This is the fun part, goofy spectators, running downhill. Assisting the SF Police in keeping the intersections open are the Harley riders, stereotypically gnarly looking dudes (and dudettes) who keep the angry residents in check. They're all friendly and supportive and a wonderful help. Drivers in SF feel it's their god-given right to drive wherever and whenever they want and the closed streets are personal affronts to them. BFD, it's just a few hours one morning of the year when they have to wait a little to get their Sunday newspaper or cappuccino.

There are several alternative routes so they can open and close streets to keep traffic moving, at least at a slow crawl. They say that the length and grade are the same on all of them but I swear we ended up with all the uphills and none of the downhills. The only drawback to the alternate routes is they only put up mile markers on one of the routes so if you miss one, tough. Again, not a big deal to us but it could be a problem to someone who wants to mark their splits.

More running, more neighborhoods. Through some commercial areas, around and back towards Telephone Company Park. Normally if there's a Giants Game the same day there will be a few people wandering around beforehand staring at all the weird runners. Yesterday there was not only a game, it was a(nother) day they hoped that the homerun record would be broken so there was extra media and lines and lines of early arrivals. We ran across the Third Street Bridge, around the back of the ballpark, passing lots of exhausted runners.

We got to the finishing stretch on the Embarcadero which is longer than it seems it should be. That last mile drags even if you're still feeling good. We sped up at that point because we wanted to finish. When we got to the final part Bree took off. I followed, figuring I wasn't going to let her sprint out-pace me. She sped up. I sped up. We were really racing that final bit while I called her every nasty name I could think of. So she went faster, I went faster. We finally crossed the line at 2:50:16. Not bad, right between our guessed finish times.

I had my chip removed (Bree had left hers at home - whoops), got a bottle of fancy water, got our medals. They were out of space blankets which wasn't too nice for the full marathoners finishing after us. We met up with Anita and Sandy at that point and decided to get our pictures taken together. We left that secure area and walked over to the next area where the finishing food was. I was impressed, they were very strict about letting in only runners.

The food wasn't terribly exciting but it was definitely adequate. There was yogurt, lots of different kinds of juices, fruit, and wonderful little cheese rolls from Acme Bread. I could have eaten a bag of those but it looked like they would run out soon so I didn't. In fact, they were pretty low on most of the foods and the final marathon finishers would probably have to do without.

We picked up our bags and walked to our car with 15 minutes left until it became a tow-away zone. Great timing! We motored back to Oakland and went to CrepeVine for lunch. My Greek omelet was just what I needed, although I think I enjoyed the bread and butter as much as the rest of the meal. We finished up, tiredly walked back to our cars and all drove home.

By the time I took a long hot shower and started some laundry it was already after 2pm. I set a clock for a couple of hours later and crawled back in bed. I read for a few minutes then actually slept for a while.

I'm happy with the race, happy with my pacing and energy expenditure and effort. I was just a teensy bit slower than I'd have liked but I can work on that in Chicago. I like most things about the San Francisco Marathon and I was glad to see that this year they've increased attendance for all the races. Maybe next year I'll have to try the first half and run the bridge. We wouldn't have to get up much earlier and we'd at least finish a couple hours sooner.

Tomorrow I'll talk about the weekend's knitting. Stay tuned!

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