Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nike Womens' Marathon Half 2009 Report

Another day, another race report ...

2009 charm in upper left

This is going to be easy because mostly I can say "see last year" or "see the year before" about -- well, just about the whole thing.

Anita and I both made it through the lottery this year and decided that even though we had just run the full Chicago Marathon, we'd run the Nike Half a week later. Maybe a little too enthusiastic but you have to remember that all this registration took place before last spring when life was a bit simpler all around. Our goal was to enjoy the scenery, walk the hills, laugh at the crowds, have a good time and get the necklace.

We decided to go to the Expotique on Thursday night, their so-called "ladies night" and get it out of the way. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes we got to enter the big tent in Union Square. Packet pickup went very smoothly, then we continued into the even more crowded main tent. They had the usual things inside like the Nike+ tie-in, shoe sampling, manicures and oxygen bar. Outside were samples of cereal, chocolate, Luna bars and the free food and drink. We had a glass of wine and some nibbles, wandered around a while and went across the street to see what clothes were for sale this year.

Last year I was able to buy a couple of tops because I was at my lowest weight since I'd started running 10 years ago. This year I wasn't quite so lucky. I lusted after the race-branded shirts and jackets since they were in my colors of black and red. Very nice. But very small. C'mon Nike! How many times do I have to rant about this? This particular race is directed toward newbie runners and walkers training with Team in Training. Many of the women doing the race are completely out of shape and very big and this will be their only race -- ever! They want to buy a shirt and a jacket and a sweatshirt and nuh uh. Nothing for them, they're too big to wear Nike clothes. Even one of the Nike saleswomen couldn't have fit into those tops (she kept apologizing to all the women trying on the tops and putting them back on the racks). I ended up buying another running cap to add to my (really big) collection - at least I got something in my colors!

Sunday morning I met Anita at the Rockridge BART station and we headed to the City. Sadly we're both completely hopeless with directions. Luckily we managed to find the parking lot. Very luckily since my stomach wasn't feeling very well and I didn't want to have to stop on the side of the road. Sorry, TMI. We got on the very warm comfortable bus and got to the start area well before the crowds arrived.

It was such a change from our previous Sunday morning; 30 degrees warmer! I don't normally find standing around in 60 degrees very warm but this time was ok. We had worn our matching tops that we hadn't been able to wear in Chicago and sleeveless was a little chilly for hanging out. I decided not to bother with a poncho since I'd just toss it as soon as we started running. I did keep my gloves and was glad I did.

We checked our gear, hit the porta potties a few times and found our corral. We lined up in the one that went to 11:59 since we didn't plan to walk in the first mile until it thinned out and that's about our normal running pace. We waited, waited, waited. While there we chatted with a group of women who were from Chicago and who had run a bunch of other races. We checked our watches and knew the race had started but were standing still 15 minutes later.

I think it took a good 20-25 minutes to finally cross the start and it was just like last year (well, like all the years I've done this race) with people seeding themselves improperly. Since we were in no hurry we tried not to do too much bobbing and weaving but it was impossible. We ended up darting and dashing for almost the whole race, even when we were ourselves walking.

It was apparent very quickly that I was tired and didn't have too much to offer. I tried to make our walk breaks regular but with the crowds that wasn't easy. Once the hills started I gave it up and we ran when I could and walked the rest. We ended up walking way more than I had hoped. I may say before a race that I don't care when I finish but in real life I do care. Once I get in a race I want to have a good performance. Hell, it's a race!

My worst moment was at about the 6 mile mark when the wide flat road thinned to go up the hill. People were packed in like sardines, in front, on both sides and behind us. I was watching the women next to me who were moving over and totally missed the foot tall barrier pole directly in front of me. I tripped on it, kicked myself in the leg (talented!), started to fly and only Anita's grip on my arm help me stay upright. Ow. OW! This was not my plan for the day, to bruise my leg and wrench my back before the hills even began.

We walked up the hill, along with almost every single other person there. What, does nobody run hills during that race? I feel very sorry for the 2 or 3 people trying to run around the plodding crowds. We were walking and still passing a majority of the other people.

The great views we're used to weren't there. The fog was in and the bay scenery was absent. Too bad for the people hoping for photo ops of the Golden Gate Bridge; all that was visible was one of the lower pilings. It also meant that the fog was coming in, not a problem while we were running but it got a bit chilly when we walked. It was, however, a great weather day for a race: not too cold, not too hot, not too windy, not too sunny.

Blah blah walk walk run run whine walk. See last year and the year before for descriptions of the water stations, crowd support, food and drink - it was the same again. We walked more and more as the race went on because I was exhausted. My breathing was as bad as it had been in Chicago so we just decided to take our time. I felt awful since it looked like Anita could run the whole thing very comfortably and I was holding her back. She insisted that she was happy to stay with me so I just shut up about it.

We did have fun crowd watching, looking at what we could see of the views, searching for bison in the park, walking, eating chocolate (they had plenty this year), chatting. We ran some but very little until the last mile when it flattened out again. As we turned the corner toward the finish I told Anita to take off for her patented sprint but she stayed with me and we crossed the finish together, smiling.

We got our little blue boxes from the tuxedo'd firemen, got our timing chip-thing removed, got a space blanket, a bottle of water, then our shirts. The necklace this year had a very fine short chain with a square charm. The front says "Run Like A Girl" and the back says "NWM SF 2009." The shirts were very similar to the shirts given out at Chicago the week before, the same cut and fabric, with one exception - they had XXL so even with Nike-sizing it was a decent fit. The color was another blue, this one more turquoise than Chicago's.

like usual, my camera doesn't reflect the real colors

Instead of the little blue Tiffany bag we'd gotten in the past, this year the major sponsor Safeway distributed a reusable shopping bag with their own and the race logos. It was very nice, held everything we needed it to hold. There was a different cereal sponsor this year but they still had the cups of yogurt/cereal/fruit. We grabbed that (and then threw it out because it didn't taste good) and headed to the bus to grab our checked stuff since it was getting cold.

The bag check and retrieval was very efficient again this year and we threw our warm duds back on then tried to find the bus line. It was long. Very long, winding back and forth and hither and yon and we started to freeze. An hour later (no, this is not an exaggeration) when we got to the bus my feet were numb, my fingers were numb, my lips purple and I was shivering. That was my excuse when we finally got back to the parking lot and were walking toward my car. We found the car, arrowed that way aaaaaand ... I tripped on the only freaking rock in the entire parking lot. Once again I managed to not fall but I twisted my back again. I shouldn't be let out.

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