San Francisco Marathon – the 2nd Half

I have the personal belief that half-marathon race reports should only be half as long as full marathon race reports well, because you only ran half the distance, right? That being said, I have a lot to say about SFM so this one is going to be a little longer than it should.

Last year I ran the First Half and signed up to run it again.

{got this photo from the SFM Facebook page. i love the sea of humanity on the GGB!}

But having hurt my foot in June, I decided to switch to the “easier” (I use that term loosely) 2nd Half instead.

{2nd Half Marthon course}

Since the First Half starts at 5:30 am, I had reserved a hotel room in the City for the night before the race. After switching races (the 2nd Half doesn’t start until 8:30 am), I was going to cancel it, but my friend Wendy said she’d join me in the City so we checked in to the Hyatt Embarcadero on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday Dinner

We met Audrey, Sandra and Sandra’s BF for dinner on Nob Hill. We did what any runner typically does before a race – carb-loaded on Italian food. It was soooooo good, but I have come to the conclusion that carb-loading is overrated – at least for me. Why do I think this?

I ate a bunch of rosemary bread and pasta. I rarely eat bread and pasta so eating it before a race is just not a good idea. The rest of the evening and next morning I felt sluggish and bloated. Next time I will just stick to eating the type of carbs that I usually eat.

Sunday AM Pre-Race

My natural body alarm clock woke me up at 3:30 am. My first 2 thoughts were:

1. I’m up so early I could go and spectate the start of the Full and 1st Half races (that didn’t happen).
2. The last thing I want to do is run today (feeling sluggish and bloated).

Before checking into the Hyatt, I received an email notifying me of a pre-race pasta dinner for $22 and a “Grab and Go” race morning continental breakfast with no price listed. So with the cost for one meal listed and no cost for the second meal, wouldn’t you assume that the second meal is free?

Well, I did so I didn’t bring or buy any food for breakfast. So I was really annoyed to find out that there was no free continental breakfast. There were granola bars and pastries for purchase.

Luckily, there is a Noah’s Bagels around the corner so I picked up a bagel there, then we made our way to Mission St where the shuttles were waiting to bus us to the start of the 2nd Half Marathon in Golden Gate Park.

It was a typical San Francisco morning – cool and foggy, but the temps in GGP were about 10 degrees cooler than downtown.

{wendy and i at the starting area}

We got to GGP just in time to see the 3:00 Full Marathoners racing by. It was perfect timing because I knew that a couple of friends should be passing by shortly after that. A decent sized crowd had gathered and it was so much fun for cheer. It helped me get over that “I don’t want to run” feeling.

First I saw a guy running with the Japanese flag. It got me all choked up. Then, right on cue, I saw Katie flying by! She looked so good and was pumping her arms to get the crowd to cheer louder! I knew that Sandra, Audrey and Layla were cheering further in the park so I quickly texted them to let them know that Katie was on her way.

Shortly after Katie, Alyssa came running by. She had told me what she was going to be wearing so I spotted her right away and started yelling her name. I was so happy she saw me. She trained so well for this race and I knew it was going to be her day.

By that time Kerry (who also ran the 2nd Half) arrived so I left the spectating area to meet her.

We chatted for a while, and then I went off to the potty lines (my 5th or 6th time of the morning) and then dropped off my bag. It was time to start our race.

The Race

The 2nd Half started on JFK Drive and headed toward Ocean Beach before turning left and up MLK Drive. This is essentially where Sandra had me run the Sunday before and I was so glad that I did.

Most of the hills in the 2nd Half, especially the tougher ones, are all in GGP so I knew what to expect. While that didn’t make it any easier, I mentally accepted it and just embraced the hills. For the most part. After a few miles of continual climbing, turning and climbing, the hills got old really fast.

I saw Audrey and Layla just before Mile 3 and was so happy to see them. They started yelling and jumping up and down when they saw me and I ran over and high-fived them. It was a real pick-me-up!

{best sign ever!}

Approximately the first 6 miles of the 2nd Half ran through GGP and with every step I kept thinking m*f’ing hills! And I also mentally drafted an open letter to Mayor Lee telling him that he really needs resurface much of the park. Too many uneven surfaces and potholes!

For this race I had planned to drink a Generation UCan drink before the race, take a GU mid-way and just drink water at the aid stations. The UCan drink instructs you to drink it 30-minutes before you run, but since I had to pee so many times before the race started, I was afraid it was going to make have to stop during the race to pee and I didn’t want to do that. So I ended up drinking about .25 of it then taking a GU every 4 miles. Since I ran (for the first time) without a fuel belt, I double-fisted my way through every aid station, just drinking water.

Somewhere around Mile 6 we finally exited the Park. It felt so liberating!

We ran through The Haight (i.e. Haight/Ashbury), which was my most favorite part of the race! It felt great to run down an empty Haight Street. There are so many interesting sights and sounds and I just tried to take it all in – I even smelled brunch!

Around this time I first glanced at my watch and thought that I really should slow down. But The Haight was the start of some serious down hills that were just as tough as the up hills. I really tried to, but it was tough to slow down.

The miles just ticked by and before I knew it, I was in the Mission. I remember thinking to myself, “Wait, this race is going by way too fast.” Some of the best crowds were in the Mission! They had a nice vibe going and really kept the energy up.

It was around this point that I noticed the motorcycle guys (in addition to SFPD the course security/support was a motorcycle gang) changing the course. All morning I had been so confused by runners merging from other streets, but then I remembered Aron explaining that there were alternate routes to allow for traffic. Made sense.

Eventually I got to Mile 10, which is around Potrero Hill. It leads to the industrial area behind AT&T Park. I ran through this area for last year’s Giant Race and I hate it. It is so ugly and desolate. This is where I started to struggle. My legs felt fine, but I started to have a hard time breathing – like I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs.

I took my first walk break, which would be the start of a few during the last 2 miles. I’d pick a street sign or marker to walk till then start running again. It was not fun.

But then I saw the Lululemon cheer squad. THEY. WERE. AWESOME! They had a ton of people cheering with music blasting. I high five’d all of them as I ran by. I don’t think people understand how much it means to have someone there cheering for you. Even if you only see them for 5 seconds, it’s a huge mental lift to know that someone is there waiting for you; you just need to get to them. It really does make all the difference in the world.

The last 2 miles were really tough. I felt bad for the full marathoners. Most of them looked like they were just over it. SFM is crazy hard and I applaud all of them for running it. But seeing them walking made me feel like it was okay to walk too. So I did.

Then I looked at my Garmin and did some calculations in my head (it took me a while since I am not good with numbers) and I realized that I could be close to a PR. I got a little excited since I wasn’t even trying to PR.

So I started running again and willed myself to keep going.

I knew it would be close but I just kept telling myself each step brings me closer to the Finish Line.

But where the hell was it?!? I lapped my Garmin at 13.1 miles and cursed another course that ran long.

When I crossed the Finish my Garmin read 13.37 miles in 2:14:41, which would have been a 25 second PR. But with the problems I’ve been having with my Garmin since I did the software upgrade, I still wasn’t quite sure.

Immediately after crossing the Finish Line, we were forced to come to a full stop. The line was backed up for medals and photos. I immediately felt my legs start to cramp up because there was no place to move. This is the only thing I would recommend changing about this race. Move the medals and photos much farther down the Finish Line chute – like after the food.

Speaking of food, after about a 10-minute wait in the medal line (I skipped the photos) I was handed a bag of scones, fruit and granola bars (the bag made it so much easier to carry everything), and then free Jamba Juice! And then free Zico coconut water!

I waddled my way over to the official results tent and learned that my official time was 2:15:21 aka missing a PR by 7 seconds. I was sad for about 10 seconds then just shrugged it off. I wasn’t trying to PR and was really happy with the way the race went so there was nothing to be sad about.

I collected my Half-It-All Challenge medal, which just happens to be the best medal ever! If you ran each half in consecutive years you qualified for this medal. I am so, so, so glad I decided to switch races. It is so beautiful and I love it so much!

Post Race

Aron arranged a post-race lunch so we all made the mile walk down the Embarcadero to Pier 23 where we ate, drank and shared our race day stories. I *LOVE* these people – they make running in the Bay Area so much fun!

Wendy and I had to check out of the hotel by 2 pm so we left shortly after 1 pm. As we began our shuffle back to the Hyatt, I could feel blisters on my feet and told Wendy that we were taking the first Pedi cab that came by. And we did. It was the best $10 ever spent.

Final Thoughts

– I realize that I am in the minority, but I love the 2nd Half way more than the First Half.
– Thank you to everyone who came out to cheer and volunteer.
– The Half It All Challenge Medal is the best medal I’ve ever received.
– SFM is one of the best-organized races that I’ve run and it makes me love San Francisco more – if that’s even possible.
– Congrats to everyone who ran SFM, especially the full marathoners – running in San Francisco is the real deal!
– Thank you Sandra and BF for taking such great photos and sharing them with us!
– I highly recommend adding the Beastie Boys to your running playlists!

18 Responses to San Francisco Marathon – the 2nd Half

  1. Pingback: What’s Next {aka Fear the Race}

  2. denise:) says:

    I love your blog- had to read this race report too, since I registered for the 2nd Half, but DNS due to an injury/bad training. It sounds amazing! 

  3. Pingback: Week 31 | The Tao of Me

  4. Why Marathon says:

    Powered by Ramen! I love it. great job out there. Missing the PR by 7 seconds.. BUT, you gotta think about all those hills and how htis course compares to your other courses.. feel free to share your site on our wall..
    Mike :)

  5. Angela says:

    Bummer about the long course. It sounds like you had a pretty good run, though, so yay! :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    i love the baseball reference – you are becoming quite the fan! :)

  7. Anonymous says:

    i have no doubt that you’ll kill your 1st half time on the 2nd half!

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  9. Alyssa says:

    UGH, sucky you were sooooo close to your PR! But, you had a great race anyway!! I was SO GLAD to see you cheering, you don’t even know it! You say that me seeing you was a pick-you-up; imagine how I was feeling. I wasn’t even expecting to see you out there, and sure enough, someone screams my name (and then the stranger next to her starts screaming my name, haha!) I imagine that being on your feet that long before a race probably takes a lot out of you as well! Anyway, you were totally right with the last few miles being a death march — but you still conquered it & you did great. I’m glad we got to see each other both during AND after the race! Let’s get some ramen soooon!

  10. congrats naomi! you seriously rocked it! i clocked my garmin at 26.55 so i know what you mean about the length! URG.

  11. layla says:

    Seven seconds short of a PR —  on San Francisco’s hills in a race that is notoriously long?! Great job! On a flatter course, you can seriously knock that PR ball out of the park. (Oooh, baseball reference for the baseball nut.) Great job on Sunday, and great race report.

  12. this is awesome, Naomi! and I am jealous of the bling! I’m running the 2nd half next year just so I can get that!! 

  13. Anonymous says:

    thanks jess!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thanks! It was so nice not to run with the belt. I just made sure there would be enough aid stations on the course, which there were.

    And I’d never had that breathing problem before – it was really weird.

  15. Jess says:

    awesome race, my dear! I’d still call that a PR – 7 seconds ain’t no thang ;-) 

  16. jobo says:

    nicely done!!! You did a great job, even if you didn’t technically PR. I am glad you didn’t let it get to you. And I am thinking of not running with my hydration belt either, assuming I can drink water and run without splashing it all over myself instead ;-) (and I hear you on the breathing..sucky feeling isn’t it?) congrats!

  17. Anonymous says:

    thanks for coming and cheering! it’s hard work to spectate – you’re still on your feet the same amount of time so i really appreciate it! and your high five wasn’t lame, silly!

  18. Audrey Mendoza says:

    YAY!!!! Great race report :) You did so awesome for not even trying to PR! And I’m so happy that cheering made such a big difference – I had a blast so I really need to spectate more of these. And I’ve been meaning to apologize for my lame high five, I wasn’t expecting you to run over to us so my response time was a bit delayed, LOL!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE the spinny medal – I’d be pissed if I ran the full bc yours is a billion times cooler than theirs!

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