I have never had much interest in running the Kaiser Half-Marathon because there isn't a Finisher's Medal. But when registration opened I looked at the course and saw that the first few miles were the same course as the 5K I ran last November (it's put on by the same company). I loved running around the Pan Handle of Golden Gate Park and when I looked at the rest of the course I saw that it avoided the hills of GGP, being mostly downhill and flat. This is very rare for a San Francisco race so I decided to register for it. For the past few months I've felt that I run much be better without my Garmin so my goal for this race was to leave it at home, just run by feel and see how things went.
I jogged to the Start Line intending to meet up with friends before the race started. As it turn out the Sweat Check (which by the way, there wasn’t any signage for - my only complaint for this race) was a LONG walk away from the Start. I honestly felt it was at least a mile to it and back. After dropping off my jacket, I stood in line for the port-a-potty, then raced over to the Start Line with literally seconds to spare before the race started. I found myself stuck way in the back with the walkers.
I went into the race intending for it to be just a nice run around the park and along the ocean. I didn't feel like full out racing but working hard enough to keep things honest.
The first mile or so was spent weaving between the walkers. Thank goodness that first mile down the Pan Handle was downhill so not too much energy wasted. After we passed the Pan Handle, we looped around to parts of the Park I hadn't run before. I enjoyed this new scenery as well as the non-flat inclines. I wouldn't call them hills, but they weren't boring flat either.
I didn't run with a water bottle and depended on the 7 aid stations for water. They were really well placed throughout the course and the volunteers were great. One thing that I loved was volunteers holding up signs a few meters before a water station to let us know it was coming up.
Just before we left JFK Drive to turn onto the Great Highway, the leads came flying past us. My first reaction was, "What?! I thought the race ended on MLK Drive, not back up JFK Drive?!?" I was so bothered by this, which wasn't the best feeling going onto the Great Highway. So I ate a gel (I've recently started using Accel-Gels which I'm liking so far).
You would think that running around the Great Highway, along Ocean Beach would be awesome, right? Well, it was more mentally deflating than anything else. This part of the race was an out-and-back. At first I was excited to see all the people already running back, but it quickly faded and all of a sudden I felt overwhelmed. I tried to shake it off. I turned my head to watch the pounding waves in the ocean. It didn't work and I started walking. Gah.
The streets are alphabetized and I knew the turnaround was at Sloat Ave, which is the street after "W". So I started counting down the blocks. That didn't really work either and I still kept taking walk breaks. I also started to notice all the areas where I hurt. If I had worn my Garmin, this is where I'd start looking at it every .01 mile. I turned around and asked a dude next to me wearing a watch how much further till the turnaround. He just said, "Honestly, I don't know, but it's a lot farther than I thought."
When I finally got to Sloat I moved towards the inside to make a tight turn only to realize that it wasn't the turn around! Turns out the course ran beyond Sloat, past the SF Zoo. I was so mad. As we neared the turnaround my R foot was killing me, as if my shoelaces was tied too tight. So I stopped to take off my shoe and readjust. Then I made the turnaround, drank some water, ate another Accel-Gel and told myself I was going to run the last 5K.
I made it to Mile 11 and then walked again. The volunteers were calling out the Gun Time and it was the first time I heard it. I was shocked to her what it was and at that point I knew I had banked a lot of time to make a PR. I probably would have done better if I hadn't heard this.
I ran to Mile 12, took another short walk for a few steps, and then picked it up again. I knew I just needed to make it to the Beach Chalet, and then turn back up JFK. After that point, I had no idea where the Finish Line would be. I tried to run all the way back up JFK but my foot was still killing me so I walked. There were lots of people out cheering and I made eye contact with a guy who yelled at me, "The Finish Line is right there!" I looked up and there it was - so I took off for the finish.
When I crossed the Gun Time read 02:07:47, which was a 7+ minute PR! I knew I had started way after the Gun Time so my Chip Time had to be faster than that.
I ran into RoadBunner and Renee, as well as a new friend recently met on Twitter. Renee and I made the long walk to the sweat check to pick up our stuff, and then she went off to log additional miles while I walked 10 blocks to meet RoadBunner who picked me up and drove us to lunch.
We met up with our other PR running friends for lunch at (where else) Genki Ramen!
Overall it was a great day for everyone!
Later that afternoon I checked the race's web site for official results and saw that my Chip Time was 02:03:18 - making it an 11 min 47 sec PR for me! I was so surprised - I honestly never fathomed it. I think I do much better in races without the Garmin and think I may leave it at home for races more often.
They say the stars need to align to have a perfect race and I feel like it did for me for this race - perfect weather and an ideal course. And to think it almost didn't happen. My car broke down on Saturday night and I didn't think I'd make it to the Start. I contemplated skipping it, but I really wanted to run this race so I picked up a rental car to get myself to the race (and because there are other places I need to drive to anyway). I'm dreading how much the whole car situation is going to cost me, but having this race go well will make it hurt a little less.