Monday, August 1, 2011

Worth The Hurt - San Francisco Marathon Race Report

It is 1:45 a.m. Monday morning and - like Kona last month - I can't sleep.

I purposedly stayed away from any caffeine post-race. Surely those two post-race Jamba Juice banana-strawberry smoothies at the finish line didn't have the equivalent of a Mountain Dew.

Maybe I'm awake with enthusiasm for the effort. Yep, that's it.

I know that 5:18:02 isn't something to write home about for many of my running friends, but given the circumstances of how I run marathons, etc. it is pretty pleasing.

It was my 9th fastest of 28 marathon finishes, and it is right at the dividing line between quality efforts and "a finish".

I'm very fortunate to be able to say that I can go out and run a marathon at any time. Not with any cockiness, mind you, but I love being able to say that. "That" is my biggest athletic achievement, for sure. While an Ironman is something that a lot of people can't get their mind around, many also can't when you tell them that you didn't necessarily train normally. Like I said, that's my fun.

But ... I'm very thankful that I have the financial resources to be able to do this as well as the physical abilities. My life is rich with experiences that many others don't have the opportunity to experience and I never, ever forget that.

I'm really pleased that I managed this race very, very well.

Some of the normal pain was mitigated a little bit by a steady diet of Tylenol pre-race. This is something that I picked up a few years ago from Niki Bellnoski (then Swearingen) of the Seven Hills Running Club.

I had a pre-race banana while walking from my hotel to the start.

I had plenty of pre-race fluids. I was nursing a bottle of Powerade at the start and carried the bottle with me for the first four miles.

Because of the cool temperatures, I wore gloves the entire time, which also served to be able to carry three Gu or Power Bar gels - two chocolate and one strawberry banana. I picked up two on the course. I used four and was left with one. I used them at about every 70 minutes. (Nutrition is something that I'm going to have to pay close attention to at Rocky Raccoon. That and fluid intake are my biggest fears to be honest.)

I stayed on top of my electrolytes. They had some product called UltraLyte Electrolyte. It was actually pretty palatable to the stomach. (I won't comment on what it looked like though!)

And the weather was in my favor the whole race. The sun never came out (although I got some extra burn on my scalp from Saturday.) It was between low 50's and the mid 60's with occasional cool breezes. My kind of weather!

They had an 8-wave starting system. The elites went off at 5:30 a.m. and I was in wave 7, which had a 6:22 a.m. start. My hotel, which was about 7 blocks down Folsom from the start/finish, gave me a 2 p.m. late checkout since I'm a Platinum Premier member with Marriott and it allowed me to not have to leave my room until 5:30 a.m.

The waves were necessary because of the spacing on the Golden Gate Bridge, which, of course, has inclines - but very, very cool to run over. Just as cool as the Verrazano Narrows at the INY New York City Marathon!

I made a conscious decision to start at the front of the wave. Well, somebody helped me make it!

I saw this cute woman who had an uncanny resemblance to someone in our local athletic communities. The similarities were striking. As the waves started to walk up to the start line, where Runner's World's Bart Yasso was holding court as the race's Court Jester, I found out that she was doing her first marathon! Very cool.

Mile 1 - 10:00
Mile 2 - 10:37

I had to remind myself that I wasn't trying to PR at the half marathon. Big mistake at Philadelphia in November was made when I went 2:11 in the front half only to go 2:40 on the back half. Plus, this was supposed to be one of many training runs for Rocky Raccoon in February. These two miles ran us through Fisherman's Wharf and past Ghiradelli Chocolate.

Mile 3 - 11:55

This mile had the first of many hills. The elevation chart shows about a 100-foot climb on the back side of Nob Hill. I told myself, "I'm training for an ultra. Walk the uphill. Run as much of everything else."

Mile 4 - 10:34
Mile 5 - 11:13

These two miles gave us beautiful views from the shoreline of the Golden Gate Bridge. Wow. Nice. Still feeling really good. Trying to take it easy. Midway through mile 4, I hear "We are ...." from behind and I rattled off "Penn State". It was Dane Rauscheberg. He and Sam Falsenfeld started at the very back and were passing people to raise money for charity. You could contribute $2.62 as part of your registration toward their causes. I did.

I was also keeping my eye on the cutie in the all purple outfit that was at the starting line too. :)

Mile 6 - 12:48

A couple of steep climbs. A little over 100-foot gain from the mile 5 marker to the half way point and then another 100-foot gain to the mile 6 sign, which was about in the middle of the bridge. Wall to wall people on the bridge, but very cool.

Mile 7 - 10:41
Mile 8 - 11:48
Mile 9 - 10:47

All three of these mile markers are on the bridge. You climb to a little over 250 feet of elevation at mile markers 6.5 and 8.5. You actually go off of the bridge and into a pull-out parking lot that looks back over the bay and the city off to the side of the bridge.

At about mile 8.5, I asked if she was "from around here". She said that she was from Ohio. I told her that I had worked in the Youngstown area back in 2006. She was from close to there, as it turned out: Warren, Ohio. She said she was enjoying the marathon so far and that she had to stop and take some pictures. Gee thanks ... that means she would have been kicking my butt otherwise.

Mile 10 - 11:50
Mile 11 - 10:44

Mile 10 was brutal. You dropped about a 100 feet in the first half of the mile and then climbed 150 to get to the mile 10 marker. This put you firmly in the Presidio, where they have a tough 10-mile race there.

Mile 11 wasn't any prettier. It was a crushing 230-foot drop in elevation. I tried to keep from crushing my quads by running down the hill in a zig zag motion. Looks kind of silly, but it keeps from punishing them when you need them later on in the race. (Thank goodness that there won't be any of that silliness at Rocky.)

Mile 12 - 12:14
Mile 13 - 12:15

This put us through what was known as Sea Cliff and into Golden Gate Park. Mile 12 included about a 140-foot climb and then mile 13 had two dips and one climb of about 50 feet each.

Mile 14 - 10:57

The cramping started to occur here and I got concerned that this was going to be another Kona, but much cooler outside (which can have its own negative effect since you're not generating much body heat from walking). I just simply took the time to rub it out as well as walking backwards when I needed to.

Mile 15 - 12:56
Mile 16 - 12:37
Mile 17 - 12:08

Still in the Park, I constantly was fighting off the cramps. At the mile 14 marker, you are at about 75 feet above sea level. At mile 16.5, you get to 300 feet. Seriously, this course was a continuous beast.

I found out that she was celebrating her 40th birthday ("in the last month") by doing a destination marathon instead of one in her home state. And while walking backwards up the hill, I found out her bib number was 10341. It didn't have her name on the bib, but some other odd spelling. Didn't want to make it look obvious that I was looking for it. :)

Mile 18 - 11:48

This is where Barbara Kosinski, who I found out from the results, got a burst of energy and as you could tell, I tried to put the hammer down, so to speak, and keep up. She kind of dropped me like a bad habit. :) No doubt, 17-plus miles of motivation. Thanks Barbara! A very nice woman to talk to!

Mile 19 - 12:48 (3:40:40)
Mile 20 - 12:07 (3:52:47)
Mile 21 - 12:21 (4:05:08)

The 19-mile marker was at the end of the Park and miles 20 and 21 came in the Haight Asbury section (yes, there were some folks who look like they were still stoning from the 70s) and into The Mission part of San Francisco. It also took us from about 250 feet of elevation to just under 50 feet.

I was very pleased to be at mile 20 in 3:52 and change, given the constant course elevation change. I took note that my cardio was in great shape. It was just that everything from my mid-section down were things that I am going to need to focus on - core and leg strength, cramping and foot care.

Mile 22 - 14:24
Mile 23 - 14:48
Mile 24 - 13:07
Mile 25 - 15:45
Mile 26 - 12:42
Last .2 - 2:10

These miles probably cost me a low 5:10 marathon, but again: this was an expensive ($162) training run. And I had done really, really well given my style of preparation.

I walked back to the hotel, got on Facebook a little bit, got a shower, grabbed something at Starbucks before getting my car and making the drive back to Fresno (to swap cars) and then on here to Tulare, California for work. I was sitting in Chili's treating myself by 7 p.m.!

On the drive, I talked to Bill Dwyer and I was just really estatic about the effort. Really looking forward to Bill's input as I make the journey to February. There are many more marathons to run between here and then. Honestly, it is the only way that I'll get ready.

Thanks for reading and sharing in the experience!