Giant Race Half Marathon – 8/27/11

This is a half marathon run in San Francisco, and also my new PR time so far for a half marathon distance.

Selecting this race:  I registered for this race, because my staff of 1 (from work) told me about it and she wanted to run the 5k of this race.  She just started running, and so to motivate her, I said I would sign up.  When I saw there was a half marathon, I told her I would rather do the half marathon because 5k races are just too short for me.  She was ok with it since her boyfriend will also run the 5k with her.

Training for the race:  I did not specifically train for this race, however I just kept up with my regular workouts, running up to 10 miles on the weekends, swimming, spinning, TRX, and a few short runs during the week.  Basically, my fitness level was at the right level (so technically I trained well).

Race day:  I lucked out on the weather.  It was perfect running weather for an August summer day in San Francisco.  It started out cloudy and 56F, a little drizzle, and absolutely no sun the whole time I was running.  I didn’t know anyone else running the half marathon, so I was basically on my own.  For me this was like a local race since I only had to drive up to the city – so no big deal.

The half marathon and 10K started at the same time, at 8 am (well, this morning it was late, gun start was really 8:10 am).  The 5k did not start until 9:30 am.  The route went along the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Mason, Marina Blvd to Presidio, Aquatic Park (somewhere there we turned around), then back to finish in AT&T Park, finishing on the field.  I was used to this route, since almost every San Francisco race that I have ran goes through this path.

At the start line,  I stood behind the 1:50 pace group, thinking I can start with their pace then do my own pace.  So I ran with them and up to mile 4 or 5, where I could still see the pace group sign, but started to lose them because I stopped at the water station to have a gu chomp and water.  I just maintained an easy pace after that (I didn’t know at that time that my pace was 8:45 and I was fine with it – I checked my Garmin after the race).

Everything went well, I was enjoying the run, the scenery, it really felt like a nice and easy training run.  I was working but not breathing hard.  I think around mile 6-ish or around Marina Blvd maybe, I saw Brian Wilson, the SF Giants player with the beard.  He was hi-fiving people, and so I did too!  I should have stopped for a picture but I was going a good pace.

After our turn-around point, probably around mile 8, I started to feel slight cramp on my right calf, so I slowed down my pace but not totally stopping.  When I try to pick up the pace again, the pain comes back.  I looked at my time, I knew I can still make 2 hours even at a 10 minute pace, so I settled for 10 min pace.  The pain was off and on, at one point near Fort Mason (heading back), I really had to stop to stretch out my calf.  I wasn’t upset yet, since I was still on time to finish at 2 hours, and I could still make that a 1:59:59 time by just sprinting to the finish.  With 2.5 miles left, I saw the 2 hour pace group so I thought I’d just stay with them till the finish.  I kept up with their pace.  With about a mile left, the half marathon merged with the 5k, and that is when all hell broke lose.  I cant believe I was this close, got my second wind and no more paid, and then there is no room to run fast.  The 5kers were all over the place!  I couldn’t blame them either,  so I just kept yelling “on your LEFT!” so they would move.  I know other half marathoners were upset too because we were all yelling, LEFT!  I left the 2 hour pace team and went ahead because I really wanted to do under 2 hours and felt like I can still do it, but it would be very close.  It was hard to run around the 5kers, and as we entered the field, to got a bit narrow and again there was no room to sprint.

I crossed the finish line at 2:00:17, 18 seconds too long to get the under 2 hours that I really wanted.  Although I didn’t get the under 2 that I wanted, this is still a PR time since my last fastest half marathon was 2:05 in Orange County in 2006.

After finishing, it was also difficult to get out of the park – this race had a LOT of runners/walkers, plus their families are all waiting at the bleachers.  In addition, there were only two exits.  It took me 45 minutes to get out of the park.  This is only the 3rd year for this race so I think they could do better.  I will be writing my suggestions to them; it is a good race to run if they can fix some of the few things that could make it a better running experience for all runners.