State 13: California (Nike Women’s Half Marathon) Part 2 of 3

Let’s talk about race day!  The only unfortunate thing was the fog mist.  I was so hoping for crystal clear skies like we had Saturday but it’s San Francisco and that just wasn’t in our favor.

With a 6:30 am start time, Erin, Julie and I were up by 4:30 making coffee and oatmeal to fuel us through the 13.1 miles.  I was feeling full from the pizza the night before (food post of course to follow!) so opted to just have coffee and grabbed a banana for the start line.

Julie was wonderful enough to drop us right at the start line!  Our corral was close to Union Square where packet pickup was the day before.  We hopped in with thousands of other girls and waited for our wave’s start.  There was loud music, a light show and balloons popping around the anxious crowd.  A sea of girls chatting away in between rows of the highest end shopping imaginable (to me at least!).

The usual nerves associated with a race crept up on me surrounded by all my fellow runners.  I wasn’t sure how well my sporadic training would serve me.  But I had a good playlist, the energy of the crowd and a fun city to explore.  (Not to mention the bling and firemen waiting at the finish line.)

We're ready!

We’re ready!

I didn’t have a particular goal, I wanted to enjoy the city-scapes and help pace Erin to either a PR or her first sub-2 hour.  All while Instagramming and texting my progress.

Like I said, we started in Union Square in a downtownish area of San Francisco.  The first few miles wound us through city streets.  It was still dark enough and misty enough and early enough to not really appreciate anything going on around us.  My main goal became to keep an eye on Erin in her bright orange and keep her from starting out too fast.

Course support

Course support

There was one moment of panic when the crowd I was hanging with was re-routed to a street over.  It seemed a little bit planned but also a little bit like “oops we let to much traffic through, let’s send them over here”.  Racers looked to each other for confirmation that we should stick to the new route and we continued on as a pack, eventually rejoining the main group.  For the first three miles we twisted and turned on the streets, with a few little inclines here and there.  Nothing like what we knew was coming.  My entire social media coverage became a countdown to the beast at mile 10.

We hit our first significant hill around mile 3.  There was a big jumbotron screen at the top of the hill with a live stream of runners pushing their way up the hill.  Right underneath it stood a man with a big poster scribbled with “F*ck Nike”  I appreciated his sentiment at that moment on the hill.  But I had a good song on (Boom Clap, to be specific).

After that hill we were in a more residential area surrounded by painted ladies.

Painted ladies

Painted ladies

I had a good pace and an eye on Erin.  I yelled at her once “Easy lady!” when she started to pick up pace a little too early….unfortunately a few ladies around me thought I was snarking at them..woops!

We had been pretty flat for a while by this point, and continued that way for a few more miles.  We ran into Golden Gate Park, a part of SF I hadn’t seen on my first go ’round.

The course was twisty and turny with a few ups and downs but still not really anything of major significance (not that I felt anyway).  I was wearing capris and a Tiffany colored tank but by this point because of the humidity was plenty sweaty.

They were handing out Luna Bars around mile 8 and I grabbed one for a bite.  Since I don’t normally do solid food during training, I was nervous to eat too much of the bite sized treat so stuck to one bite.  I was glad to have it though, my stomach was starting to feel empty and crampy.  We passed the motivational sign we contributed to at the expo and it was covered in signatures of girls from all over the world (I’m assuming).  It was cool to see that again.

Run like you’re finally going to catch your tail!

As we turned out of the park, we hit another residential part of the course.  I almost had a wipe out mid-text to mom and dad…..Erin tried to save me, yelling about a pot hole but my foot went straight into it.  LUCKILY – either because of cross training, balance drills or great genes, I stayed upright and unharmed!  And managed to finish my text 😉

We hit our biggest hill yet and I lost Erin for a bit in the mile 8 to 9 stretch.  We were both still counting down to mile 10, but this was one we hadn’t anticipated.  I was still feeling pretty strong and by now had hit that runner’s high that people talk about.  I checked in with Erin and we pushed ahead.  1 mile to the beast.

Ain’t no time for Walken!  (Photo of Christopher Walken)

Then, it was upon us.  As if there was any doubt that the steep incline in front of us was the hill, Nike put a sign out to let us know for certain.

I don’t remember a lot about going up the hill.  I remember falling into pace behind a woman and using her energy to pull me to the top.  I remember being on beat with the music but not sure which song.  I remember thinking about the bling, and thinking about the downhill.  I remember thinking about the inspiration of all the women trudging up the hill beside me.  And then, we were at the top!  There should have been a spectacular view of the bridge, but alas there was a spectacular view of whiteness…..maybe heaven.

There was new energy at the top of that beast!  I knew it was all downhill to the beautiful finish line.  Erin was trying not to puke but we found each other and got ready for the last 2-3 miles.  We had been in the beautiful Presidio Park and were coming down through and into Chrissy Field.  I so wish we could have seen farther than a foot in front of us, but I guess it’s not really a trip to San Fran without some fog.

Keep going!  Don’t Stop! …..that’s what she said.

This part of the race is where the high really kicked in.  I was feeling so inspired by the strength in my legs, the runners around me and the music.  It was one of those glorious runs where you remember why you’re out there.  It was fun and my heart was soaring.  (Weird to say and hard to explain but that’s pretty close).

We were downhill for about a mile before it flattened into the finish.  The water was to our left and the Presidio hill to our right and behind.  I kept checking in on Erin, we were on pace for a PR!

By this time I was running for Erin to get her time, for Julie at the finish, for my new life in Tulsa and for the medal at the end.  There was plenty to be celebrated and I couldn’t help but think of all of it in that final stretch.  We came into the harbor with the sailboats on our left and such a great crowd.  State 13 was in the books!

The finish area was AMAZING.  We picked up our blue boxes with the pretty white satin ribbon and searched immediately for the firemen (no shame).  Sadly, the medal wasn’t handed to us individually like I anticipated but we did get a photo with a large group of them :).  Our finisher bags were reusable grocery bags from Whole Foods and came with a reusable customized race water bottle, plenty of delicious snacks from Whole Foods and chocolate milk!  We made our way to the recovery tent where party music, delicious juiced drinks and foam rollers awaited.  There were hundreds of yoga mats laid out for stretching and even human stretchers out to help with the achy muscles.  It will be one of the best, most thorough races I run (I think anyway!).

By this time the sun was starting to break through and burn off the fog.  Erin, Julie and I headed back to the car in the harbor, cheering on the final finishers during our walk.  We took some time to play on the beach and stick our achy legs in the cold water.  Almost like an ice bath right?!

I can’t say enough positive things about this race, this experience and the weekend.  For the price required for entry, I would certainly hope that it would be as well organized, thorough and thoughtful as it was!


One thought on “State 13: California (Nike Women’s Half Marathon) Part 2 of 3

  1. Nice! The course looked like a very good representation of the city and its multiple landscapes. I’ve only been out there once and I got a chance to run Presidio, Christy and the Golden Gate bridge. I want to get back out there for the city’s summer marathon … maybe 2015 or the year after. We’ll see. Way to pace Erin to a new PR – I’m sure she really appreciated the motivation, company and sage advice.

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