SFO Marathon Race Report…

I have been taking a break from things for the past few months but wanted to come back with a race report from my last effort, the San Francisco Marathon, prior to running my next race. I have been struggling to regain my form since well before Boston, really and SFO was put down as an effort to not dig myself into a deeper hole. Though I think I was successful in not digging any deeper, I still didn’t have very much luck getting my mojo back and even took about 3 weeks off in September – running only 2-3 times per week – in an effort to get my feet back underneath me. I was just starting to feel my form coming back in late October when I caught a fairly aggressive cold that knocked me out for most of November. Finally feeling recovered from that endeavor, I am actually starting to feel sharp again. Just in time for next week’s Colder Bolder 5K.

The Colder Bolder is a seeded race that pits people of equivalent abilities (based on Bolder Boulder finish times) against one another. Fortunately, I had a less-than-stellar BB last spring so I get to run against the 40-42-minute group. Psyched to see how I can do but given I am just now ramping back up and the course difficulty, my expectations are fairly low. That has seemed to work in my favor in the past, however. So we’ll see how it goes.

And now, the San Fran Marathon race report…

San Fran is a crazy town. Way different than I expected but it lived up to its reputation in many ways as well. Going into this race, I had zero expectations. I didn’t even really know if I would finish and planned to race entirely on feel. I had some goals in mind but none of them weighed heavily on my mind as I ventured out to the Bay Area. Just wanted to have fun, run with good form and see where that took me.

I flew into SFO on Friday after about a 2-hour delay in Denver due to foggy conditions in San Fran. Upon landing, I was able to navigate the Bart easily and soon found myself in a throng of people on Powell Street, a short walk from my hotel. I jammed up to the hotel and was surprised to find my room available at a fairly early hour. Dumped off my stuff, headed to the expo, all good.

The expo was much smaller and more mellow than I anticipated. I bowed down to the retail gods and then made my way over to the MapMyRun booth to say ‘hi’ to fellow Colorado and #DenverLunchRun runner @boulderrunner (Todd Straka) who would go on to run an incredible half marathon on Sunday. I looked around for @sarahstanley with whom I have had the pleasure to run on at least one occasion but she was busy working as a race Ambassador so wasn’t available. After perusing the expo for a bit, I did a fairly intense yoga session put on by Lululemon then headed back to my hotel. A quick trip to the grocery store for some provisions and visit to Thai Stick for a bite to eat followed, then I settled in for the evening.

Saturday, I walked down to the Ferry Building to meet up with Todd for some coffee and to join the Lululemon shake out run. There was a decent sized group and several distances from which to choose. I had 2 miles + strides then 1-mile at pace on the schedule so, in standard form, Todd and I chose to run the full 3-mile warm up then do our strides and tempo. We got to run with Bart Yasso for a bit, which was pretty cool and checked out the new minimalist shoe from Saucony he was sporting (SUPER light). We ended up doing a couple of laps around Giant Stadium on the waterfront then I headed back to the hotel to put my feet up, ice my ankle and watch a movie and read. I headed back over to the expo later that day just to see what was going on and to get outside and see more of the city. Probably walked/ran a bit more than I should but again, I was here to have fun. Hit Thai Stick again for dinner then hit the sack.

The race starts early (5:30) in order to allow runners to run across the Golden Gate Bridge so I set my alarm for 4:05 to ensure that I had plenty of time to get my act together in the morning. I ate some food, downed some liquids, donned my gear and headed down to the Embarcadero for the start. It is always fun seeing the ever growing masses pouring into sleepy city streets as one approaches the start of an early morning race and as I made my way towards the event, more and more people joined me on my trek to the start. I jogged the last mile or so then found the bag drop area and then got in line for one last pit stop before the race began. As the start time drew ever closer, I didn’t seem to be making much progress in line and eventually, I just bailed. I had already missed my official start with the sub-seeded athletes and wanted to get in with the sub-3-hour pace group if possible. I was a couple minutes behind that as well and started the event at the back of wave 2. Not ideal and a little stressful but I rolled with it and quickly passed over the official starting line to begin my day.

The first few miles of the SFO are flat and run along the Embarcadero. It was still dark out so there wasn’t a lot to see and I was focused on trying to catch up to the sub-3 group so I just worked on staying relaxed, making up some time but not pressing things. I quickly caught the 3:20 group and shortly thereafter passed the 3:10 guys. The first hill hits at about mile 2.5 and it is actually the steepest of the race. I flew up this and kept rolling. When you are from altitude, running at sea level is like cheating. You can really hammer hills and actually recover on the downs, which is particularly refreshing. Good times.

I finally caught the sub-3 group at about mile 3.5 and settled in with them running comfortably at 6:45-6:50 pacing. We ran through a park then another medium-length uphill on the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge. Running across the bridge was fun and we got to see the leaders on the way out then all the runners behind us on the way back across. After crossing the bridge, the course rolls for a bit then climbs up into Golden Gate Park. At this point, there was a little confusion about the pacer switch off and we ran sans pacer for about 3 miles through the park. I stopped to relieve myself but kept the people with whom I was running  in sight (knowing that I was actually a couple minutes ahead of this group on the clock) and ran comfortably through the remainder of the park (about mile 16). The course then merges with the second half course and climbs up into the Haight.

It was during this segment that I started feeling the effort and though I was keeping the 3-hour group close, was starting to struggle to maintain good form. The official 3-hour pacer came by me after a tight, sidewalk section and I latched on for a bit then let them go. Again, my goal was to keep them in my sight as I still had a couple minutes in the bank at this point but the race diverts runners onto parallel streets on a couple different points during the race and at the first of these, I lost track of the group and this, coupled with my form degradation, made me decide to back off. So I took some walk breaks, spent some time drinking water at one of the aid stations, and generally tried to enjoy myself and hold good form through the remainder of the race.

The last half is decidedly less interesting than the first with most of the course running downhill through industrial areas and neighborhoods devoid of architectural interest. I just jogged it in at this point, not worrying about how fast I was going or what time I might get and fairly soon was back on familiar ground with about a mile to go to the finish. I made sure my last mile was strong, again with the focus on form, passed Giant Stadium then under the Bay Bridge and home in 3:18:48.

I ran the first half in 1:29:04 and the first 20 in 2:18:31 (pretty close to sub-3 pacing). Very happy with these numbers and my race overall. I think that if I were healthy, I could definitely run a great time on this course. The second half is way faster than the first, I felt pretty great for 20 miles and the course suits me well. Perhaps I’ll run it again next year and see what I can do.

Post-race, I was actually fairly miserable. I had serious stomach problems for the rest of the day and am willing to blame these on the electrolyte drink provided during the race. I had plans to tour the city after the event but ended up just sleeping and staying near the restroom. I was able to rally, however, and jammed out to Berkeley to meet Pete, Edy and Todd for dinner. After a beer, gigantic salad and pizza, I felt MUCH better and grabbed the last train back to San Fran then collapsed into bed.

Up early on Monday, I packed up my stuff and hit the town. I did my own little walking tour of SFO and wandered through China Town, up to Telegraph Hill and back down to the Embarcadero for lunch. I got to see most of what I had on my list but would love to go back to enjoy more of what the Bay area has to offer. All in all a great trip!


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