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The San Francisco Marathon - RunMarathon

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San Francisco, California
United States
West End Management
62F / 17C
Total Time = 3h 44m 52s
Overall Rank = 693/2652
Age Group = M40-44
Age Group Rank = 88/282
Pre-race routine:

Okay, I'll fully admit my sense of perspective is a bit "different" (i.e. whacked) so take what I say here with a grain of salt.

I don't really like running road races (prefer trails), but poweredbyfear (PBF) and I both signed up for this as a training event for our races in September (IM Wisconsin for me and Big Kahuna for him). To make it more interesting, we had planned to do a century the day before. I do not recommend others do this, but this is the kind of crazy idea I had for training before IM Lanzarote and thought I'd do it for "fun" before IM Wisconsin again. What i didn't plan on was having to lay off training almost cold turkey for 5 weeks because of my toe right after IM Lanzarote which set back my training quite a bit.

Fast forward to before this marathon and I hadn't really built up my mileage to comfortably do a full marathon. I had once again aggressively ramped up my mileage (I also do not recommend anyone do this) - 4 weeks out, I had just done an 11 mile run for my LSD. 3 weeks out, I did a 16 mile run. Two weeks out, I had a half IM race (so a 13 mile run). One week out, which should have theoretically been well into a taper, I did a 20 mile run, but the wheels fell off starting at mile 15 and I had to run/walk the last 5 miles. Plus, Mr. Toe didn't look very happy after the run. All in all, not a very good base (or taper for that matter) for completing a marathon.

So, I had decided I was going to do the half marathon instead and maybe do a big bike ride the day before or maybe run to the race start, do the half, and then run home. I suppose I'm just too compulsive about endurance activities that doing a half just didn't sound appealing to me since I could just easily go do a 13 mile run on my own whenever I wanted and $105 registration seemed like a waste. PBF was in a similar place with his training (two 18 milers two weeks out) and he didn't feel prepared to do a full mary. He also felt that the smart thing to do would be to do the half, but to treat it as a time trial and really go for it. I had even commended him on his maturity and focus.

As race day drew nearer, I started to have a voice inside of me, kinda like the little devil on my shoulder whispering into my ear telling me to just try to do the mary and see how far I could go and that I could just walk to the end if I had to. Since I was really looking at this race as a training event leading up to IM Wisconsin, I felt better about doing 20 or so miles of running and walking or dropping out if I had to than doing a half (I just hoped I would have the discipline in the heat of the moment to do so if I was feeling an overuse injury coming on). I didn't end up going on a long bike the day before, so when PBF called me about registration, I said I was going to do the full and why. I also suggested that maybe he should try the full and see how far he got (I suppose that makes me the little devil whispering into his ear). I also told him to bring his bike over so we could ride down to registration.

PBF and I biked down to the expo/registration tents which was down by Pier 30/32 this year (more room). PBF had his nice carbon road bike with him so we didn't want to just lock it up outside the expo so would take turns going in to register with the other person staying to watch the bikes. There's a big map of the course here and I talk PBF through the hilly sections. PBF places a call to another friend to find out what her plans are for running the half. PBF decides on the spot to go ahead and do the full too. PBF goes in to register. When he gets back, it's my turn.

I walk the gauntlet of booths and sample some drinks, smoothies, bars, granola, etc. along the way. At the registration tent, I look up my bib number. I go to the right line for bib/goody bag pickup (goodie bag was lame). I go to line for race shirt (btw, all lines were very short, so kudos to the organizers for that). I find out no more smalls are left, but I can have a medium or they can mail me a small. last time I was told at an event (Big Kahuna) that they would mail me my shirt, it never showed up despite my follow up inquiries so I went for the bird in the hand.

I'm return through the expo, sample more food and drinks and then I'm outside with PBF. We bike back, but on the way we stop off at Performance Bike. They are also having a 15% off storewide sale. I only need a replacement pump for my commuter, but PBF does a fair amount of shopping. We bike back to my house. PBF is headed to his brother's house for awhile, but he'll be back this evening and spend the night at our house so we can get to the race early in the morning.

I go to sleep by about 9:30pm and I hear PBF come in. I have alarms set for 4:00am so we can be on our bikes and out the door by 4:30ish which should give us ample time since our wave starts at 5:45am. When I get up, I start the hot water for coffee (Guatemala Fraijanes - Finca Agua Tibia which I roaseted at home previously) and toast. I tell PBF it's time to wake up. We have our toast (bread from Vital Vittles, Berkeley based bakery) and fig jam. I have my coffee, PBF some tea. PBF also has some Cytomax. Weather calls for patchy clouds, low 60s (good running weather). I decide to go with the Zoot/Gu tri top and regular running shorts. It's time to get hop on our bikes and head out.

It's great riding this early in the morning since the streets are pretty empty. As we're travelling through the neighborhoods, at first the only people we see up and out look like other runners. As we get to the Mission and then head downtown, there are other folks up and out on the streets. We start to see more cars and taxis other cyclists and then runners almost all headed downtown presumably for the race.

We spot the complimentary bike valet area set up by the SF Bike Coalition. We check in our bikes. One of the guys who is checking in behind me has his Cervelo road bike so I give him some props for that. he makes some comment about doing a triathlon so I start to chat it up, but it turns out he's just joking about doing triathlons. Okay, whatever.

There are a lot of people here, of course. I'm very ambivalent about having so many people here. For the race, I very much prefer a smaller more intimate race, but I do have to admit the electricity of having so many people around is intoxicating in its own way. Plus, checking out all the fit bodies is always a nice distraction.

PBF and I scope out the area a bit. We find the bag drop. We decide we better get in the bathroom line. We do that and by the time we're back, the first wave has already gone off at 5:30am. We quickly drop off our bags and head over to the starting corrals.

We're in wave 4 (the 3:45-4:00 finishers) and it isn't long before wave 3 has already taken off. It's a good thing we don't have a long wait. It's still quite dark and there is a bit of a breeze, but not as cold as SF summer days can be, so that's good.
Event warmup:

no warmup, unless you call the bike ride down a warm up.
  • 3h 44m 52s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 35s  min/mile

So, our wave starts and initially, we just stand there since we're probably towards the middle back of our wave. Then we start running and as we get close to the line, we all stop again since everyone is bunched up. Okay, we finally get going for real now and cross the line and I start my Garmin.

It's fairly crowded, but not so crowded that we can't run our own pace. PBF and I find some nice pace booty to follow for awhile to keep us distracted while we're warming up. It takes me a couple miles to loosen up and six before I feel really good.

I've run these routes so many times, but it is definitely different to see it in the dark with no cars and during a race with tons of people. In the first couple miles, we pass Fisherman's Wharf and pass the Boudin sourdough bakery. it's still quite dark out, but the bakery is all lit up inside and you can smell the sourdough (probably pretty cool for the out of towners).

We continue on to Aquatic Park and skip the first aid station since I assume it's going to be a zoo. From here, it's up our first small hill. Then it's onto the Marina and into Crissy Field. We're passing folks and being passed by some which is pretty much the way it goes in any race. After climbing the next hill as we approach the Golden Gate bridge, a cute young woman asks me if that's the climb out of transition for Escape from Alcatraz. I told her I thought so, but I haven't done it myself. We chat up tris for just a little bit, but we hit the next climb and are separated by a small crowd and I take off ahead and PBF keeps right behind me.

The bridge is crowded since we've just have one lane in each direction but it is still a kick to run across the bridge without all the walking, stopping, photographing tourists. It's windy and cool though as expected. Since it's crowded here on the bridge, it's a little difficult to pass folks, but it just takes a little patience for an opening.

At the vista point on the other side of the bridge (I have to admit, i didn't even check out the sights at all since I live here and see them all the time) and come to our next aid station. here I get some Cytomax so I can start taking in calories.

As we had back on the return on the bridge, it's windy and colder than when we came out on the bridge. PBF asks me what our pace is. I tell him that the Garmin says we're at about an 8:40 min/mi pace. We both agree that we don't know how long we can keep this up, but we'll just go with it.

Once we get off the bridge, we go up for a bit and have another aid station. more fluids. Then we continue along Lincoln and above Baker Beach and we start running downhill. Along this stretch, a guy from the sidelines yells out my name. I turn and look back and smile. it turns out it's LJR; of course, I'm not positive of this at the moment, but it made sense since I knew he wasn't able to run it from his training blog and i knew he lived in the area (plus, who else would possibly recognize me). That gave me and PBF a little boost.

As we approach Sea Cliff and the avenues and on our way into Richmond, there are a few hills. At every intersection, I've been thanking volunteers/SFPD/DPT/etc. Somewhere around mile 12, before we got into the park, there was a woman on the ground on the side of the road. Two others were helping her and asking for a medic. not sure what happened to her, but I sure hope she's okay.

As we enter the park, I'm feeling okay as is PBF. I take my first gel, a caffeinated vanilla Gu...mmmm...caffeine. We pass the 13 mile mark and we're at 1:5x and when we pass the timing mat we calculate (subtracting the 15 minutes from our wave) that we're at about 1:57. The good news is that we're under 2 hours, but we're both expecting to fade in the second half. We'd have normally guessed that we'd be 10 minutes slower on our second half, but we're just waiting to see at what point one of us is going to need to start walking.

We run down JFK to the far end of the park and then back on MLK. We take a pee break at the next aid station. Then up and around Stow Lake. I take a couple bites of a blueberry clif bar I'd been schlepping this whole time. I offer PBF some, but he passes. I guess I'm doing okay, but my legs are stiffening up. PBF is in the same boat.

At mile 18, we're headed back out on JFK. I've run this stretch so many times, but it sure looks different now during a race with all the spectators and such. The runners are spread quite thin on this route.

On our way out of the park, we have a bit of a climb up Haight. This seems a helluva lot flatter than I remember it being the first time I ran this 2 years ago. I'm passing people pretty regularly at this stretch.

On the downhills, I want to take full advantage of gravity so i run to take advantage of this and I pull away a bit from PBF, but he works to catch up.

Right around mile 20, we see and catch up to the 3:50 pace group. Wow! I can't believe it. I assume they are a little behind, but will make up time (I still didn't look at my garmin since PBF asked me our pace back on the bridge). I keep running and pass the 3:50 group.

Somewhere on the downhill stretch near mile 21, I'm doing the gravity assisted downhill thing and I initially hear footsteps behind me, but then they fall off. Now I'm in this weird mental zone where it's a sort of survivalist mentality. I'm hyper focused on just keeping my body moving forward and I tune everything out. I don't even look back to see where PBF is and just go.

I take my second gel, a double caffeine espresso Gu hoping this will carry me through to the finish. I'm passing people left and right. I'm thinking to myself that my aerobic base is still pretty solid despite my injuries and my muscular endurance is better than I thought. I'm thinking that the rest of the race is a race of attrition and if I can just fade less than everyone else than I'll do okay.

Around mile 22, we're on 17th street. I know these streets so much better than I did 2 years ago, partially because the job I'm in now, we used to have our headquarters right here. I walk through the penultimate aid station and then force myself to start running again.

There's another small hill here and I'm still passing people left and right. This is actually kinda weird for me, but it sure feels better than being passed.

By mile 23, I want to think I have this in the bag since there's only 5K left, but I can feel some tightness in my right calf and my right hamstring. I am concerned that either may cramp up on me. i try to give my right leg a little bit of a break and compensate a little with my left.

This stretch of the course is in a industrial/commercial area so there is almost no crowd support and it's not particularly scenic.

Mile 24 comes along and somewhere around this time, I get totally smoked by a runner as though I'm standing still. Of course, having been through this before, I know that this is most likely a lead half marathon runner or a relay person. Also, somewhere along this home stretch, I pass a runner who is running barefoot. Wow.

My garmin is set to notify me every mile, but I know it's off a bit (as it turns out about 1/3 a mile) compared to the course mileage. It tortures me when it goes off since I know I'm not yet at that mile marker. It goes off, but mile 25 is not yet in site. At this late stage in the race, time feels like it is dilated and the few minutes running from when my Garmin goes off to when I pass the official race mile marker seems like a small eternity.

At mile 25, we turn to run behind AT&T park. I'm definitely quite fatigued at this point. I want to push for a strong finish, but I'm not sure I can muster any more speed so I'm just trying to hang on. This last 1.2 miles seems to go forever.

When I finally pass mile 26, I'm still not yet quite ready to sprint. i want to have a clear view of the finish line. I can hear the announcer talking about finishing sub 4 hour. I mildly disappointed thinking that I missed 4:00, but my reptilian brain is not realizing I had a 15 minute stagger on my wave. I see the finish line and I'm sprinting strongly. Somewhere along this stretch, I must have been passed by a young woman, who would turn out to be the first woman finisher in the second half marathon.

I see the clock and I cross the line at about 4:00:44. After coming to a stop, I stop my Garmin and it says 3:45! I'm very pleasantly surprised. Official time is 3:44:52 (I also forgot about the lag time to get up to the start line when our wave started); it's the second fastest standalone marathon I've ever run (of course I've only run 4 now).

Official results are as follows:

Place Overall: 693 out of 2652
Men: 601 out of 1997
M 40-44: 88 out of 282
AgeGrade: 55.56% Place: 693
FINISH: 3:44:52 pace: 8:35
7.5 Mi: 1:07:53 pace: 9:03
Half: 1:56:20 pace: 8:53
21.1 Mi: pace:
Chip Time: 3:44:52
Gun Time: 4:00:38

with a 1:56:20 first half, that meant my second half was a 1:48:32 which meant I averaged 8:15 min/mile (38 seconds/min/mile faster) on the back half. Crazy! Although the first half of the course is harder/hillier than the second half.
What would you do differently?:

Train more!
Post race
Warm down:

I get some water, my medal, and the mylar blanket. I feel great, not at all wiped out like I thought I would be, but then again, I'm jacked up on adrenaline and caffeine and high on having just finished. I looked around for DW, but since it was such a zoo, I didn't know if we'd be able to hook up without cellphones (mine was in my sweats bag).

I waited for PBF to finish. So I drank my water and stretched. Soon enough, I see him in his red shirt. he did it and he crushed 4 hours too which was one of his goals for the year, although he didn't think it possible at this race.

There was a short gauntlet of food that was being given out. There were waters, banana, cytomax, several different bars, chips, smoothies that was handed to you as you walked past. Almost too much to hold on to. PBF and I sat down and just rested and chowed down. We reveled in our accomplishment since it was such an amazing surprise to us since we didn't even expect to be able to run the whole thing.

We hung there for awhile and were getting ready to go when DW appeared (she biked down so we could all ride back together). We lingered for just a bit longer to eat, drink, and stretch. PBF and I picked up our sweats and picked up our bikes. Of course, I got to carry all the extra Mint Waters and Cytomax that PBF and I picked up (also because I had a pannier on my bike).

It was nice biking back. The stretch along Valencia (in the Mission) was especially interesting because traffic was backed up because of the marathon and we got to take the bike lane right up to the front and cross basically without any waiting. Sweet. A few hills to get back home. Yes, quads are a little fatigued.

PBF showered first in our steam shower and then I did. Then we headed out for some brunch. We wanted to try this fairly new restaurant, Toast, that opened up in our neighborhood, but it was prime brunch time and it had a huge line and looked like a 45+ minute wait. no thanks. We walked further along 24th street and stopped in front of Fresca, a nouveau peruvian restaurant that we'd eaten at a few times before.

To drink, I had a chicha morada, DW had an inca cola (was yellow and tasted almost like a cream soda), and PBF had some coffee. We started with a some crab cakes with a mango slaw and sauce and a sashimi mixto with 5 different tastes of sashimi and sauce.

For our main entrees, I had the aji de gallina (a sort of pulled chicken stew (sauce was yellow though since it was made with an aji amarillo cream - normally I'd never have a sauce like this, but hell, I just ran a marathon), DW had the toro steak sald, and PBF had the chupa de mariscada (seafood stew). We were so stuffed that we didn't have room for dessert.

Last updated: 2008-04-27 12:00 AM
03:44:52 | 26.2 miles | 08m 35s  min/mile
Age Group: 88/282
Overall: 693/2652
Performance: Good
Course: Course Description * Start: Downtown on the Embarcadero at Mission, run past the historic Ferry Building. * Mile 1: Look to your left to see Coit Tower overlooking San Francisco, and then pass through Fisherman's Wharf and catch the smell of fresh bread baking at Boudin's. * Mile 2: Run through Fort Mason - now a historic military site. * Mile 3: Run along the Marina and see the private yachts to your right. * Mile 4: Pass the restored wetlands and enter the Presidio. * Mile 5-10: Cross the Golden Gate Bridge toward Marin, and then back again, looking at the incredible city view as you head back onto the main land. * Mile 11 & 12: Enjoy the downhill as you move through Sea Cliff and Richmond Districts, and into the greenery of Golden Gate Park. * Miles 13-19: Take in the sights of this lush city park, passing small lakes and ponds, and re-enter the city through the Alvord Lake Tunnel. * Mile 20: Pass through Haight Ashbury and experience the 60s all over again. * Miles 21 & 22: Run through the Mission District, known for its flavorful Mexican restaurants – resist the temptation to stop for a quick meal! * Miles 23 & 24: Head through Potrero Hill and see water again as you head North for the final two miles! * Miles 25 – END: Once you run past the home of the San Francisco Giants you know you are almost there. Look for Cupid's Arrow and the finish line will soon follow. * END: Congratulations! Enjoy the post-race awards presentation, food, and festivities!
Keeping cool Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2008-08-05 7:16 PM

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San Francisco
Subject: The San Francisco Marathon

2008-08-05 7:39 PM
in reply to: #1583975

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Melon Presser
Subject: RE: The San Francisco Marathon

Congratulations! Super job, especially since you didn't feel prepared for it. Yes, you are definitely crazy and have a little devil on your shoulder

I aspire to be just like you.

2008-08-05 8:22 PM
in reply to: #1583975

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Berkeley, Calif.
Bronze member
Subject: RE: The San Francisco Marathon
Congrats on an amazing marathon! I can't believe you went through with it (loved reading the back-and-forth in your head as you reached the decision), and then to kick so much a$$, that's awesome.

It also sounds like you had a great time on the course. You make me wish I'd been ready to run it this year!
2008-08-05 9:42 PM
in reply to: #1583975

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over a barrier
Subject: RE: The San Francisco Marathon
i past the guy with no shoes too....he said he did all his runs barefoot..crazy!

Great race! good luck at imoo...
2008-08-08 3:30 PM
in reply to: #1583975

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San Mateo, CA
Subject: RE: The San Francisco Marathon
Amazing RR! Congratulations on a race well-run!
2008-08-09 6:42 PM
in reply to: #1583975

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Goodyear, AZ
Subject: RE: The San Francisco Marathon

As always, your Race report is a great read! You rocked this race especially going in with little expectations, it says a lot about your overall fitness.

And I always enjoy hearing about what you ate!

Well done!

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