2011 San Francisco Half Marathon Race Report

Posted on Aug 04, 2011 under Race | 7 Comments

What a weekend. Here are my official race results: 1:37:11, 7:25 min/mile, 21/624 AG, 66/2,708 Males, 81/6,255 Overall. My pace for the first couple of miles were a lot slower (by accident), but worked out. I was able to tackle the hills later on and have enough energy for a strong finish. The race seemed to pass by pretty quickly, and it was a very scenic course. Like everyone has been saying about the race, it was ‘worth the hurt’!

This was the first race that I traveled for since high school, which ironically took place near San Francisco (Half Moon Bay). I still remember that race and the trip. It was only for the Varsity team and we got to skip (at least) a day of school and it was my first time flying too! A couple years back, they had one of the runners jump in the JV race and he won it by minutes (only a 2 mile trail race). So when I heard that they wanted me to run the JV race that year, for some reason I felt pressured to win it as well. I was actually in the top 5 for a while, but ended up finishing 7th, which is still good. We tried doing some sightseeing stuff that night after the race, but I remember all the shops were either closed or closing. We tried walking the Golden Gate Bridge, but that was also closed? But despite all of that, I still remember having a great time with my teammates. But that’s all in the past..

Flash forward 8-9 years to this past weekend. I remember the days leading up to this weekend, I was also looking forward to the trip up because I got to take off a few days of work (not school). Driving up to SF was a pain since I had never driven that many miles and hours before (and this is coming from someone who gets sleepy within the first 20 minutes of a 2 hour drive!) Anyways, we survived the drive and had 2 days to do everything there is to do in SF before the race (and it sure felt like we did everything). We tried as much of the highly reviewed foods we could get our hands on. Did the typical touristy things like: Fisherman’s Wharf, boat tour of Alcatraz and Golden Gate Bridge, walk through Golden Gate Park and much more. The race expo was very uneventful. Fortunately, there was no line to get my race bib or shirt, but none of the booths really interested me and I didn’t want to pay more for parking than I had to.

I was lucky enough to find a hotel about 1 mile away from the start of the race which was awesome. I was planning to jog to the start from my hotel as a warmup. But my brother was about a block away and said that he would stop by my hotel and we’d walk together. A little background with my brother. He ran in high school and was a lot faster than me. But we both stopped running after high school. I had started running a few years ago and so did my brother (sort of). His friends picked it up recently and have wanted to race me ever since. I beat all of them at a 10K in February and they told me about this race in SF, so I decided to join them. Back to race morning..

I ended up waiting for them for about half an hour in my hotel lobby and we got to the start line at about 5:30 AM. My wave (2) started at 5:32AM, I didn’t have time to use the restroom (felt OK during the race) or double knot my shoes or start my Garmin. I was pretty much scrambling to get into my wave which had already started. I dropped off my race gear and got into the wave entrance. It was NOT a good start though. My shoelaces untied within the first 400 meters and I was fumbling to retie them. My watch was still set at cycling mode so I couldn’t tell what my pace was throughout the whole race! (kept saying 7/8 mph, was that good?) I was hoping to find some water somewhere since I had a few sips at my hotel and didn’t eat anything. All this sounds like the beginning of a terrible race, right?

I started the wave with one of my brother’s friends, but passed him at the very beginning with a thumbs up send off. The good thing about starting at the end of your wave is that you don’t have to worry about bobbing and weaving around people. I was more worried about catching up to people. I caught up to a crowd of runners which usually meant a pacer was nearby, so I ran with him for a while. His sign said 3:30 Marathon and for some reason I thought that equated to 1:30 half marathon pace. I kept thinking, ‘I feel good for running at 1:30 pace!’ It wasn’t until a few miles in that I realized that he was actually the 1:45 half pacer. Even though I started later, I didn’t want to run a 1:40ish half, that’s too slow. I eventually passed the group up at a downhill and went on my own for a while.

The course went by pretty fast. It was still pretty dark out and the first few miles of the race which ran along the Embarcadero and into Fisherman’s Wharf. I remember reading another runner’s race report about how you smell something rancid and right after, you smell bread and chocolate (Ghiradelli Square)! I think you hit like one hill before going on the Golden Gate Bridge. I think the bridge was about 1.5-1.7 miles each way, so I knew once you completed the bridge, you only had a few miles to Golden Gate Park and the finish. And because the bridge is so prominent, you can see it for a few miles back. The bridge is actually lit up at night so it was very pretty to look at and as we were approaching it, and a runner actually stopped to take pictures.

The Golden Gate Bridge is slightly uphill on certain parts of the bridge so you had some up and downhills on both ways. I felt good going up the bridge and passed a few runners. You do feel special to be able to say that you ran across the Golden Gate Bridge. On the way back was even better. I passed the time by people watching, I was looking for anyone I recognized. I saw one of my brother’s friends (the one I started the race with), and was lucky enough to find my brother too. I gave him a weird two-handed wave and he gave me this look like, ‘what the heck are you doing up there already?!’ When we were hanging out after the race, my brother’s friend was like, ‘yeah i was at the 6 mile mark while you were already on the 8!’

Once I got off the bridge, I did catch up to the 1:40 half pacer, but didn’t even bother staying with them and just passed them on another downhill. They actually split up the runners for about a mile before the finish at the park (although it was the same distance). For some reason, I thought we were going to have a choice between what street we wanted to run down, not that I knew one was better than the other or anything. But they were just splitting them up in bunches. I remember I was maybe 8-10th from the first person in my group, but by the end of that stretch was up to 3-4, which was cool. And as we crossed each intersection, I would look to the left and see runners on their street. I think I was trying to tell if I was keeping up with the runners on their side or not.

There was maybe another mile or so once we got into the park, but once we got there, I was still feeling pretty good. I do remember right after the bridge, just before mile 10, you hit this hill, which I was not expecting. It wasn’t too bad, but definitely slowed me down. After that, I kept thinking, ‘they wouldn’t throw in another hill right before the finish, would they?!’ And I think they did. Looking at the elevation chart, it looks like there were about 3 small, gradual uphills before the downhill finish.

I knew I had my brother and all but one of his friends beat. It wasn’t until we met up for dinner later that night that I found out that I had officially beat him, by 3 minutes! Another friend told me, so when I saw him that night the first thing I said was, ‘are you mad??’ He shoved me jokingly, I’m sure he really wanted to beat me. He started at wave 2 as well, but with the group. So I must have passed him early on and didn’t even notice. If I would have saw him, I probably would have tried to run with him (for a couple of miles at least). If we stayed together til the very end, it would have definitely been an interesting finish. Although mine wasn’t too boring. There was a kid that was going pretty fast toward the end, but I passed him up on a downhill. As I approach the straightaway I see the same kid just zoom by me. The race video shows how fast he finished, and the announcer noted it too. It was cool because I heard the announcer call my name and city right before I finished.

As much as I wanted to just go back to my hotel and sleep, my little sister and cousin said they were coming down to visit, so I barely had enough time to go back to my room, shower and have a snack before meeting them for lunch. We did some more touristy stuff that day and some shopping (more walking!). We then all met up that night for some tapas and sangria, probably some of the best food we had in SF. It was good that I decided to take Monday off too because it would have been way too hard to drive back to SD the same day of the race! It was still a tiring drive, but again we made it. I definitely felt it at work the next day and was struggling to get through the day. I took a nap right when I got off work on Tuesday and did so again today, which gave me the time and energy to write this race report.

I have a few tentative races set for August. I’m going to be travelling again (for work) next week and thought I was going again a few weeks later, but has been pushed to September. So I may be interested in doing at least one race mid-August, if not late. The one I ran last year around this time is a trail race, which is now called the Stairway to Heaven which features a hill called the Widowmaker! I want to try running/hiking that race again, but I believe it’s the weekend I come back from my business trip to Cleveland, so I might be too jeglagged.

All in all, this was a great race weekend and mini-vacation. I would definitely recommend this race to other and might have to make this an annual trip (but may consider flying next time!)

7 Responses to “2011 San Francisco Half Marathon Race Report”

  1. Lindsay Says:

    you could still run the race… just account for the fact that you just returned from work travels. no excuses!

    congrats on beating all your brother’s friends again. better to start out a little slow than too fast as you’ve learned in the past 🙂

  2. Monika Says:

    Nice race report! Man you are FAST! I’ve started a race with my watch on cycling before. sucks 🙁 And when I ran the half last year I remember thinking WTF a hill at hte finish?? I hadn’t noticed it during the full. I actually think I blocked out some of the hills. At mile 18 I told some guy the hills were over. oops. lie.

    anyways congrats on a great race!

  3. Julie (A Case of the Runs) Says:

    Nice job! I did that race 2 years ago and loved it… I think I know what hotel you’re talking about, too!

  4. Mike Says:

    Sweet medal! I love the race weekends combined with a mini-vacation. Well done.

  5. David Mckee Says:

    I like reading about other peoples experiences while running/racing (comparing to my own). Sounded like everybody had a great time! very well written. Pinson, Alabama


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