Friday, July 29, 2011

San Francisco Half Marathon

With a plan to meet up with people at 4:30 so that we could caravan up together, the wake up time was early. Like, setting the alarm to a number that began with a 3 type early. 

Like a good runner, I laid out all of my necessities the night before, so that even bleary eyed, I wouldn't forget anything .

Everything went smoothly, with my friend picking me up around 4:15 and meeting up with two other cars of people about 4:30 (4:45?) at an Andronicos in the Sunnyvale area. We all squeezed into two cars and before we knew it, we were driving around the streets of San Francisco, with an increasing number of brightly colored individuals in somewhat skimpy clothing walking on the sidewalks (yes, I am referring to runners here, not some of the other colorful life that you might see, though come to think of it, seeing people in skimpy brightly colored outfits is not abnormal in the dark hours of a weekend in SF). 

We finally found the parking lot and immediately went in search of the bathrooms that were described to us as the best to use. Unfortunately, they were closed, so our 10 minute search and journey up and down 3 flights of stairs was perhaps not the best use of our time. 

Out of luck, we headed to the start as night turned to dawn. 

We got to our "VIP" tent, with the promise of food, coffee and private porta potties making us feel very special. Of course, 2 porta potties for 200+ trainers = not such a good deal. 

Luckily, Dana and I (and the rest of our group) were in the last wave, so we had just enough time to make it through the lines and get going. 

Our group's plan was to walk every 1/2 mile, plus the uphills. Knowing that we'd be going a pretty easy pace for me, I decided to make an addition to that plan. Every time we'd walk, I'd pull to the side, take some pictures, and then catch up with the group. This race was all about completing the distance and being with a friend, so I wasn't in a hurry. This way I could get some non blurry pictures, too!

The first few miles went along the ferry buildings, and went quickly. 

Soon, a delicious smell began wafting through the air. I knew it could be only one thing - Boudin Bakery. If only they had a sourdough aid station...

Of course, a chocolate aid station would have been pretty nice too!

At this point, the race course also began overlapping the course I used to run when I was in college, which was special in its own right. This also brought us to our first hill. 

Luckily, the hill equaled a very nice view. 

After cresting the hill, we got both a downhill and mile 3. 

This was probably one of my favorite views, and the flat Crissy field running was nice as well. 

Next up was the climb up the bridge, where we enjoyed taking it easy as we headed up. 

Climbing uphill, though, meant more nice views. We got lucky with the weather, and had a nice cool SF morning for our run. 

Finally, the bridge was well within reach.

While I've run over the bridge many times, I've never gotten to do it on the actual street. 

Verdict? While pretty cool, I think I actually like the sidewalk better - you can't see much of the view off the bridge from the street. 

Once we got to the other side, we got to enjoy the city views as well as a water/gu stop.

And then, we were headed back over to the other side.

Once we got off the bridge, we had a bit more uphill (which none of us actually remembered), 

before getting to coast down to Golden Gate park. 

This was where I ended up leaving behind most of my running group. It was about mile 10, I was feeling strong, and I honestly was ready to run more my pace - especially with a mile of downhill in my future. 

So, with a few others from the group, I pushed ahead, enjoying coasting downward and picking up some speed. 

In not too long, we reached the city streets and some more uphill. At around mile 12, the others I was running with were ready to walk. Me? Not so much. So, I said goodbye and pushed forward, ready to finish this race. 

While the trip through the park seemed a bit longer than I had expected, but finally, I saw the finish line and pushed through, for a grand total of 2:44 (the exact pace I had run in my first marathon).

Over the next 15 minutes, I got to see the rest of the running group come through, including my friend, Dana who also had a great run.

While we were warm from the run, the cool SF air made us happy to have the heat blankets, especially once we got in line to wait for the buses back to the start. 

Unfortunately, while the buses sounded great in theory, the long lines and some other issues meant that it was about 45 minutes until we got on a bus. I was mostly worried about poor Ed, waiting at the start for me, who had probably finished his race long before. But, there was nothing I could do, so I decided not to worry, and just bask in the happiness of a finished race.

As soon as we got off the bus, I rushed to look for Ed and soon found him. Predictably, he had been worried about me since I had shown up so late, but once he knew I was fine, he was happy to see me. He'd had a great race as well and we enjoyed sharing stories as we headed back to the car to head home. 

This was a great first race back, and is a great starting point for this new phase of running for me. Next race is the San Jose Half Marathon in just two weeks - hopefully it will be equally (or even more so) fun!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Jersey Running

As you, hopefully noticed, I recently ran a half marathon. Of course, that meant that on our vacation, I would need to be doing some training runs. 

For better or worse, that meant that Ed and I were heading out the door at 4pm on a hot and humid afternoon to get in my last long run of 12 miles. We were promised scenic towpath, which would hopefully make the weather more bearable.

We snapped a quick pictures of ourselves before getting drenched with the humidity and we were off. 

This pathway is a wonderful feature of Princeton - incredibly lush and beautiful and flat besides.

After about a half mile, we came upon a very green swamp area to the left, which reminded me that the first colonists of the east coast had huge malaria issues. Of course, then I started worrying that perhaps alligators could somehow get all the way up here. I always thought of alligators and swamps stuck together.

 I asked Ed and he told me, "Don't worry. Of course there are not alligators here. Only crocodiles".

Unfortunately, less than two miles in, my legs started hurting. I decided to keep it to myself, because turning around early wasn't an option. I tried to get distracted by the gorgeous surroundings. 

Such a teaser. Luckily there were more exciting animals that were cute, not dangerous. There were many little turtles dotting the edge of the canal and at one point, I saw something cute and furry with its nose sticking out of the water, and then quickly slipped under the water. We asked steven later (I wondered it if was a river otter) and he said it was probably a beaver!

At some point, water began showing up on the other side of the tow path as well, and soon we were crossing over water next to lake Carnegie. 

Finally, we reached six miles and I let Ed in that I felt more or less like dying and was worried about getting all the way home. We stopped, took a break, had some food and water, and rested. Of course, the heat was so palpable that it was difficult to cool down.

Knowing I wouldn't magically start feeling better, we started back down the pathway, with sore legs and a somewhat defeatist mentality. 

One of the pluses of a later start was that it did start to cool down somewhat, which was a welcome relief. 

Nonetheless, I started having to walk some every mile, and was in more or less agonizing pain. I remember thinking that I felt worse than when I ran 50 miles. 

With only 2 miles left, Ed encouraged me to run it in, and I acquiested. However, after a mile or so, I looked to the side of the trail and saw this little guy. 

Now, on the way out, I said that I would want to take a turtle picture on the return trip. This being the return trip, I pulled over to the side to take a picture. Ed immediately tried to be tough love coach and told me under no uncertain terms that I needed to start running again. I, in my infinite wisdom of a runner about to hit the breaking point, very strongly responded that I would be taking a picture and he needed to back off. Of course, Ed immediately turned sweet and explained that he just wanted to help me finish (which I knew, even though my screaming legs made my response a bit stronger than it needed to be)

Finally, we exited the towpath and ran the last bit through the housing complex, until the lovely garmin hit twelve miles. Immediately, I started walking, thankful to finally be done.

As a reward for our efforts, we went out to a delicious Italian meal with Steven and Hilary for dinner. It was spectacular, and we got to have Hilary's favorite - balsalmic chicken pasta - which was every bit as good as she said. 

Ed and I decided to go half and half with the balsalmic and a delicious seafood pasta - I couldn't decide which one I enjoyed more, so I was glad we shared. 

After dinner, we had just enough room to go to "The Bent Spoon" known for its delicious and inventive ice cream. I had creme fraiche and blueberry marscapone. 

Perfect end to a perfect day.