I didn't run anywhere near a personal best at the San Francisco Marathon "Second Half-Marathon," but I finished more content than I have at a race in a while. I've had a lot of disappointments with races the past year, primarily attributable to feeling strong in my training but having issues ("injuries") with respect to my left leg that leave me unable to give it my all when the heat is on.
Without speed or hill training, and with months of low mileage (for me), I expected this race to hurt and to generally be disappointing.
Instead, I finished right at my "wishful thinking" time (1:30) and for the first time in a LONG time, I finished without feeling like my bad leg had been put through a meat grinder.
All was not perfect, but seriously. My leg didn't feel abused. That's a good thing.
|Free race photos! Huge perk|
The first half of the race was through Golden Gate Park, overcast, and I clung to my cheap, fog-attracting sunglasses since I thought they would fall off my head. Oakley, call me. (Or tell me what running sunglasses you recommend, I'm in the market).
It was far more humid than any weather I've run in this summer, because race day always brings weather obstacles. Once the sun came out, the humidity felt extra special.
The first mile was downhill, and fast. Somewhere around 6:15 for me. After that, the race was steady up, up, up, DOWN SO STEEP SO SHORT, up, up, up. At least that's how it felt to me. The downhill portions were harsh! Feet-slapping downhills. The kind where you worry your quads will pay for that soon.
|This photographer. With his clever close ups.|
Even though this is one of the hilliest road half-marathons I've run, the most challenging part of the race was not the hills, but the mental exhaustion of weaving around marathoners.
The second half marathon throws runners into a stream of marathoners that are hitting their halfway point on pace to a 4.5-to-5 hour marathon.
This is both cool, and very, very bad. The cool part is that it is motivating to reel past other runners; it makes you feel strong as you pick other people off. It is cool because marathoners might get a burst of energy from seeing all the fresh half-marathoners pulling them along.
It is bad because it is a mental challenge to constantly be alert and focused on how to pass all these runners. So much weaving, so much running on the farthest tangent, so many water stops missed. I ran a 13.32 according to Sir Garmin, and I'm sure this was partially attributed to all the weaving. I also think I settled for a pace that felt fast, comparatively, because in some strange way the marathoners' pace was messing with my inner metronome.
On the same note, it sucks for the marathoners who are probably thinking "shut it halfers. I've been trucking for 2 hours and you and your spritely legs can go ahead and run the long tangent because I'm tired and have 2.5 hours to go."
This start schedule also meant I experienced what it is like to be in the caboose of a race in terms of water stops and volunteers....and it's rough. Volunteers seemed to be running out of steam and few were handing out drinks. The roads were a mess of cups. People slowed and crowded to a stop for water, and I couldn't summon the energy to wedge my way in there (or otherwise failed to find a cup when I made an attempt).
Without any hydration, and the extra dose of humidity, I became overheated and/or dehydrated and boy did I feel it during the last mile.
Miles 2-12 were all around 6:45-6:50. Mile 13? 7:20. I was hanging on for dear life.
6:49 garmin pace for 13.32 miles; 6:55 official pace; 1:30:52.
I finished feeling pretty sick. I drank everything in the world (water; coconut water; kombucha; a green drink) and couldn't eat food for several hours. I felt so drained and needed to lie down with my eyes closed during a birthday barbecue we went to that afternoon.
Things had been feeling ok until that last mile! It was a flat mile, but exposed and shadeless. I was just toast.
I felt the alarm bells of a potential calf "tangle" cramp, and the associated stiffening/locking of my knee, at the fourth mile; so I stopped and stretched at mile 4.5. I stopped again near mile 8. This method--stop at the first sign of a problem and stretch -- seemed to really work for me. My leg issues didn't become a bigger problem like they have in past races. I really wanted to stretch again during the last 3 miles, but I knew it wouldn't be worth it to find the impossible energy to start again at the same speed after coming to a dead stop.
I'm going to continue to subscribe to the running plan I've been on -- namely, no serious speed work. My leg is feeling better, and I feel I'm on this precipice where I could slide backwards and lose these gains so easily. I'm afraid of speedwork because of this.
I will be avoiding the track for a while (sad. I like it there) and focusing on continued but decreased treatment with my sports therapist, throwing in some comfortable tempo miles (7:00-ish pace) and some fast-finishes, something that seems so key and that I have never done.
I also never finish fast in races. Huh.
That's my new goal. Stop finishing like the fading positive splitter that I am. Finish strong.