Hello, very long race name and blog post title!
Just over a week ago, I ran the Nike Women’s San Francisco 13.1 in San Francisco as a member of the Greater Bay Area (specifically, the south bay) chapter of Team in Training. Team in Training is the world’s oldest and largest endurance sports organization, and since it serves as the fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, race participants fundraise in the upwards of ~$2k in exchange for being properly trained for their endurance event–in this case, a half marathon.
As I’ve written earlier, when I lived in Chicago, it was through my involvement in TNT that I dove head-first into marathoning back in 2007, so when an opportunity to run NWSF as a TNT fundraising participant presented itself to me back in July, I was all over it. I hadn’t fundraised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since the Chicago Marathon ’08, and I figured it was high time to do so–and especially since I wanted to do something to memorialize Traci’s mother who had just passed nearly a year ago to the day that I was asked if I’d be interested in doing this race for LLS. Honoring Traci’s mom and my own was the primary and initial reason why I forayed into long distance stuff back in the day, and fundraising with TNT this year for the first time in many years, seemed an appropriate and timely way to focus on the bigger picture, on the reasons that inspired me to begin to lace up my shoes a few years ago and start to do this crazy shit.
Thus, this race was pretty meaningful to me, and I knew early on that it’d really just be part of my long run that Sunday, moreso than it would be a true half marathon-effort race. Plus, ahem… more miles for the day = a more comfortable pace during the 13.1. (I’m totally drinking this 50k kool-aid now when it comes to my LRs and slowing the fuck down on ’em. Time on my feet FTW these days, friends).
Saturday: Team Yahoo! meet-up and Inspiration Dinner
With the race being in SF on a Sunday morning (and with a 6:30 start time), it gave me a perfect reason to get there a touch early and crash at my E-twin’s for the night. Shortly after I arrived, I met-up with the other folks from Team Yahoo! in the lobby of the Hyatt before heading over to the Inspiration Dinner at the Moscone Convention Center. It was also at the Yahoo! meet-up that I was finally able to meet the TNT coaches for the first time all season. I never made it out to any of the team practices because of schedule/family conflicts, but just as I suspected, the coaches were cool. They generally are. 🙂
Not long after our Yahoo! rendezvous, we all ventured over to the MCC for the typical and sacrosanct pre-race pasta dinner. Again, I was in the somewhat weird position of meeting all my teammates for the very first time, since I hadn’t trained with anyone at all for this event, but all good. Generally speaking, runners are fantastic people. The dinner was hilarious, thanks to John ‘the Penguin’ Bingham, and, appropriately inspiring, thanks to the patient honorees and their families who shared their stories, and we learned that:
- Yahoo! earned top corporate honors by raising over $70k between this event and the NYC triathlon earlier in the summer;
- this year’s NWSF had approximately 1,500 TNT runners/walkers;
- and finally, this year’s NWSF raised $5 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This race is BFD for the LLS, and since the race’s inception a decade ago, it has generated over a billion – with a B – for the organization. Pretty awesome stuff.
Once the inspiring dinner concluded and the south bay team piled in for a picture, it was back to Erin’s for the night for a very brief snooze before race morning.
Sunday, race day
With Erin’s help (go here, don’t go here, this street is a big hill, this area is sketchy…), I ran to the starting line from her house without climbing any monstrous hills and safely in the dark dark dark pre-dawn morning. It ended up being about 3 miles to the start, and it was actually kinda cool because I ended up covering part of the race course along the way, kinda like a little accidental preview.
Once I got to the race start, I realized I missed the all-TNT group picture by about 5 minutes, so I focused on just figuring out where I needed to go and, of course, where I could use the bathrooms one more time. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I had gotten assigned to the 9-9:59 minute/mile pace corral, so I knew I wouldn’t be toeing the line right at 6:30, but I figured I should still plan everything as though I were. I dropped my bag at gear check, stood in a very slow-moving line for the porta-potties before saying ‘fuck it’ and deciding that I’d either a) go find an alley or an unsuspecting shrub or b) join the not-oft talked-about group of female runners who piss themselves mid-race. TMI, sorry, not sorry…
Even from my brief jaunt over to the race start, I surmised quite quickly that it was humid–but not hot, just kinda… moist. Standing around in shorts and a LS was pretty comfortable, so I hoped that the sun wouldn’t come out at all during the run. Since moving here, I generally don’t look at the weather because it’s always the same (cough cough perfect cough cough), and race day mornings are about the only times when I realize that I should have… especially if I’m standing around for a while. At any rate, I made my way over to my 9-9:59 minute corral after having a flash of brilliance that I could go use the facilities in the Hyatt, the same place where I was just 12 hours earlier, therefore narrowly avoiding the necessity of pissing myself on the run. Phew. (Ed. note: I generally don’t wince much when it comes to bodily functions and running, but I wasn’t super keen on smelling like piss for more than 20 miles on Sunday morning. I knew you’d understand).
Sooooooooo anyway, everything worked out–I didn’t have to piss myself, I was able to get to the very front of my corral and get outta dodge quite quickly, and I just had a super fun time at the race and as you can judge from my pictures, just had a fuckin’ blast and cruised cruised cruised with most of my miles ranging between HM-MP, depending on the course topography at the moment. I’m not super familiar with the ‘hoods of SF, but the first few miles took us from the start through downtown (ish?), then through the Panhandle, then through Golden Gate Park, and eventually, up the Lincoln Ave hill and down to the marina. This year’s course was brand new, and it seemed like parts of it were the same as Bay to Breakers or the SF Marathon course, though I’m not entirely sure; things kinda start to look alike, especially in GGP.
While I wouldn’t recommend starting in a corral that’s several minutes slower per mile than what you’d usually run, it actually was kinda fun to try to chase down as many people as possible in those initial miles. Wearing a purple TNT singlet with my name on it was also a blast because people were yelling my name–as I was theirs–and when I’d see the many other TNT coaches on the course, it was a little pick-me-up to have them come over and chat with me on the run. I really had a blast and never really felt uncomfortable, as is the norm in a true HM effort run for me, but for a couple minutes somewhere around mile 6 or 7, my R ITB gave me some solid “what’s up now” scolding–frustrating but okay, but mostly frustrating because it happened on a downhill when I wanted to pick up the pace! Dammit! In fact, after a while, the ascents on the course became more comfortable than the descents. Kinda strange but kinda makes sense.
The hill up Lincoln was long but manageable, maybe from miles 9.5 to 10.5ish, if I remember correctly, but fortunately, I saw one of my chapter’s TNT coaches, and she just ran alongside me for a few minutes and just BSed with me and let me know how all the other runners and walkers on the team were doing. After I crested the hill–which, shout-out to the SF chapter of November Project because they were throwin’ it down up top with a crazy dance party for all the runners–it was a long descent down to the marina before a final more flat miles along the water and into the finish line.
Somewhere around mile 10 or 11, the volunteers gave out truffles to the runners–how’s that for a crazy aid station–and shortly after I finished, a very sweet high school volunteer gave me the coveted blue Tiffany & Co. that held my race “medal” (read: a Tiffany necklace). I guess traditionally, suited-up firemen gave participants their Tiffany necklaces, and while they were there–you could go infield and have your pictures taken with them (awkward?)–I opted to instead go get the rest of my premiums (food food food galore, including vegan options *yay!*) and gear so I could get back on the roads again to finish my LR, get back to Erin’s, and get back to SJ so the family and I could leave for our Disneyland vacation. Serious Sunday funday!
At the end of the day, the HM was a 1:39 effort and completely comfortable and cruise-ish, even with the hills, so I walked away feeling actually really satisfied with how I felt after the race, if that makes any sense. I finished with gas in the tank–exactly how I wanted to feel–and though I’m more focused right now on my 50k fitness than I am on my marathon fitness, the NWSF half actually gave me a bit of confidence for a probably-in-the-kinda-near-future marathon just due to how I felt cruising. I haven’t done a lick of speedwork with the 50k cycle–again, folks, time on my feet is what I’m after these days–but to comfortably run 7:30s or subs, even on some hills, when I haven’t trained for that or those paces, was refreshing and surprising and…well… nice. By the time I concluded the day’s running adventures, I had posted just shy of 23 miles, so it was a good day, and I got a hell of a tour of SF in the process and some nice hills, to boot. 😉
Overall, I really enjoyed this race, considerably more than I thought I would. I don’t often run all-women or women-centered events, but it seems that the few times I do run them, I actually end up enjoying them more than I anticipate I would. I think this race was considerably more special to me just given my connection to LLS and the fundraising I did for the organization since this summer–and for that, THANK YOU for contributing nearly $2,500!–and while my expectations of “racing” were non-existent, I’m really quite happy with the day’s effort.
Again: thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me in my fundraising efforts this year for this race, on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and for all your support. It means the world!