The Giant Race Half Marathon begins and ends at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. I had been looking forward to this race all summer, as the finish line is on the ball field, and runners get to hang out on the grass to cool down after the race. Plus, the course is pretty flat, following the waterfront on a tour from the financial district, through Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Mason, Crissy Field and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge before turning back and following the waterfront back to the ball park. In addition to the awesome course, I had changed my plans from using the race as a long training run to actually racing and trying to set a new PR for the half marathon distance, 1:45 (8:00/mile pace).
I began waking up hours before the alarm went off, but tried to relax and stretch a little while I dozed. Once up, I had my pre-race muesli (yogurt, raw rolled oats, berries, pears and nuts) and assembled all the gear I had laid out: race kit (I really dig the Icebreaker merino wool shorts for races and long runs), Garmin, Roctane Gu's, NuuN, Endurox recovery drink and Picky Bars. Traveling across the Bay was uneventful, and the traffic was flowing outside the Park, but beginning to back up out approaching the parking lots south of China Basin.
Twirly dropped me off at 7:15 and then drove to Sports Basement at Crissy Field to get some mid-race video before driving back to the ball park to catch the finish, so I was left alone in the throng of participants. The 5K began at 8:00 am, so I got to watch 5000 runners queue up for that start, one for every meter. The race wasn’t long enough for the pack to spread out! Many of the 5K runners were finished before the 10K/Half Marathon start at 8:30, and the momentum of the event was palpable. I lined up in the corral halfway between the 1:40 group and the 1:50 group, near the 8:00/mile sign. Jumping around and trying to keep loose and warm, I did a quick body check and felt that the Achilles was 'talking', but not saying anything offensive. A couple of runners complimented me on on my orange and black Mizuno Ronin 2's, my go to shoe for road racing. I also wear them to Giant's games. Perfect shoe for this race. The crowd of runners counted down to the 10K/Half Marathon start. We were off. Sort of.
With thousands of runners behind me, the clock read 1:15 as I crossed the line and started my Garmin. The first mile began at 14:00 pace, but 8:43 later, we were one mile in and everyone had room to run. We ran down Embarcadero, under the Bay Bridge, to the cheers of volunteers and cheerleaders. I took stock and decided I needed to run about 7:52/mile over the next five miles to get on pace. I settled into a comfortably hard rhythm, kept my heart rate below 155 and cruised on down the road, enjoying the views of the Bay and city. Mile two ended 7:49 later, so I was pretty happy with myself at this point. I still felt comfortable and was having a great time. Everyone around me was having a great time. I would pass people, and other people would pass all of us, and it was easy running. The first four miles got faster and easier. Before I knew it, we were leaving Fisherman's Wharf and heading a block inland (and uphill) to go around Fort Mason. I felt strong on the little hill, and quickly got my heart rate back after cresting. I even managed to click off a 7:58 mile, not giving any time back against my goal. It was awesome. I celebrated with a Gu.
|The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from the course|
Twirly also caught some video of the race winner, Brett Gotcher (1:04:19). Look at him go!
The turn-around, which was remarkably close to 6.55 miles (the actual half-way point) changed the view from the Golden Gate and back to the city and the Bay Bridge beyond. I realized, as I admired the city from this vantage, that I had to run around all that I saw before I would be at the finish. That was the first pang of discomfort. The course followed the beach back to the marina, and I began to pick up the pace for the last half. My plan was to run a negative split (run a faster second half), which I always try to do, but have not really executed well. My split at halfway was about 52 minutes. I could run a minute slower in the second half and still meet my goal of 1:45. I picked up the pace.
Here is the Garmin data: