Yesterday, I ate 13.1 miles of San Francisco hills for breakfast. It didn’t hit me until I was in my corral at the starting line at 6:30am that the race was really happening. Thankfully, that meant no nerves up until the last minute. The starting line at Union Square was somewhat chaotic, with women running around to check bags, go to the bathroom, and find their corral at the last minute. I decided while I was waiting to ditch my quarter-zip before the race even started, since the temperature was about 60-65 degrees. While waiting for the 9:00-9:59 wave to start, I set up my Nike+ Running app and tried to start a Songza playlist. Unfortunately, the cell phone service was too congested, so I turned on Beyonce’s latest album on iTunes.
The race started out on a slight incline. I was sure to set a slow and strong pace for the hills from Mile 1. Starting on a hill freaked me out a bit, but I soon calmed down and started to compartmentalize the race. Miles 1-3 moved west through a residential neighborhood with small shops. There were a few rolling hills as we wove through the neighborhood, then hit our second steepest hill at Mile 2. The steepest part of the hill was only .25mi. Many women walked it, but I shortened my stride, pumped my arms, and crushed it. 5K in 32:45
At Mile 3.5, we entered Golden Gate Park. This is when the fog really set in. I’ve never seen fog like San Francisco fog. It felt like a refreshing, light rain. It was also refreshing to be heading downhill from about Miles 3.5-7. I opened up my stride to let myself cruise but was careful not to land too hard and destroy my shins. It was an opportunity to make up time that would be lost on the hills. There were few spectators in the park, but I enjoyed running under a canopy of trees and listening to the on-course entertainment (a drumline, cheerleading squads, volunteers with signs). 10K in 1:04:47
Miles 8-9 wove through another residential neighborhood. The streets were narrower, and locals were cheering outside their houses. This stretch had another series of rolling hills. All I could think about was the massive hill at Mile 10 and saving my energy to run it strong. 15K in 1:37:16
Leading up to the race, I had so many conversations with other women about The Hill at Mile 10. To give New Yorkers an idea of how big this hill is, consider that Harlem Hill is a 100-foot elevation gain in .5mi. This hill was about a 250-foot elevation gain in 1mi. I wanted to run the full hill but ended up running halfway. Once I reached the steepest, curviest part of the hill, I started to speed walk with long strides. It felt like doing lunges up the hill. At the top, I spotted a group of November Project members in neon and took off. It was less than 2.5miles until the finish line.
Mile 11 was straight downhill. It felt amazing to really let go and flush my legs out. The downhill was also under a canopy of trees that broke when we hit the coast. I felt great running along the flat path until about Mile 12.5. That’s what I was ready to be done. 20K in 2:10:41
One of the frustrating parts about running the last .6mi was that I couldn’t spot the finish line. I also didn’t realize that part of the last stretch ran slightly uphill. My legs didn’t appreciate that. Finally, I spotted the final cheer station, ran down the chute, took a quick left, and turned right. There was the finish line! I sprinted the last .1mi and felt strong walking to get my water bottle, finisher’s tote, and Tiffany’s necklace. I got a photo with the firemen in suits before heading to brunch. Overall, I loved the race. I do wish there had been more spectators on the new course and that the walkers would have moved to the sides, but it was otherwise beautiful weather and scenery. I’ll be adding my new pendant to the same chain as my DC pendant. Half Marathon in 2:17:13. Time to train for 26.2!
Images via Run Nike Women Series