Over the weekend, I ran my fourth Nike race and fifth half marathon in San Francisco. It was also the first time I’ve run a race course twice. Running the course this year was extra special because I was part of Team Finish Line Women. I spent the entire day before the race with Andy, Ashley, Angela, and FNL. We indulged at brunch, completed a photo shoot, carb loaded at dinner, and shopped at Niketown before an early bedtime.
On Sunday, we woke up around 5:15am for a 6:30 start. Thankfully, I felt energized and ready to race. Even with careful preparation, you never know how you’ll feel on race morning. After getting dressed and eating a banana, Angela and I headed to the starting line. Our hotel was a quick five-minute walk from the corrals, which were well organized. I slipped in to the 9:00-10:00 corral and stretched for a few minutes before the gun went off.
Last year, I ran this race as my second half marathon. My goal was to make it over the hills and cross the finish line. This year, Coach Jess gave me a plan. Miles 1-2.5 at Effort Level 5. Miles 2.5-8 at Effort Level 6. Miles 8-10.5 at Effort Level 5. Miles 10.5-12.5 at Tempo. Finish with what I have left. All went according to plan until The Hill at Mile 10. Here’s a full recap broken down by 5K splits.
The race starts leaving Union Square and heads up a gradual hill. Last year, this freaked me out, as I probably went out too fast. This year, I eased up the hill and made my way through the streets of the Tenderloin. We zigzagged south and west, making it difficult to run tangents. I was ready for the second steepest hill at Mile 2. It was four blocks of inclines that leveled off between each block. I remember thanking myself for all the summer hill training. 5K in 31:51 (32:45 in 2014)
At Mile 3.5, we entered Golden Gate Park. Around this time, I spotted and quickly said hello to Ashley and Kristine. They told me I was crazy for trying to PR the course. I laughed and pushed forward, still feeling great and sticking to the plan. I saw my parents at Mile 5, then headed down a series of long hills in the park. 10K in 1:03:34 (1:04:47 in 2014)
The final portion of the park was a slight uphill before we reached the only part of the course that changed since last year. This portion wove through neighborhood streets and included the third largest hill in the course. I saw my parents again at Mile 8 right before I ran up the hill. My legs started to feel tired at this point. Although I was still on pace, I was probably starting to psyche myself out for the hills to follow. 15K in 1:36:13 (1:37:16 in 2014)
When I hit Mile 9.5, I reminded myself that I was approaching The Hill that I had trained all summer to conquer. It has about a 250-foot gain over one mile. Despite my tired legs, I really wanted to run the entire thing. I ran strong for about three-quarters of the hill (same as last year), then I started to feel like I wasn’t moving. I decided I would move faster and conserve energy if I power walked to the top. I was disappointed in myself for walking past all of the encouraging Nike Running coaches but thought I could finish stronger with the change in plan. At the top of the hill, I slowly picked up speed to make up time running downhill toward The Marina. My legs still felt heavy, but I pushed forward toward the final stretch. 20K in 2:10:51 (2:10:41 in 2014)
To make it through the final stretch, I had to take a few short walk breaks. The Hill had really knocked me off my mental game, and it was difficult to push past the heaviness in my legs. Thankfully, there were groups of dancers along the course that distracted me. I also got to see my parents one more time before making two quick turns toward the finish area. I sprinted the last stretch and was grateful to be done. Despite having a slower time than I would have liked, It was incredible to see views of the Golden Gate Bridge and The Marina, which were covered in thick fog at last year’s finish line. After the race, I found my parents and headed to brunch. We spent the rest of the day together before I caught a redeye back to New York.
Congrats to all the ladies who crushed this course. It isn’t an easy one. In fact, I think I was more challenged by it this year than last. Treat yourself to Finishers Gear! Another huge thank you to FNL for inviting me to race with the team.
All photos via Run Nike Women Series
I have an exciting announcement to share on the blog tomorrow.
The 2015 race season isn’t over just yet. Where do you think I’m headed in November?