Monday, October 18, 2010

Nike Women's (Half) Marathon -- Race Report!

also known as THE FUNNEST RACE I'VE DONE (so far!)

I've probably run 20 races at this point, I don't really know.  All of them have been pretty low-key, low-attendance little local things with a couple tens of runners, maybe a couple hundred.  I think the biggest event was probably the Reno Marathon, where there was maybe a thousand folks doing the half, but 106 doing the full (I came in 99th!!).  I think every bib I have (and I've saved them all) has a 3-digit number.  I'm small potatoes.

Or, at least I was.  Running this race in San Francisco, with 19,999 other runners, was a whole different ballgame.  The expo in Union Square, the night before, was positively thronging with people.  Tom and I waited in line for about 1/2 hour for packet pick-up.  Both of us just got a little overwhelmed with the bright!flags!music!people!  I grabbed my bag and we headed for the side door.  The volunteer was all, Don't you want to check out the Expo?  I say, I don't do crowds so well, then skedaddled.  So, if I don't do crowds so well, why choose such a big race?  Because come to find out, Being in a Crowd, and Running with a Crowd are two very different things.  

My very favorite part of the crowd was Lisa, who was running her very first half marathon.  We found each other in the huge mass of people (thanks, cellphones), met and then bid goodbye to family and headed out into the sea of people.  

There were pace groups! Assigned corrals (sort of)! Flash bulbs and humanity masses and, just, hordes!  It's 6:30 in the morning and everyone has on tights and sweaters and hats and gloves and I'm standing there with my Tahoe insulation wearing (mostly) nothing but running clothes.  Lisa and I chat and get to know each other a bit.  Far away you can hear loud speakers going wawawa and waves of cheers pass through the crowd, but we are so far away from the start line where all the action is, we don't know what we're cheering about.  I cheer and hoot and holler anyway, figuring Lisa better decide right now if she really wants to run this with some loud, obnoxious out-of-control woman she's never met.  Bless her heart, I don't scare her off (or, she can't get away 'cause the crowd is way too tight) and eventually 7am rolls around and someone somewhere says Go! or whatever and the cheers really go up and we just . . . stand there.  When you're in the 10:00 to 12:00 mile group, I found, you don't start at Go.  You stand around and clap and shuffle a few feet then stand around some more.  Later, you turn one corner, then another, and then . . . !! You see it!  The start!

Right after I took this picture, I pick up or come into possession of or am given, I dunno, but somehow end up with the crown for my running outfit, a pink feather boa, which I wrap around my neck like Carol Channing (she had a boa, right?  Whatever, I'm like an ostrich.  Go with it.).  15:04 after the start (this becomes an important detail later on, methinks) Lisa and I cross the line!  Woo hoo!  We're off!  I listen to about 20 seconds of my music, then turn it off and stash it for good.  There is waaay too much entertainment going on for me to need my iPod (and this, friends, is a first).  First, I'm surrounded by people and it's all I can do not to fall over, bang into someone, trip over discarded clothing or poke someone in the eye (I actually did poke some woman in the eye right after the finish, she was mad and shook her head disdainfully for 30 seconds like, The nerve of some people! while I muttered Sorry! and slunk away.  But that's later).  We're banging on downhill for a while, then it levels out and we're trucking along at a nice pace and Lisa says Look! Everyone's passing us! (it's true, they are!) and I, in the wisdom of my years of running, say There, there, Lisa, we'll pass them all later when we're strong and they're pooping out because they started out too fast! when in reality I don't know fuck-all about it because everyone always passes me and I never see them again, ever! but I want her to like me and not think I'm lame and slow (even tho I'm both) so I pontificate and then shut up.  For a minute or so.

And then, wow!  We're running through the early morning streets of San Francisco and this is just cool beans.  Pass the TransAmerica building (sooo tall) then bang! onto the Embarcadero and it's so awesome being here and participating in this event that there's never a moment of boredom.  First up we have a whole choir, for reals! and I'm excited because whilst I don't have a religious bone in my entire atheistic body, I simply love gospel choirs and their energy and clapping and big voices.  Alas, they must have figured out that I was not down with Jesus because they were silent as I ran by, but still swaying and smiling and that was good, too.  Lo! and behold, we do re-pass some of those people from the start and we continue to pass people for the rest of the race!  (We were passed plenty, too, but that's nothing new for me, so why mention it?)  Then there was more stuff going on all the time, breakdancers and Parkour dudes and tons of energetic, cheering volunteers (oddly, predominately asian?) and actual cheering stations and loud booming music and folks in costumes and weird hats and at one point I turn to Lisa and say (because this is, after all, San Francisco) "I expect to turn a corner and find a group of gay guys dressed up in leather and chains (ala Folsom St. Fair), cheering us along waving big dildoes at us."  Actually, I left out the dildo part, but Lisa still looked at me strangely and didn't really respond.  Sure enough, though, at one point there was a crowd of gay (or very secure-with-their-sexuality hetero) guys in hot pink body suits and make-up, handing out hard candies to us runners.  From this I learned 2 things -- I really like hard candy when I run, and will brings some along with me in the future, and 2. You can dress more wildly than me and still go out in public.  Introducing my new racing outfit:

The boa turned out to be too hot wrapped around my neck, and ended up around my waist for most of the run.  My shirt's a little twisted up in this pic, but you can admire my pink tutu anyways.  What you can't see is my hot pink dirtygirl gaiters, which complete the outfit.  I'm thinking of wearing this get-up to every race ever, including the upcoming ultra.  Whaddya think?  Too much?

Lisa went with the pink theme, too, but because she's thin and beautiful (and not obnoxious in any way) she presents a much nicer visage:

I look like Petunia Pig.  Bossy, too.  ("Hey, don't take a blurry picture, random stranger with my phone!  Dammit!")

OK, since this was a running race, let's talk about the running.  Yup, we ran.  In general, our pace was around 11:30 for most of the course.  But the course?  Was pretty damn hilly!

Lisa ran the first big hill at mile 6 like a darn billy goat, and that hill went on and on.  She has virtually no practice running hills, though, so we decided after that one that walking them might be a better idea.  Yay!  I look for any excuse to slow the fuck down, even during a race, so I was happy to walk them.  And there were a lot, it turns out.  This profile might look kinda "eh, there were some hills" but you know what?  That's 1,100 feet of elevation gain!  In a half!  That represents a lot of climbing!

And we climbed a lot and ran a lot and I paid no attention to time or pace or anything at all and just totally enjoyed every minute of the experience.  Truly the best was being part of Lisa's first-time-ever experience.  The last couple of miles were tough, tough, tough (them damn hills!) but she never flagged or lost her smile and I was so impressed and it was all just very cool.  Yay! Finish line!

The finish line area was huge!  There was sooo much going on!  For the first time, I got one of those mylar blanket thingies and I was like Look! I'm an athlete! It was a good thing I got one of 'em, too, because as soon as we stopped it got cold and really rainy and I woulda been a mess without it.  There was another bag to procure and groceries to get (Safeway was a major sponsor, so yes, there were groceries).  Plus a finisher's tshirt (nice Nike thing, technical fabric and bright pink!), and a slew of firemen in tux's with Tiffany necklaces to hand out and well, you just don't see that every day.  Lisa says "Oh, I gotta get mine from a hot one!" so here she is with her hot fireman!

This morning, I got an email from Nike with my "Official Time" of 2:56:53.  There's nothing wrong with that, but I think it's bogus.  Gary (who I forgot to make "raceready" and left on autopause) said 2:37.  I stopped and peed once (only once!), so he can't be more than a couple of minutes off.  I think they forgot (or haven't yet) figured the time it took us to actually cross the start line.  I distinctly remember the clock saying 15:04 right before we crossed, so I'm calling it 2:41.  So there.

So, all congratulations go to my new friend Lisa and her new PR!  I had the best funnest, happy time during this half, and hope she did too (being her first, it had to be the superlative, right?  She can run with somebody normal some other time!)

Yay! to Lisa!

And, oh, fuck me, I gotta run 20+ tomorrow.   


Terri said...

Great race report! You sound like you'd be a blast to run with - Lisa was lucky! :) Good luck with your long run tomorrow~

Lisa said...

Best race report evah! and best running partner evah!

I had a blast and am so thankful I got to run it with you. Your energy (I loved it!) and support and encouraging words meant the world to me and I had no idea that I would need it that much.

Best race experience ever (I say that a lot apparently) and I think I would do it again. Nah I know I would do it again.


Lisa said...

Hey you!
You asked about my arm warmers.

They are from the lululemon store. Here's the link:

I actually bought them in the store and at the time pink was still available. Looks like pink is sold out online, or at least it was as I am typing this.

I loved them. Very soft and warm and they stayed up on my stick arms lol. And it's hard to find arm warmers that cover your hands too.

Windnsnow said...

Your comments about the race start remind me of a Star Trek episode, The Mark of Gideon
about an overpopulated planet.
Interestingly, the character, Odona, is also bedecked in pink - in addition to that body thong she's wearing...but I digress.
I really wonder about huge races. Like you, I entered my first "big" race, the Fargo Marathon last year. Some 20,000 registrants for all races.
The trade show was a gong show with crowds - but it was still nice to see products and services AND FREEBIES besides the one color brochure-type stuff smaller local races can only provide.

Like you, I had a costume too. Mine was a garbage bag, as I shook to avoid hypothermia in the morning rain. It took some time to get from where I was to the "start" of the race too.
Still, I think the best experience from these kind of races is learning race/run etiquette (and despising those who don't); and tuning out distractions, such as people kneeing you in the groin, stepping on your foot, squirting gel on you, poking you in the eye, etc.
Congratulations on your race!

funderson said...

Sounds like a blast!
boa belt=awesome

Laura Denner said...

That sounds like a super fun race. It's one that I have pondered as a destination race to do but probably need to start doing more hills it sounds like! Way to get it done!