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Soul Crushing Hills. Alternative title: Nike Women’s Half-Marathon Recap

Posted Oct 18 2011 10:32pm

That title pretty much sums it up. Going into the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon, I had two goals.

  1. Have fun and enjoy the ‘vacation race’!
  2. Practice marathon pace for the first 10K, then work on gradually bringing down the pace.

Welp, I only met one of these, but at least it was the more important one :) My time was actually new PW- personal worst-but I had a blast doing it! In fact, it was about 7.5 minutes slower than my half-marathon PR, and about 2.5 minutes slower than the first half-marathon I ever ran. Yowza.IMG_1180

I finished in 1:32:09. I was 24th out of 16,423 half-marathon finishers, and 6th in my age group. Pretty cool!

Let’s rewind. I landed late on Friday night and my sister picked me up from the airport and took me to her house to stay for the weekend. We headed to the expo in Union Square on Saturday, but the crowds were kinda intense, so we pretty much just picked up my bib and walked around before going to a few shops in the area.

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My aunt and uncle also live near San Francisco in a suburb south of the city, so they came in and took us out to dinner on Saturday night at a restaurant called Spork . It was soooo good, we shared a few appetizers and I had the seared scallops with coconut rice for dinner, along with a sampling of just about every dessert on the menu. Sweets=great race fuel!

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Luckily because of the time zone change, I had no problem falling asleep very early on Saturday night. We awoke bright and early and my sister dropped me off near the starting line. It was a madhouse. The bag check buses were so disorganized and it took me about 20 minutes, squeezed against dozens of others, just to get my bag on the bus. I then realized I should have just left my bag with my sister to hand to me at the finish. Durrr.

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Because of all the time I spent and the massive crowds, I couldn’t even find the starting area. I finally weaved my way through people and found myself in the 9:30/mile pace group. There was literally no way to get any closer. I missed the NYRR corral system. I wanted to be near the front. I was surrounded by people who were clearly going to be walking or jogging, and I wanted to set out at 6:50 pace. Seriously?! The gun went off. I panicked. My Garmin wasn’t getting any signal. We were barely moving. It took me just about 4 minutes just to cross the line. As soon as I saw a clear path, I darted. I was running on the sidewalk, weaving, being ‘that’ rude runner doing anything to get people out of my way! I didn’t even see the 1 mile marker. I was getting really angry, annoyed and frustrated. It was not good.

Finally, around the 2-mile mark, I looked down and saw my time. My pace was fine (fast, almost). The crowds were easing up and I could get into my rhythm. My legs weren’t feeling so hot, but they weren’t awful, either. I finally shifted my focus to the positive. I was running in a gorgeous city, on a fun course, amongst thousands of other women, and I was going to enjoy it. Plus, it was only a half-marathon. After three 20-milers, this was going to be a breeze.

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A breeze? Not so much. The course was probably the hardest I have ever run. I knew San Francisco was hilly, and I studied the elevation profile, but nothing could have prepared me for the massive, continuous, steep, never ending inclines. In general, hills are not my strength. I always lose my stride up hills, and I always fall off the group a bit whenever we hit hills in workouts or races. Always been this way. So, this course felt especially cruel, preying on my weaknesses.

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Seriously? Look at that elevation profile. Those aren’t nice, normal hills. Those are straight inclines.

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My splits don’t really make a ton of sense given I missed some markers and my Garmin didn’t pick up satellite for quite some time. Split 1 is really miles 1 and 2 combined, pretty quick given the crowded start so I think my anger fueled the (too fast) splits as I wasted a lot of energy. Split 6 (mile 6-7) was all uphill. Mile 7-8 was about half uphill. Mile 11-12 was a long, slow incline. Up and up and up! I also didn’t see the 13 mile marker, so the last split is really 1.1, meaning at least I finished strong.

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But the views. Oh, the views. In the middle of the race, as we were up in the Presidio, we had breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and bay. It was a bit of a foggy, warm morning, which made the scene quite serene. The climbs were 110% worth the views. I remembered why I was doing this race (for fun!), threw my pride out the window majorly (seriously, thought I had a shot at being top 10 given previous years’ results), and tried to run in the moment.

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Before I knew it, I was powering down along the Pacific Ocean towards the red carpet finish line.

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My cheering squad, Aunt Deenie and my sister, Marly!

Honestly, as much as I enjoyed the race (and I did, I really did!), I am a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to practice my race pace/negative splitting and use this as a gauge of fitness for the marathon. Had I really known how hard this course was, I definitely may not have had that plan or expectation. All things considered, I still gave a hard effort, and the experience was even better.

After the race, we headed home to shower and rest up a bit before heading to lunch at Umami Burger , LA’s ‘trendy burger spot’ that just opened in San Francisco. I was starving, and the signature Umami Burger hit the spot.

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And, what would a celebratory meal be without frozen yogurt? One of my sister’s roommates suggested Yogorino , which has super light/fluffy/creamy plain frozen yogurt. Delicious!

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We spent the rest of the weekend walking around the city, eating, and relaxing. I flew back home last night on the red eye, landed, ran 4 easy shake out miles (oh.my.god.im.sore), and went to work. Which means, I’m just about ready to pass out now. Luckily, this week is week 1 of the taper. After weeks and weeks of hard effort, bring it on!

What was the highlight of your weekend? Are you a good hill runner? Hardest course you’ve ever run or raced? Ever done the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon or Marathon?

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