I arrived in the foggy city last Friday evening. My law school friend, Rachelle, picked me up at airport and ushered me back to her place, where she had set me up in the downstairs bedroom. Still on central standard time, I crashed early by west coast standards, but it felt like 1:00 a.m. to me.
The next morning, after a tasty, home-cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sourdough bread, we took Rachelle's two bulldogs, Bosco and Sofia, to Golden Gate Park for their weekly stroll. Rachelle took the long route so she could show me the ocean (and so we could get a cup of coffee at Java Beach).
The Park was enormous. I was told numerous times that it was the largest man-made park in America--but no one could clarify exactly what that meant. Once inside, we took the leashes off and let the dogs roam free.
After dropping some very tired bulldogs off at the house, Rachelle drove me to The Embarcadero for the race expo. On the way, we drove over to Twin Peaks, where I got a great view of the city below. It was windy and cold, not exactly what I was used to in late July.At the expo, tents had been set up across from the piers and tons of fit folks were traversing the grounds, goodie bags in hand. I grabbed my race number, chip, and t-shirt and snuck out of the chaos. We grabbed a quick lunch at a bagel shop nearby, and then we sauntered through the shops on the pier, stopping to get some coconut sorbet. Good stuff.
(First, though, we stopped by the official race hotel to catch the end of Dean Karnazes' presentation. I've seen Dean speak before and ran a couple miles with him last year, and I am continually amazed at the ire he brings out in the ultra community--a community of which I am merely a lurker. I like Dean. Maybe he is as some claim--a "stunt" runner--but his book introduced me to the world beyond marathons and had I not read it, I doubt I would've run 7 marathons and a 50K over the last 9 months.)
What else to do? Well, we decided to catch a cable car because, hey, it's San Francisco and you've got to ride the cable car.After my thrilling ride, we decided to head back home and grab an early dinner. I would have to get up at 4:00 a.m. to eat and make it to the race start on time. On the way back the house, we drove by the crooked street (can't think of the name of it), but didn't drive down it, as the line was excessive.
For dinner, we chowed down on some fantastic burritos from Taqueria El Farolito and caught a few innings of the Giants game before crashing.
I thought I might have trouble falling asleep and waking up so early, but I was still on Texas time. 4:00 a.m. felt like 6:00 a.m., and combined with Rachelle's uber-strong French-pressed coffee, I was ready to go. I put on my Texas flag-shorts, my El Scorcho t-shirt, and my cowboy hat (yep, I was that guy--the over-the-top Texas runner), and we were off to the starting line.
I met up with Jballs at the race site. He's in the air force reserves, and his annual 2 weeks of service just so happened to be at Travis Air Force Base, about 50 miles or so from San Fran. Why not run a marathon?
The San Francisco marathon uses a wave start to curtail the human traffic jams that inevitably occur on the out-and-back stretch of the Golden Gate Bridge. We optimistically opted for the 3:45-3:59 pace start. Yeah, right.
The run began with a jaunt towards Fisherman's Wharf and through the Presidio. It was cool and foggy. I had hoped the fog would dissipate before we reached the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was still pretty dense when we arrived for our pedestrian commute across the water. I had fun with the Marathonfoto folks along the bridge, jumping and posing for shots.
Back on the mainland, we made our way through several winding hills before entering Golden Gate Park. And so began many more hills. Jballs and I were walking most of the uphills and skip-running (something I learned in Waco) the downhill stretches.
We passed by the second 1/2 marathon staging area, where they were preparing to start. (The marathon offered two 1/2 marathons--you could run the 1st half or the 2nd half of the course.) Eventually, we were overrun (literally) by speedy 1/2 marathoners. I recall one of them shouting to another marathoner, "on your left!" The marathoner moved over, but then responded, "hey, I'm on mile 17, next time you can go around me!" So there.
Just before coming out of the park, we came upon some speakers playing a dance remake of "Heaven," the 1980s Bryan Adams tune. "Now that's what I need to pump me up," mused a sarcastic marathoner nearby. "A disco version of a Bryan Adams' love song." I found that humorous and for some reason began to sing along. Other joined in and before you knew it, there were about a dozen sweaty marathoners belting out, "baby you're all that I want! When I'm lying here in your arms! I'm finding it hard to believe... we're in heaven!" Classic.
Out of the park, we turned onto Haight Street. At last, a prolonged downhill stretch. Perhaps that's why this was one of my favorite spots of the race. Also, lots of folks had come out to cheer on the runners. Jballs and I picked up the pace and started cruising. That is until somewhere between miles 22 and 24, when we had a couple good-sized hills and also somehow missed seeing the mile 23 marker. Ugh. My legs were suddenly pretty heavy.
Eventually, we saw the ballpark ahead. The finish was very close. As we hit mile 25, Jballs glanced at his watch. "Dude, we need to pick it up if we're going to finish in 4:19." (I had predicted a 4:19 finish.) Ok. Guess we have to. No problem. I'm good. Uh, until, we rounded the promenade behind the ballpark and my left hamstring started to tighten. So close. Instead of slowing, I picked up the pace and lengthened my stride, which--believe it or not--actually helped. Passed the 26 mile marker, the crowds intensified. We started waving our arms to elicit more cheering. In a pretty good sprint and with our fists triumphantly in the air, we crossed the line in 4 hours, 19 minutes, 10 seconds.
Soon, we were met by Jballs' air force buddies and Rachelle, her mom, and the dogs. I snapped a great post-run picture with Bosco and Sofia, and Rachelle also got one of Jballs and me.
But we didn't have time to hang out for long--we had tickets to the Giants game! On our way to the car, we stopped and grabbed breakfast (an egg, sausage, and cheese quesadilla). Good stuff. At the house, I took my frigid but necessary ice bath before turning around and heading back downtown.The Giants game was great. Perfect weather. I had a root beer and some nachos and watched Barry Bonds strike out, ground out, pop-out, and finally get on base with an error. No records were broken and the Giants lost, but it was still a fantastic time and a wonderful way to wind up the weekend.