Monday, July 22, 2013

Running the Golden Gate

This weekend, Theresa and I went to San Francisco to visit my brother and his wife.  We love the city, and this was a great opportunity to not only hang out with family and go to my first SF Giants game, but also to go on a run across the Golden Gate Bridge.  When planning the trip, I wasn't sure if runners/pedestrians were even allowed on the bridge, but not only is it permitted, the bridge and surrounding area make for a great run and the whole "course" is very runner-friendly.

We drove down to Crissy Field and parked, which was far easier and more secure than we thought it would be.  I'm not sure if it's just because the America's Cup was going on, but there were parking attendants in the lot to keep an eye on vehicles.  There were porta-potties available, and the running path is clean and well-maintained.  Theresa and I set off on a 10K run with no intention of worrying about our pace or finishing time.  We just wanted to enjoy the morning and have a great running experience.

The course is clearly marked with signs to the bridge, so a couple miles in we started winding our way up.  The hills weren't incredibly treacherous, but then again, we were going at a pretty relaxed pace to begin with.  The weather was cool and foggy -- we couldn't even see the top of the bridge, but it was a comfortable day for running.  Once we got to the bridge itself, the pedestrian lane was fairly crowded with walkers, moms-and-strollers, and sight-seers.  We did a bit of dodging to avoid collisions, but all in all it was a fabulous run.  We finished in about an hour and fifteen minutes, including our photo opportunities.

As I've mentioned before, it's easy to get caught up in official events, specialized training plans, and paranoia over improving race times, but every so often it's a good idea to go out and run with no expectations beyond having a good time.  We did that in San Francisco this weekend, and it was one of the best runs we've been on yet.

That said, I'm absolutely going to enter the SF Marathon next year.

Here are some pictures from our morning:

Ready to start!

Theresa winding her way up.

Monday, July 1, 2013

2013 Pasadena Half Marathon

Pre-race.  It was "only" about 80 degrees at this point.
So there I was, all ready for a summer of casual runs just to keep in shape, knowing that I didn't have to worry about training for another official event until the Hangar Half Marathon in September, when Theresa said to me, "I'm kind of in the mood to do another race, is there anything coming up?"  In our home, I'm usually the one signing up for event after event and I sometimes feel like I'm just dragging Theresa along for the ride. So whenever she makes the first move (I'm still talking about running, kids), I am most certainly going to be supportive and jump on her bandwagon.  So I went online and signed us up for the Pasadena Half Marathon (me) and the Pasadena 5K (her).

Checking out the half marathon course map and elevation profile, I saw that the middle of the route goes right around the Rose Bowl, which is a very nice but also very hilly area of Pasadena.  Also, and this is a key point here, since the OC Marathon in May I haven't been in "training mode."  I've been in "hey, let's put in a few miles a week after the sun goes down just to keep in shape" mode.  As if all that wasn't enough, the temperature's been in the mid-to-high really friggin' hots around here lately, and the race day forecast was calling for more of the same.

My expectations for Sunday were not especially high, is what I'm saying.

Theresa and I volunteered to work the check in booth for a local 5K run on Saturday morning, after which we headed to Pasadena for the race expo where we picked up our shirts, bib numbers, and goodie bag.  Since Pasadena is only about an hour from home, we decided to make two separate drives over the weekend instead of getting a hotel room.  For our recent events we discovered that even when we stayed near the race location, we still had to get up around 3:30 in the morning to eat
Post-race, tired but happy.
breakfast and prepare.  This being the case, if we're only about an hour or so from an event, it makes just as much sense to wake up at the same time, eat breakfast, and then just drive to the race.  Saves us a few bucks.  After the expo, we drove the half-marathon course (or as much of it as we could before getting hopelessly lost).  The hills don't seem too terrible, and there's a lot of shady streets so I figured that would provide some relief from the heat.

We got up at about 4:00 Sunday morning and I had my usual pre-race breakfast of a CLIF Bar and half a Gatorade G2 (orange).  We arrived at Pasadena City College at about 5:45 (start time for the half marathon was 6:30, the 5K started at 7) where I filled the bottles on my fuel belt and took care of last minute "business."  Normally for a half marathon I don't wear the belt because there's always plenty of water stations on the course.  But given the extreme heat, and because I'd heard horror stories about this particular event in the past as far as running out of water, I thought it would be better if I didn't leave hydration to chance.

The gun sounded at 6:30, and the temperature was already 80 degrees. The first couple miles down Colorado Boulevard were shady, because the sun hadn't yet risen above the buildings.  We crossed and re-crossed a bridge around mile three, and I was averaging about nine minutes per mile.  I knew I would only get slower as the heat increased, so at this point I already knew that a PR and probably a sub-2 hour finish were out the window.  This actually helped me because it took the pressure off.  I made sure to hydrate regularly and didn't push myself beyond a semi-comfortable pace.  Miles four and five were downhill into the Rose Bowl complex, followed by a three-mile "out and back" loop around the stadium.  Miles six and seven were the toughest stretch for me because there was no shade, and the temperature was now pushing 90.  My pace dropped to about 10:30 per mile, and I walked through one support station to take extra water and refill my bottle.  This gave me a bit of a boost, which I needed for the one significant hill on the course which came at mile ten as we left the Rose Bowl.

The last three miles were actually not terrible as they passed through shaded neighborhoods and were mostly downhill.  I picked up the pace a little bit and although I knew I wasn't going to come in under two hours, I set a goal of 2:10.  Not great, but respectable.  At about mile eleven, I ran by a home where the owner was out front with his garden hose spraying the runners as we passed.  Very refreshing!  With about a mile to go, I made the final turn back onto Colorado Boulevard and began
I'm so proud of Theresa . . . she's awesome.
looking for Theresa among the spectators.  I missed her during the OC Marathon, and I wasn't going to let that happen again.  With about 300 yards to go, I saw the crowd, had rockin' music going on the iPod, and I went full-out.  I saw Theresa alongside the road, and I ran over to give her a high-five.  I crossed the line with a time of 2:08:51.  This put me in the top third of the field overall, and about the same in my age group.  I collected my medal, got a bottle of water, and met up with Theresa who, as it turns out, totally rocked the 5K.  She finished sixth in her age group, which consisted of about seventy runners.  My sweetie kicks butt!

After we got home, we found out that six runners from the event were hospitalized with heat-related illnesses and several others had to be treated on-site.  Pretty scary, and it just goes to reinforce how important hydration is, not only during the race, but in the days prior.  If you wait until race day to start drinking your water and sports drinks, it's probably too late.  I made sure to keep my water bottle handy all day Friday and Saturday, and I think that's why I didn't have any issues.  In fact, I felt better after this race than I did after the San Diego Half in March, or the OC in May.  No cramping, no blisters, not even much soreness.

So here's what I learned from this event:

1. Hydration begins the week before a race, not the day of.
2. There's a time to go for PR's and milestones, and a time to run smart and enjoy the day.  Extreme heat needs to be respected.
3. Don't lollygag, though, because they might run out of medals (this happened, and boy were there some angry finishers).

Next up, the Hangar Half Marathon in September.  In the meantime, I'm going to take a week or so off from running, and then begin training mode all over again.