Race Report: Kaiser San Francisco Half-Marathon

Short summary: I ran a 1:27:52. This is, by far, my fastest half-marathon and well within my goals for the race. I am understandably very happy with the time. But, since sub-1:27 was so real at one point I could feel it in my bones, the result also comes with that vague sense of dissatisfaction and ungratefulness inherent in blowing up during the last miles of a race.

(Since a lot of people seem to be coming here looking for the Kaiser Half Marathon results, here they are.)

Long summary: I didn’t run with my Garmin GPS. Don’t you remember running races where dozens of watches didn’t start beeping near every mile marker? I decided since I had no specific pace to go off — and, really, sticking to some exact number isn’t my personality anyway — I would just go by feel and other people. Nothing too fast, nothing too slow, see how I felt, push it hard.

I have no photos of the race, since Steve was at team camp (a difficult concept to explain to people) and I haven’t seen any pictures other people have taken yet, so here is a photo of Floyd helping me get ready the night before:

Floyd loves to help pack.
Floyd loves to help pack.

I warmed up with Ilyce, but then lost her when I went for a second last-minute bathroom stop before the start. I also lost my ability to get close to the actual start. I ended up pretty far back from the line and it was surprisingly crowded even once we started “running” – in some ways more so than the races with 10 times as many people, perhaps because the road and organization is so much smaller. I was trying to get around people running 8:00 and 9:00 miles, which is fine but not my pace, and they were getting so mad at me that I just ditched the road, jumped over the curb, and ran through the grass for half a mile or so.

The first couple miles I ran in the 6:20s and thought ‘shit, I promised myself nothing faster than 6:30; I promised myself no blowing up.’ But, the first couple miles are downhill and then you turn and come back up and I was running low-6:40s. So, instead of stressing about the exact times as we ran up and down and around, I just ran.

For six or seven miles I sort of zoned out. When you’re wearing just a regular watch, you do this weird running math over and over that creates a lull in your mind. At least for me. Each mile marker I would look at my watch, figure that at the next mile marker a 6:40 mile would bring me to 19:24 or whatever and then I’d repeat 19:24, 19:24, 19:24 over and over in my head so I wouldn’t forget. Not that I actually ran any 6:40 miles. I ran 6:17s and 6:45s and 6:33s, but it was a marker and a mantra. I don’t really look around at other people or scenery, either. I think I mostly stared at the ground and repeated 19:24 or 25:33 or 32:57 or whatever and willed myself to go harder. Here and there, I’d surge (something I NEVER do) to force myself to pick it up and pass such-and-such person or stick to such-and-such group. And, the thing that was interesting was every time I pushed it to catch up to someone I’d then find myself passing them.

I’m making it sound easy and it wasn’t. It hurt and sometimes I’d think my limbs were going to fall off but that would pass and sometimes I’d think I was running faster and going slower but that too would pass. I was really thirsty by the time we hit the first aid station two miles in, which was concerning, and the sips of water were making my stomach all gurgling. But, what are you going to do? Stop?

Right before mile 7, I caught up with a guy who had passed me earlier and he turned around and said, “Well, aren’t you tenacious.” Um, yeah.

At mile 7, you hit the Great Highway and run in a straight line for just under three miles and then turn-around. It is terrible. Everyone knows it is terrible. I have run this race twice. Once, in 2006, which was actually the first time I ever ran 13 miles at all. And, once in 2010, when I sort of fell apart on this section. (I actually have only run one other open half-marathon besides those two, which was really 11.8 miles because people are dumb.) So, I knew it was coming and I was so worried.

There weren’t really any women around me by that point and we had more or less sorted ourselves out, so I ran with my odd group of guys. There were a couple tri-dorks with visors and compression socks and lots of watches and heartrate monitors. There was a guy, who I swear to god looked like a Kenyan except that he was running my speed. There was a like 50-year-old Asian man and a few bros in t-shirts. I deliberately stared at the ground, so I wouldn’t stare at how far we had to go, and just focused on trying to run “faster” and we somehow kept up the same pace.

I felt great at this point. Which means I felt awful and in a lot of pain, but I knew I was running great. We hit mile 10 in 1:05:30. That’s amazing! Breaking 1:27 is totally possible! How awesome would it be to run a 1:26:xx – that is a serious time. I thought all I have to do is run like a 21:00 5K. I can definitely do that, just keep running like I’m running. In actuality, all I had to do was run 6:50s for those last 3.1 miles, slower than I’d run any of my miles to that point. But I couldn’t do it.

Because I didn’t want to regret anything and I didn’t want to just miss sub-1:27, I picked it up. I pushed it. Our group broke up. I thought: I can do this, I can do this, less than three to go. Then, we hit the 12 mile marker and I had run a 6:55 (or something, math got a little fuzzy). Then, it got slower. And, slower.

And, I wouldn’t have known I was running slower except in that last mile suddenly lots of people were passing me. I still thought I was running fast. It just turned out “fast” was like a 7:30 mile. Some of the guys from our group caught back up to me and I pumped my arms as hard as I could and tucked in on their heels. Four girls passed me in the last half mile and I tried to surge with every one of them. But, my legs just wouldn’t go anymore. I knew I was still doing good, but then I finally could see the clock and oh my god 1:28 was creeping up. No, no, no. I went as hard as I could and could feel the dry-heaving starting before I’d even hit the finish, but I got in under 1:28.

Then I walked back to my car. This is the sign that was right in front of where I parked. I like it. They’re not saying you shouldn’t swim or wade. They’re just letting you know people have drowned.

Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

22 thoughts on “Race Report: Kaiser San Francisco Half-Marathon

  1. OMG I do the same thing with splits during a long race! I calculate what the next split should be then I keep repeating that time in my head until I get there and then recalculate…it seems to help make it go faster. I don’t think I could ever wear a Garmin in a race. So I always think, I could totally be Kelly’s bff, except you live too far away and you like cats. Cats scare me and make me sneeze.

  2. Great race! I would have been really annoyed by “aren’t you tenacious” guy, sexism at it’s most annoying.

  3. You killed! I have no idea what this math business is about. Are you wearing a normal watch then? We must have been unknowingly running very near each other….I had similar splits!

    1. Yeah, I didn’t wear my Garmin. Didn’t want to stress about pace. Just regular watch and looked at it at mile markers.

      What were you wearing? Because there were some girls ahead of me that I definitely was staring at. I probably saw you!

  4. Nice job Kelly! Congratulations! And count me in with the group of people that play mental math games in their head when they race!! : – )

  5. Hi there are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m
    trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding expertise to make your own
    blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

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