Week 6: A Race Report-ish – Kaiser Half-Marathon

Thursday I had my final (sorta) follow-up appointment at Stanford. It was the shortest appointment ever. My doctor basically said, “Well, if you haven’t had any more heart episodes since early December, then I guess it’s back to normal. We still don’t know exactly why it came on so intensely, but fingers crossed it stays away and I don’t see you again for many years.”

Fingers crossed is always the official medical diagnosis you want to hear.

Continue reading “Week 6: A Race Report-ish – Kaiser Half-Marathon”

Race Report: Kaiser Half-Marathon

Short version: I ran 1:26:27 according to my watch and 1:26:29 according to the official results. Apparently, I was so out of it at the end that I came to a complete stop as I pressed “stop,” and then it took me an extra two seconds to walk all the way across the second timing mat and have my chip register. Either way, it’s a significant PR over 1:27:58 (which itself was a significant PR back in 2013). Evidently, I’m not just making up this ‘I swear I’m training a lot and getting faster’ thing. Continue reading “Race Report: Kaiser Half-Marathon”

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.

First Race of the Year: Kaiser Half-Marathon

Tomorrow, I’m running the Kaiser Half Marathon. The last time I ran it, I think in 2010, I had a small complete meltdown in the second half. From mile 7-13 you run three miles straight out along the Great Highway — staring at the mile markers off in the distance with the wind and sand blowing from the ocean — and then turn around and run three miles straight back. It’s terrible.

I was going to post the worst photo of me from that race, but I have like six chins in that picture and am biting my lip, because I’m so focused on running without picking up my feet (a new technique), so here is just one of the not super flattering pictures:

Me shuffling my way to a 1:34. Ugh.
Me shuffling my way to a 1:34. Ugh.

Tomorrow, is going to go better. I am ignoring my hurt ankle/arch/calf/foot/whatever. Running doesn’t seem to make the injury worse, so I have decided I will be fine. And after that works, I’m going to decide to be super rich and famous too.

Barring the whole injury thing, what I’m not totally sure about is how fast to run. (As fast as I can, haha, you’re brilliant, you.) I tend to lean towards the go as hard as you can until you blow up thing. But, that doesn’t really work for races longer than, I dunno, a 5K. For a half-marathon you sort of have to pick a speed to start at. And, I don’t know what that should be.

In the past, I would have aimed to break 1:30 (like 6:52 pace). But, I’ve been running faster than I ever have in training. AND, if I almost never ran fast in training, then isn’t 10 x not that much like a LOT? So, I’d like to think I can break 1:30 by a couple minutes. But, I could be wrong or I could be vastly underestimating myself.

There are two reason I don’t usually like to start out at a conservative pace and then pick it up if I feel good. Because: 1. I have maybe twice in the history of all my races “felt good.” It’s hard in the mix of things to recognize that yes, you hurt, but you could hurt more. 2. It’s a perfectly fine strategy for a race where you have a specific goal or target, because you don’t want to blow up. But, if you just want to see how fast you can go, then how will you know that was your fastest if you hold anything back? What if you could have gone harder?

I’m not saying this like ever works out for me the way I hope it will. But, still, if I have to pick, I’d rather start out too fast than too slow. So, tomorrow, I will try not to blow myself up, but I might. And, I will try to run as fast as I can.