I have to admit being nervous for the Kaiser race. I think it might have been because this was my first “big” race of the season – I hadn’t run an official Half since last November’s Quarry Turkey race. Then, I had jumped from my longest training run of 9 miles to a 13.2+ mile race. I did decently, finishing at 2:11:27 (though I had secretly hoped to come in under or around 2:10).
I had signed up for Surf City initially, which fell on the same date as the Kaiser Half. Though what was distinctive about Surf City was that the website was up and fully-featured in October, and Kaiser's remained blankly, enigmatically silent until sometime in the new year. So, chomping at the bit and wanting to have a goal to strive to match DD's Marathon on March 4th, I signed up for what I thought was going to be my first Half in Southern California on Feb 5th, 2012. And then Kaiser announced itself.
After looking at the course map, I had to sign up. Basically the course runs through Golden Gate Park and along Great Highway where DD and I have done most of our training runs. Carlos described it as a fast, flat course, helping people set their Half PRs. Luckily, I managed to offload my Surf City bib via an old High School friend and Facebook. Hooray, Internets.
Kaiser also fell on the day of DD's 20-mile training run - his last loooong run before his taper period for the marathon. He planned on running 7 miles first and then starting on the official race course. He woke around 4:45am and I followed soon after since I also wanted to bit of time to get ready. DD left the house around 6:50am.
I had neglected to fully read through the pre-race email and didn't see the fact that the sweats check was located at JFK and Transverse - about .44 miles from the starting line. I left the house around 7:20, thinking I had plenty of time to get to the start, check my sweats, go potty, and stretch a little before the starting gun at 8am. It takes me 5 minutes to get from my house to the edge of the park on 9th and Lincoln and I anticipated a leisurely stroll ... Near the museums I ran into our upstairs neighbour, Kelley, who also was not sure of where sweats check was. What followed was a slightly stressful "warm-up" dash to get to Transverse Drive, weaving through the hordes that kept pouring into the area (there were just shy of 10K runners there that day). Thankfully a helpful kid gave a hand as I was frantically trying to stuff and secure my bags - not only with my things but with some of DD's post-race clothing as well. Then, a mad dash back to the starting area. I looked longingly at the porta potties but decided to hold off.
After a slight delay, the anthem was sung, and the countdown began. I was lucky to be in a section of the horde where the directions and announcements were quite clear. The sun began to rise and I hoped it wouldn't beat down as relentlessly as it had the prior year. The runners who were not at the start shuffled to the official starting mat, and then we were off. We ran through the park on JFK towards Stanyan and up Oak (a portion I hadn't run before), made a right at Broderick and back down Fell and once again into the Park. The air was cool, the rising sun was shining in our faces and while I didn't have sunglasses I did wear a visor and that was helpful. There was a bit of elevation coming back up Fell towards the park, but I felt ok - not great, mind you, there was a bit of effort, but I felt fine, and looked forward to the downhill section to Ocean Beach.
Splits during miles 1-3: 8:55, 8:27, 8:54
In retrospect I think I started out too fast, and should have tried to rein in that 2nd mile.
Splits during miles 4-6: 8:40, 8:46, 8:13
Miles 3- 4 brought us back into the park, and I ran into DD -- or rather, he caught up to me -- as we were leaving the DeYoung Museum area. He was looking great, sounding great, despite having run 11 miles already at that point. After a few short seconds of running together (he, too, was shooting for around 9 minutes a mile), I realized that he was still going much faster than me and I asked him to please run ahead, which he thankfully did. (He stresses me out a little trying to get me to go faster.) Looks like I got somewhat of a kick around mile 6, but began to feel tired around mile 7.
Splits during miles 7-9: 8:19, 8:44, 9:04
Mile 7 brought me in sight of the gorgeous ocean, which always lifts my spirits. Many people talk of the Great Highway as being one of the more boring and mind-numbing stretches of the course, but I don't mind it too much. I like being able to zone on that long stretch, looking for streets and counting stoplights. But - my sub-9s at the start were catching up to me, and I began to feel tired. Took at GU around 7-8, but still slowed down considerably. I think I might have walked for 10 seconds around mile 9. It was also around miles 7-8 that we started seeing the leaders of the race streaking back. I watched them in awe.
I liked that the volunteers held up little signs ahead of time to alert you to a water or electrolyte station coming up. Since I was wearing my water belt, I had basically been able to skip most of the water stations - often a bit precariously swarmed by hordes of runners. But between miles 8-9 I slowed down to take a cup of Gatorade at a station, thankfully located on the side nearest to where I was trotting. Thanked the volunteer, gulped it down, tossed the cup into a trash bin and continued.
Splits during miles 10-13.1: 9:00, 9:18, 9:14, 9:07
I liked going out past Sloat to the turnaround, having never run this stretch before. I saw DD on his way back - seemed he was only a few minutes ahead of me. He spotted me first, which provided a nice little lift. I had been looking for him on the other side. At this point, I was trying to hang in there and distract myself with everything I could think of - the cheering spectators became important here, and the game of trying to pick off and pass runners ahead of me helped during these final 4 miles. The last stretch back up a wee bit of incline on JFK Drive was daunting, and the finish ended up being further out than DD and I had "practiced" the weekend before. This annoyed me, and I dug into that anger to boost my last kick to the finish line.
PR of 14 minutes over my Quarry Turkey Run! 1:56:58; 8:56/m pace. DD also did amazingly, 1:53:12, at 8:38/m for his 13.1, but maintaining an average of 8:50/m for twenty - yes, 2-0 - freaking miles! My honey is going to rock that Napa Marathon!
Some good shots of DD by the official photographer folks, including a great one where he looks like he's dodging a GU packet on the ground or something... (turns out he was leaping forward to place his foot with the D-tag on the finish line pad at this point).
The photogs, on the other hand, only mustered a sliver of me in this photo - if you squint and stare really hard at the left under the red-shirted guy's shoulder:
Yes, there's a bit of my shoe and a glimpse of my blue singlet, sort of under red guy's elbow. Ah well, I guess I'll take a 14-minute PR over photos any day!
- Fast, flat, in-our-backyard course
- Reasonable entry fee
- Reasonably well-organized event
- Lucky to have been blessed by great weather - sunshiny, but with cool, even cold sea breezes
- No medals
- No GU at aid stations
- Post-race food? What's that?
- Photos leave a lot to be desired. I guess it's a bit difficult with some 10,000 runners.
Would I run it again next year? It's tempting, since it's so close to where we live, even when we move to our new place. But... we'll see what another year brings. Surf City is definitely tempting since Mom and Dad are in Huntington Beach.