It was a gloriously beautiful day in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. As we turned the corner to view the crashing waves of Baker Beach, a woman with a strong Russian accent asked me, "Vat is dat?"
"Baker Beach," I said.
"Oh. You know, I run dis course every year for last 7 years. I've never seen this view. BEAUTIFUL!"
And, she was right. I do recall this portion being socked in fog the last and only time I ran it. And it was BEAUTIFUL today!
So, I did not meet my "A" (aka "dreamer") goal of 2 hours, but I'm not disappointed. It was one of those amazingly gorgeous SF days where it's completely obvious why it's such a major tourist destination.
I didn't really know what would happen today. I felt like my running could be magical (like the weather), and originally, it felt like it just might be. But I also felt like there was a non-trivial chance my hip flexor could freak out and I'd have to drop out. It wasn't until Mile 11.5 when I finally realized I was in the clear and could just finish without fear.
Thanks to the taper and ramen and Onigiri from the Japan town mall for late night snack and breakfast, I went out feeling strong and had a great first couple miles. I stuck with F, as planned. Originally, we started behind 'em, so F and I tried to catch and pass the 4h marathon pace group before the hill in Fort Mason to avoid the crowds. Once we got close, it turned out, they were going too fast for me, so when we hit the hill at Fort Mason, I let Fio go. She stayed with them, more or less for the entire race, and crushed it with a 3:57 for her first marathon. Not too shabby for anyone, but in particular anyone on the hilly SF course, and a newbie who ran her first race ever (a 10K) in February of this year! I'm so proud and happy for her!
Even with the ease-off for the Fort Mason hill, I still hit mile 5 more or less on pace for the 2 hour goal.
But, as you can see, when we hit the uphill to head up to the base of the bridge, and I slowed to a crawl. Then I walked. If you look at the elevation profile, you can see why mile 5 may have been a doozy for me:
Once the 2 Hour goal was gone, I just tried to be smart. The rest of the race was all about just trying to keep my head in the game enough to do a job I was proud of. I did my best to save energy early on with walk breaks, to take advantage of the downhills (my strength), and to push myself to run the last 3 miles to the best of my ability without stopping to walk (except I may have grabbed some electrolytes or water). At around mile 10 or so, I set a sub 10:00/mile pace as my goal (which, conveniently, was 15 seconds per mile faster than my "I think I should be able to do this no matter what" goal of 10:15s/mile).
As appears to be the norm for me lately, some crazy lady tried to race past me in the finishing shoot, so I sped up until I dropped her... (Dudes don't seem to do this to me? What is with the mid-pack ladies?)
In short, I was in approximately the shape I thought, but this course is much more difficult than I gave it credit for. I'd only done it once before, as the first half of the SFM, when I did the full with E2. Then, we did it in 2:19:55 and finished the full well before E2's 5 hour goal in a clean 4:38:26 (my one and only negative split, actually -- funny, before looking at the data, I didn't know I'd ever run a negative split marathon). I think the reality of the difficulty of the marathon distance obscured the reality of the difficulty of this course. Today, I realized that the SF First Half Marathon course makes the US Half look like a cakewalk.
I'm still evaluating my options, but today makes me think I'm actually in pretty darn good shape, and a return to the Rock 'n Roll SJ this year would be a great place to try to push the 2 hour mark. I know I've got it in me, but if there's one thing I've learned in 2013, it's that I'm not great at hills while I'm living and training at sea level on the SF bay. So perhaps the flat (but turning) SJ is the way to go...