Race Distance: 13.1 miles
Time: eh who cares?! [ok, 1:47:56]
So Janelle and I somewhat spontaneously booked flights to San Francisco for the weekend before Thanksgiving. And, of course, needed to do a race! While a full marathon was an option (and with my recent track record of spontaneously doing one in Chicago in October), I convinced Janelle to take it down to a half. Because also, I was to participate in the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half, and annual tradition, just four days later. Berkeley fit the bill!
The day prior, we had tasted all the wine in Sonoma, befriended many strangers, and even managed to log a few hours of sleep. We arrived to the race site three hours early because we had to drop our friend, Parker, at the airport on the way [we knew him before the trip, although we may have convinced my Aunt Maureen otherwise].
We sought refuge from the chilly, rainy morning in a Starbucks that was likewise occupied by several homeless people. Great minds think alike…
After struggling to find a restroom to use, we eventually made our way to the start and wandered around the sponsor tents. I took my very first HOTSHOT with hopes that it would compensate for lack of training and a few too many pounds gained during my so-called “triatus”. It burned my esophagus for a good five or ten minutes, and I would go on to taste it periodically throughout the race–a small price to pay, though, if it works!!
We toed the start line and snapped a couple sleep-deprived, hungover, delirious selfies and took off! The weather wasn’t nearly as terrible as it could have been–overcast and warm enough for me to bare my arms.
Janelle and I ran the first few miles together, which were almost entirely uphill, before she insisted that I forge ahead. After protesting a bit, I crested the top of the first major climb and opened up my stride, shouting to Janelle a couple encouraging cheers as I peeled away. As I climbed the following hill, I heard Janelle shout “GOOO SUSIE CRUISIE!!!”
This race was definitely not as fun as Chicago, but I don’t think any will ever be. Running without Janelle was boring, but I was huffing so much on the long, incessant hills that I doubt we would have sang and laughed and joked as we did in Chicago.
Instead, I remained silent and took in the beautiful scenery of the neighborhoods (well, when I wasn’t staring at the ground to avoid potholes–many of the roads weren’t the best).
When I got to the second aid station around mile 4, I hoped to find something with calories, but all that was offered was water and Nuun. So, while I’m not a supporter of it and the polyethylene glycol [aka Miralax] that it contains, I swigged some of the stuff and carried on.
Not much remarkable about this race! We eventually went up and over a bridge and then turned left in a dangerous cluster fluck–the leaders hauled around from the opposite direction, cutting the corner in a wise but dangerous race strategy as the course intersected with slower oncoming runners. The volunteers stationed at the corner [presumably planted specifically to police the separate lanes denoted by cones that athletes ignored] stood back and seemed perplexed by the chaos.
I successfully maneuvered this turn without collision and headed out on a 4-ish mile out-and-back stretch of relatively flat pavement surrounded by the water on one side (which would have been pretty in good weather) and the highway on the other. Several cars honked at us.
About mile six, I regretted my decision slather my face in a new type of sunscreen that morning, because it burned like hell as it washed into my eyes as the rain picked up. I ran with my eyes closed for periods of time to try to wash them out, but it wasn’t working. I considered trying to wipe them with my shirt, but I was kind of in survival mode and that seemed like a lot of work at the time. So I suffered.
I made it to the turn around and wanted to keep my eyes open for Janelle, but I had to squint. Eventually she saw me and yelled so I yelled back. And at some point thereafter I could keep my eyes open without pain. Whew! Blindness averted!
By the time I made the turn back over the bridge, the volunteers had figured out how to police the traffic. Somehow that “flat” out-and-back had felt like an uphill climb both ways…
Back into the legitimate hills! I hung tough and allowed myself to ease up a bit on the ascents and opened up a bit on the descents. A particularly long hill went up a street lined with beautiful sycamore trees, which was my favorite part of the course!
I knew that if I could make it to mile 10, then I could make it to mile 11, and then I’d practically be finished–a discourse that replays in my head for all too many races. Around mile 10, volunteers directed a group of us to turn while previous athletes stayed straight. I asked a fellow runner, “were we really supposed to turn, or are they just playing a mean trick on us..?” He turned around and happened to be a good-looking gentleman. He assured me the turn was appropriate and something about traffic flow or something. I was distracted as much by his beauty as by my suffering.
We ran together for about a mile or so, and of course I told him he was crushing it as I struggled to keep up. He humbly complimented me–good looking, athletic, AND humble?! He encouraged me to stay strong to the finish, but he clearly was running faster than my “stay strong pace,” so I told him to go ahead and made some joke about “every man for himself.”
With a mile to go, I felt pretty nauseous and tasted the HOTSHOT once again, but this is nothing new–although it typically results from paces much much faster than that day’s mediocre performance.
My new, handsome runner buddy waited for me at the finish, and we exchanged congratulations. Unfortunately, I was too nauseous to show off to him my wit, intelligence and charm [and put my number in his phone], but that’s ok. I had bought a merman ornament so that I can forever jokingly say that I “brought home a hot guy from San Fran,”so I didn’t need him anyway 😀
Janelle finished soon after me, and we chatted up the Honey Stinger rep who graciously took our photo and off we journeyed off to our new favorite spot, Jane, for some post race fare [also appropriate as “Jane” is Janelle’s athletic alter ego].