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Thursday, May 23

Bay to Breakers (2013)

This May I'm running the Happy Girls Half Marathon in Bend, OR. While this isn't my first half marathon event, this time I'm trying something different and I'm working with a Physical Therapist (Jay) and Coach (Stephanie) at Rebound Physical Therapy to keep injury free and improve my performance.

Months ago, my family planned a quick trip down to the Bay Area to visit friends and check out college campuses. I couldn't believe how quickly our trip came and went, though. Scott, Stinky (yes, I still call him that!), and I traveled down Wednesday after school and returned on Sunday. It was an ambitious and busy "long weekend!" We toured San Francisco on foot and via MUNI, visited Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and attended Maker Faire in San Mateo. On Sunday, before the long drive home, a friend who lives in the area humored me and we both ran in the Bay to Breakers event.

In short, it was a fantastic trip. Bay to Breakers was just what I needed to get my mojo back.

On Saturday night we had a mellow night at our friends' home. We went through our race packets, pinned on bibs, and prepped our gear. Scott started looking up information about Bay to Breakers but I wouldn't look. "No spoilers!" I told him. I wanted to be surprised by what was happening around me during the 12k race course. I had previously agreed to not take any food / drink from "unofficial" aid stations throughout the course.

We started the morning early. Our plan was to ride BART from the station near our friends' home in South San Francisco. Normally BART trains don't run so early on Sunday morning but they had a special schedule due to the race. Trains weren't frequent though and we were worried about crowds so we planned to take the second to last one that would get us into town on time. With a power smoothie and toast in my belly, and we hopped in the car and Scott dropped us off right in front of the BART station. It was deserted, but by the time our train arrived a couple of other people arrived and we boarded the nearly empty train. As we traveled closer to the city, more people boarded and we started to get our first look at many of the crazy costumes people wear. When we arrived at the Embarcadero station the conductor wished all the runners well over the intercom.

Riding the escalators up to the street level we heard strains of music coming from a woman dressed in lederhosen, playing an accordion. I already knew it was going to be an interesting day, and this was just the first of many surprises. It was pretty easy to find the start line - we just followed the mob. When we got to the gates we were disappointed to learn that we would not be allowed to "corral" together. Typically large events use starter corrals and runners start in waves. I had registered months ago for the slowest runner corral - ahead of the walker corral and the "party" corral. My friend was a last minute signup and only the "party" corral was still available. Normally if you are in a higher corral you can switch down to a slower corral without any issue but in this case they weren't letting anyone switch. Bummer! So it was at this time that we went our separate ways, hoping to find each other somewhere along the 12k race course.

It was also about this time that race nerves started to settle in, but luckily I had brought a ginger chew with me. I can't tell you how awesome these are for "runners tummy". There weren't many people in my corral yet so I was able to stake out a spot along the side and near the front of the gated area. I was hoping that would help with my "space issues" and give some extra breathing room which was nice during the 40-ish minute wait before the race start. It was also right about that time that I spotted the first naked runner (yes, apparently that's a " Bay to Breakers thing", heh!). He was far away from me, phew! And while I waited I only saw one or two others so I consider myself lucky.

The wait went quickly, with so many interesting people to watch and so much activity going on around me. I'm not sure why, but another "Bay to Breakers thing" is tortilla throwing. For the record, I don't like to get hit in the back of a head by a flying tortilla. There was some beach ball bouncing going on too. Typical big, bored crowd stuff.

Suddenly, there was an announcement that the first corral would start in two minutes, and the announcer requested a moment of silence for Boston. I was a little disappointed that a lot of folks didn't recognize the "moment" but considering it was tough to hear the announcer and many of the people nearby were intoxicated... I guess it went as well as could be expected. (Note: the Eugene marathon did a very nice job of acknowledging Boston according to friends who participated in that event. Yay, them!)

Moments later we were underway! The first part of the race is flat and through typical downtown scenery: skyscrapers and lots of concrete. Not really much to remark on except I was surprised by the number of spectators. Especially the spectators in costume. Everyone seemed very happy and people were courteous and stuck with the "runners on the left, walkers on the right" guideline. Seriously - I've never run in an event with so many people who seemed legitimately excited to be running. So fun!

About a mile in I regretted not making a pre-race potty break. I was running with my phone since we were planning to meet with Scott at the finish line, and I figured I'd never find him without texting. I jotted off a quick "pee break!" message to my friend who was behind me, and hopefully looking for me, and braved a course-side port-a-potty (it was fine). As I emerged, I saw my friend about a half a block ahead and I knew there was no way I would catch them since they were clearly still trying to catch me! Oh, well. I was surprised to even spot them in such a big crowd.

After a few zigs and zags the environment turned more residential and the course started gaining elevation. Running up the Hayes Street Hill was intimidating, for sure! I made it about halfway up the hill and then walked the rest. As I was going up, several folks in fish costumes were running down - yep! Salmon were running "upstream"! It was fun to see them from a distance interacting with the crowd and having a good time, and I got "fin fives" as we passed too. Then it was downhill and mostly flat as the course approached Golden Gate Park. Throughout the residential areas there were many groups holding parties on their front porches. Some watched and cheered, some interacted with the runners (including offering beverages), and others were bands performing curbsite concerts. It was hard to take it all in!

The last leg of the race - roughly the last third - wound through Golden Gate Park and it was beautiful. We ran past many landmarks including the de Young Museum, Spreckels Lake, the Polo Field, and the Murphy Windmill. It was a bit cooler from all the trees and you could start to feel the ocean breeze. When I first spotted the ocean it was exciting to know that I was close to the finish and then after a couple of sharp turns - there was the finish line!

Moments after getting a water bottle as I crossed the line, my friend and I were reunited. Soon we found Scott and the rest of our group. We didn't stay in the finish area for long, opting to walk a few blocks to a diner where we celebrated with eggs and a post-race mimosa. After eating we went back to the race course to watch some of the participants make their way along the route. I was surprised to see - and recognize! - familiar faces from our BART trip to the start. Finally, we were ready for showers and clean clothes so we headed back to South San Francisco. Then it was time for the long drive back to Bend!

Bay to Breakers was another "bucket list" event for me. I think if I was in SF during race weekend I would definitely do it again - the friendly people and the weather make it a great event.

I am receiving free services from Rebound's Biomechanics Lab in exchange for writing my experiences and feedback. There are no strings attached and I am not required to write positive posts. The opinions expressed on this blog are my own and are not screened. For those who know me, that's all you get!

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