Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nike Woman's Half Marathon

I went down to the expo early Friday. As I mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of these Nike event expos because there aren't any outside vendors besides the sponsors. But I give them credit because there were a lot of things to do. To name a few, there was a massage station, manicure station, and gait analysis.

Expo in Union Square

One new thing I experienced was that you didn't have a bib number assigned pre-expo. You showed up with a barcode they emailed to you which linked all you info to their computer. Then they pulled out a bib, scanned it, pulled out a chip, scanned that, and now you've got your bib and chip. This must save them a lot of time not having to pre-scan and then sort the bibs and chips. As you leave the bib/chip pick-up area, there was a station to pick up a bracelet with your estimated pace. I chose the 10:00-11:59 group. The woman who gave me the bracelet told me to wear it on Sunday morning. I figured this was how they were going to put you into corrals.

One of the few things I did at the expo was to get my ipod engraved. I actually showed up with just my nano (because the email said ipod nanos) but two women in front of me got their shuffles engraved. I only run with the shuffle so it made more sense to engrave that with the race's catch phrase, "Run Like A Girl." You could also get custom engraving (like your name) but I was too lazy to stand in the longer line for that. So I ended up engraving the nano and then going back later to get the shuffle done. Here's my shuffle:

Lady Footlocker had Nike event branded merchandise out for display but if you wanted to buy any of it, you had to walk two blocks south to their store (inside a mall)?! Not a great sales move. Nothing really interested me. I did go to Niketown (where they were also selling event stuff) to see if they had anything special. For about $5 you could get a Nike logo screened onto merchandise you bought. I thought this one was the best marathon slogan I've seen recently (especially at a woman's event):

I'm not old enough to wear this (I'm assuming you should be in your late 30's or 40's to effectively pull it off) but I would love to get a shirt with this later on in life if I'm still doing marathons. I managed to leave the store without dropping money on Nike gear.

The chip was another new technology chip. I miss champion chips. The beeps they make as you cross over mats are part of the race experience to me. And I'm sorry, but this one just looks funny.

Boyfriend was nice enough to wake up early and drop me off in Union Square. I got there about an hour before the race started. It was chilly but not terribly cold. I wore a throw-away t-shirt over my outfit and pulled my arms in to keep warm. I was not impressed with the start area. They had maps out showing where you were supposed to line up according to the pace you had chosen, but there wasn't anyone out checking the bands. There weren't even any "runner only" areas. This has to be the easiest marathon ever to run as a bandit (they had people checking right before you crossed the finish line). The speaker system was so poor my area didn't even realize that someone was singing the National Anthem until it was over half over. I wasn't in a great running mood this morning. Some women by me were so happy and hyper, I'm convinced they had some crack in their coffee this morning. Instead of their energy pumping me up, I found it annoying. I yawned a lot waiting in the corral. It took over 20 minutes for me to cross the start line.

My plan was to run as much as possible the first 6 miles of the race. The second half was fairly hilly and I knew the lack of training would catch up to me as the distance was compounded by the hills. I managed to run the first 5+ miles. I spent the entire time dodging walkers. Walkers walking five abreast. It was aggravating and dangerous. The crowd was also incredibly thick and the course was fairly narrow in some areas. I felt like I was driving a car and had to keep my eyes directed straight ahead to make sure I didn't rear-end a walker or step on the heel of someone's shoe.

What with all the dodging and cramped space my pace was really slow. This is probably a very good thing for me, but I would have been a little sad if I had wanted to run a real race. Even though I ran the first five miles, my pace was probably only about 20 sec/mile faster than San Jose when I walked 0.2 mi of every mile. When I saw that, I knew this was going to be one terribly long half marathon.

At mile 6 the first extended incline came and I walked it. Partly because that was the game plan and partly because it was so crowded, my walking pace was only slightly slower than my running pace with the congestion. The weather was brilliant for a marathon today. Overcast and cool. San Francisco has been uncharacteristically sunny and warm the last week and the drabby weather returned just in time. My hands were freezing (especially towards the end of the race) and I would have been comfortable wearing gloves today. At Crissy Field, 24 Hour Fitness was handing out those little rubber wristbands:

My corral band (basically useless) and my race souvenir

From mile 6 on, I felt like we were either going up or down, but rarely flat. I generally walked the uphills and ran the downhills. Being local, I wasn't too impressed with the views of Alcatraz or the Golden Gate Bridge. But as we rounded the turn by the Cliff House and headed down to the beach I have to say the view took my breath away. The runners around me were ooh-ing and awe-ing, and I was thinking I could hardly blame them.

I thought that I would be happy to enter Golden Gate Park since I had a good idea of the terrain there. But, I found it rather deflating knowing where all the uphill sections were. I was definitely dragging towards the end because sections of the park I don't consider to be "uphill" were definitely on a grade today! At mile 12, I got my coveted piece of chocolate. The majority of the people pocketed it and kept running. It was a downhill section and mile 12, after all! But not me. I started walking and savored my chocolate. Yummy! Some sort of caramel nut milk chocolate (a little crispy due to the chill in the air).

After that, I picked up the pace and crossed the finish line in a time of 2:40-something. Slowest. Half. Ever. By a wide margin. I was even a little surprised myself at how slow I was today. I will say, it was probably the most challenging half course I've ever done and I'm badly out of shape to run that distance right now. The good news is that my shin didn't hurt one bit.

Immediately after crossing the finish line, I got my Tiffany's box from a firefighter in a tuxedo. He was very nice and looked me dead in the eye and said, "Congratulations!" I got shuffled down the line some more: Chip off, water bottle, mylar blanket, bagel, banana, Jamba Juice, and race shirt.

You can see all the Tiffany boxes piled on the limo and the backs of the tuxedo guys.

Boyfriend and I had the plan to meet "at the letter M" (for Mario!) of the reunion area. Given how long it took me to cross the start line and how long it took me to run the race, I figured by now he would have given up waiting on the course to see me, and would have gone to the reunion area thinking he had missed me. I got to the letter and he wasn't there. I thought maybe he had seen me cross the finish and was headed over. Fifteen minutes after that, I thought maybe he had overslept and was on his way. Fifteen minutes after that I started to worry that he had never made it home from dropping me off in the morning. Thirty minutes after that I was chilled to the bone (Boyfriend had my jacket and I had drank the whole Jamba Juice), needed to visit the port-a-pottie, and was worried to death. I had been waiting an hour (which was 1.5 hours longer than he had expected me to take). I left my post at the letter, went to the bathroom, and came back. Still no Boyfriend.

We live a 2 mile walk from the finish line. My legs felt okay to do the walking and I figured I'd be safe from hypothermia with my little shiny space blanket. But I wasn't sure if I should leave. I didn't have any money. I didn't have my house key. What would I do when I got home if he wasn't there? I asked a very nice lady if I could borrow her cell phone. Luckily I remembered Boyfriend's number. With cell phones I never have to actually dial the number and I often mix up the first three when I'm trying to recite them. I have his number on my Road I.D. but didn't wear it. Thankfully I dialed right and he picked up. He seemed to be in the area so I told him I'd "go back to the M."

I walked back to the letter area and about 4 minutes later he appeared. Turns out he had been waiting at the Team In Training family reunion area while I was at the non-special people reunion area. I would like to state my case and say that the TIT area did not have letters. It was more of a VIP tent area. He even said it was warm and cozy (argh!). Boyfriend had asked three people (including the med tent) if there was an alternate family area and everyone had told him he was at the right one. Luckily for the two of us we had gone through the emotions of annoyance to anger to worry so by the time we were reunited we were just happy the other was alive.

He said when I said "at the M" it clicked that he must be at the wrong area. He had even left the race, come back home to see if I was there, then gone back to the finish line. He had checked with medical to see if I had gone to a hospital. He claims he must have run 3 miles going back and forth to the car and around the finish area. He's got three huge blisters from doing this in non-running shoes. I think this is hilarious since I actually ran the race and have no blisters.

I was pretty frozen after waiting 1.5 hours in the cold and Boyfriend had illegally parked the car in his haste to get back to the race. So I wasn't able to cheer like I wanted. I did take out the cowbell and rang it as we walked back to the car, but it wasn't as much as I'd like to have done.

Here's the bounty from the race:

The Tiffany's pendant is super cool:

Overall, these are my thoughts about the race: When I was running it I told myself I'd never do it again. Way too many people. Way too many slower people out in front clogging things up. I can see how out-of-town people would love the course, but it's just okay for me. It's a great race if you are part of Team In Training, but it almost feels like everyone else gets left out.

After finishing I thought about it some more. I got a Nike tech shirt I can actually wear (XS!) and a pretty cool Tiffany's necklace. The race cost $90, I think. That's not so bad. I think $90 is worth a tech shirt, Tiffany's necklace, and a half marathon. So, I may throw my name in the lottery again and see what happens. Word to the wise, if you want to really run this race, get way, way, up in front!

At the expo, I also got Mario something special. Stay tuned for tomorrow's "Monday Mario, Nike Woman's Half Edition!"


Marci said...

Great race report, and awesome swag. I agree with the TIT comment. They are a great organization with a great cause, but I could never just cheer for someone because they are wearing a purple shirt, you should cheer for everyone, IMO.

audgepodge said...

You're so quick with your race report! Maybe you could try the Club Run next year? The race would be a totally different experience for you b/c you start right at the front!

Glad to hear your shins survived!

Julianne said...

Great race report!!! I totally agree with you on the toughest course comment. Holy cow. The hills were KILLER. I seriously walked almost all the hills. I wasn't crazy about the Tiffany necklace design. It's my least favorite one, I think. But still, it's Nike Marathon medal from Tiffany... It's pretty damn special. :-) Great job today, even if it was your slowest half. I ran I think my slowest full marathon ever. I felt a little left out, too... with my bright yellow tee today!

bunnygirl said...

Nice swag, and I can totally relate to so much of your story: not feeling it at the start, the crowds, the frustration of trying to find someone at the end. It's why I race only sporadically any more.

I'm glad you're staying healthy, though--no shin troubles. Although after today, I hope you don't catch a cold!

Anonymous said...

Ugh, sorry to hear about the frustrating bits of the race.. It's certainly no fun when people are hogging the path!

But the Ipod engraving is cool, And so is the Tiffany's pendant!! I never knew you could get such things from running marathons!

Runner Leana said...

Congratulations on your race! That is definitely a tough course, I will attest to that. I'm glad that your shin didn't give you any grief though. Good for you for not buying any race merchandise. I must have given $300 to Nike last year! Love the necklace and shirt though...

I'm definitely throwing my name in the lottery for next year!

ShirleyPerly said...

Well, I thought they'd made that course easier after the inaugural race I ran in 2004 but it still sounds quite difficult and walkers still seem to be a problem. The Tiffany medal and tech shirt are a WHOLE lot nicer, though!

Congrats on finishing your race with no shin pain!!

*aron* said...

CONGRATS CONGRATS!!!!! what a great report :)