The Chances

How a 250+ Pound Couch Potato Got Healthy

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 San Francisco Kaiser Half Marathon

Originally I had signed up for the Kaiser with the thought that I'd be able to meet some people I interact with on Twitter, run a nice race, with some relaxation afterwards.

On Twitter a few days before, I started coming to the realization that it wasn't going to happen. I talked to one person who was going to run it, but she was leaving immediately following the race. That meant I'd be driving 3 hours, running, then driving 3 hours back alone with no personal interaction with anyone. Not my idea of a good time, I've been there before.

I came close to skipping it and running the Davis Stampede instead. I was even on the registration site, and was about to register for Davis when Kathy Simpson came into Twitter and asked if I was still running it! She told me where some Dailymile folks were getting together after the race, and how they were having a Super Bowl party at 3pm. I decided after that interaction that I would run the Kaiser Half after all.

I've been running races quite a while now, but before the Kaiser Half, I'd never run a race this size before. Even the California International Marathon, which I considered to be pretty big, didn't come close. This one is capped at 10,000 entrants, and sold out months prior to the race.

I left my house with plenty of time to spare, and got to the parking lot just after 6am. It's a good thing I got there that early, because the parking lot was almost full. There were only 3 or 4 spots left, so I parked and started to change clothes.

I had my running shorts on underneath my pants, and as I took them off outside the wind was biting cold. I realized I'd need to wear my tights, so I proceeded to change into those inside the warmth of the car. As I was starting to put my shoes on, a car pulled up next to me, giving about 6 inches for me to open the door and get out.

I honked my horn, then opened my window and said, "You only left me six inches!" A few seconds later, they pulled out, but didn't try parking again. They just sort of hung back behind my car, and as I was thinking about this, the driver came and started knocked on my window. "Why don't [b]you[/b] pull out! You have plenty of space on the other side, you're hogging the space!" He didn't seem too happy.

I wasn't much in the mood to get into a fistfight (or worse) so I pulled out and back in, leaving another few inches on the other side. After parking, I got an apology for his rudeness, which was nice, and off he went.

Once I had all my things together, I looked for a portapotty and didn't have much luck, so I went down to the beach. It was dark, and there wasn't anyone there, so I took the opportunity. Shhh...

As I was getting onto the shuttle bus to the start, one of the volunteers asked me what time I was expecting, to which I responded, "1:20, maybe 1:30." You can tell there's no way on earth I can run that fast, but he seemed to take me seriously, to which I responded, "Nah, I'll be very happy if I run 2:30." The woman in front of me said that was the time she was hoping for as well.

After checking in my sweatshirt (I wasn't wearing anything else extra), I headed over to the starting line. Holy cow that was a lot of people.

I positioned myself a little ways behind the 9-minute pacers. Someone saw the "Go Molly" sign, and asked, "Who's Molly?" I told her that the nice thing about that sign was there were probably hundreds of Mollys in the race, so they'd all get some encouragement.

I was feeling extremely good. The first mile was slower than I expected because of dodging all the slower people in between. It's that way in most races, but with the number of people at this one, there was just no avoiding it. Still, looking at the splits after the fact, it wasn't all that bad.

Earlier than I normally do, I turned on some music. I haven't decided yet if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm relying more and more in races on music to keep me going faster. Perhaps it's the fact that it simply works that makes me want to do it, but I just can't help think that I need to rely less on it in the event that I'm unable to at some point.

The race was extremely hilly, but I was still running great. In fact, I was thinking that it was perfect hill training for the upcoming Avenue of the Giants marathon in May. I kept the strategy of walking through water stops.

I noticed early on that the number of those stops wasn't as high as I would have expected in a half marathon. I hadn't brought a water bottle, with the thought that I could just make up for it at aid stations, but when we hit the Great Highway, I was immediately struck with how much of a bad idea this was.

The out and back stretch of Great Highway was complete exposure to direct sunlight, and I was wearing cold weather gear: long sleeve compression up top and tights on bottom. What had helped early on became a liability late in the race, and the temperature had crept up above 60 degrees by this point. The scenery was nice, but all I could think of was how hot I was getting, and how thirsty.

I finally gave in and started walking periodically. At mile 8 or so, I noticed on the other side of the road where the runners were heading back my way, there was a runner being attended to, face first on the ground. Apparently he overheated and passed out.

On the way back, the runner who had passed out was being carried off to an ambulance on a stretcher. I didn't find his bib # and have no idea what happened, but I certainly hope it turned out well for him.

Rounding the corner off the Great highway and onto the last quarter mile to the finish, it was a minor slap in the face, because they put the finish at the top of a hill. I tried to sprint a bit, but I just didn't have it in me.

As I crossed the finish line, the clock read 2:16, but it had started a full 5 minutes before I crossed the start. In the end, my chip time was 2:11:45.

Now let's look a bit closer here: I was expecting to finish around 2:20, and I would have been perfectly happy with 2:30. I ran wonderfully on the hills, and the only reason I felt tired or exhausted was the heat on the Great Highway. I'm convinced that had I brought water, I wouldn't have walked during that final stretch, and would have finished closer to 2 hours, maybe even sub-2!

Mile 1: 9:37
Mile 2: 8:45
Mile 3: 9:05
Mile 4: 9:40
Mile 5: 8:30
Mile 6: 9:14
Mile 7: 9:06
Mile 8: 10:02
Mile 9: 11:06
Mile 10: 10:46
Mile 11: 11:47
Mile 12: 11:20
Mile 13: 5:37 (11:11/mi pace, the Garmin had stopped early on, this was a half mile)

Chip time: 2:11:45, 9:58/mi average, 1441 calories burned

I'm extremely hopeful for March 6, when I'll be running the Bidwell Classic Half Marathon in Chico, CA. I hope I can at least run as well as I did Kaiser, at most break 2 hours.


Michaela said...

I started by the 9-minute marker, too. We were probably right next to each other and didn't realize it! Sorry I missed you!

Greg said...

That's funny! I was probably 200 feet behind it. You can see the number in the larger version of the picture I posted.