2019 San Francisco Half Marathon Recap

Last weekend, I ran in the San Francisco (2nd) Half Marathon. This was my third time running the 2nd Half Marathon and fourth year in a row doing any event there (last year I was sick and ran the 5k). This year’s course was modified from what I’ve previously run. Instead of starting at the end of the park along the ocean and starting uphill, this year we started closer to the panhandle and ran downhill for two miles before turning around.

Training and Preparation

My training for this race was pretty good. My running in 2018 was not great, and in January I had a bad month and February I did not run more than twice, but since March I’ve been running almost as much or as much as I did when preparing for my (to date) only marathon. Compared to 2016, which was my post-surgery HM PR, where I averaged 26 miles per week in the 10 weeks leading into the race, this year I averaged 31 miles per week. I also added a decent amount of swimming in the last month. I had more workouts and long runs, but I did not run longer than 13.2 miles, which is less than I’ve normally done for HM preparation. I’ve also got a fair bit of lingering pain in several different areas.

The one real issue with my preparation was that I didn’t lose weight that I put on over the last 18 months, so I went into this race 10-ish pounds heavier than 2016.

Pre-race

As usual, I prepped and laid out my kit the night before. I was expecting it to be warmer this year than years past, despite the earlier start, so there was no real question about what I’d wear.

I can’t explain this, but for some reason I miscalculated my departure time. So while lazing in my kitchen early in the morning, I realized I needed to get out ASAP. This was not helped by a 15 minute wait for my ride-share. In my hurry, I only ate a banana and some pretzels and drank a coffee. I also brought clif blocks to eat in the car.

Arrival was pretty stressful as I had to have the driver drop me far from the start and I had to run across a busy thoroughfare to get to the start. Also, I’d been on edge and angry at the race for 24 hours as they screwed up my corral/seeding. I had originally signed up for the marathon, but several months prior to the race, and within their change window, I changed to this race. I gave them my estimated finish time (in retrospect a bit ambitious). However, they put me in the last corral, which was basically walkers, meaning I’d start 20 or more minutes behind people running my pace. They also would not move me at the expo. I’ve run in races recently where they are strict about corrals so I was worried this would effectively be a lost race for me. However, I had no problem jumping into the correct corral.

As I was late and worried about getting into the correct corral, I did not warm up at all. I don’t think this was really an issue as I wanted to keep effort under control at the start anyway.

Race

As I said above, the race starts with two miles running downhill. So, this was pretty easy but I could tell I would not hit my goal just based on my downhill pace being only very slightly faster than overall goal pace. After two miles, the fun begins:

The next several miles were not awful but also not a ton of fun. My pace was reasonable given the elevation gain.

However, once we hit about mile seven, all of that slow elevation gain is lost in a very short period. This is my least favorite feature of this race: steep downhills. There is no speed benefit to the ‘net downhill’ in SF because they’re so steep. My legs were totally fried after these.

During miles 9-11, I was in a dark place. I was slowing down a lot, not feeling great, and to top it off I was passed by a pace group that was several minutes behind where I’d hoped to finish (and was also the time at which I said “I’ll be disappointed with that time”).

However, I did get a second wind for the last two miles and my pace picked up quite a bit. I was very happy with how I closed.

(And yes, I was able to pass that pace group and finished 1 minute ahead of them)

A few notes about the race:

My nutrition wasn’t great. One of the costs of not racing much for two years is I’m not used to taking food at race pace. I had about half a gel: for the first time ever I tore the gel open so badly it spilled over my hands. I had three water stops. I wouldn’t change the water but I probably could have used a second gel.

The temperature and sun were more intense than years past. Normally there is a heavy fog to start this race but this year it was just intense sun. It was likely about 10 degrees warmer.

Post Race

This is the best part of the race. There’s a huge crowd, it finishes in a great location near the clock tower, and everyone is always very happy to be there.

The finish line beer garden is great and I always know several people there.

As usual, after the beer garden, we head out for breakfast and beer somewhere else in the city. In the past, I’ve stayed in the clock tower, but the last two years we’ve headed over to Hayes Valley. It’s the one day a year when I’m having beer before noon.

Retrospective

I think I ran the best race I was going to on this day, so I have to be OK with that, despite falling well short of goals. However, I will probably treat next year differently and not make it my goal race:

Every single year I’ve done this, I’ve told myself how much I dislike the race, both during and immediately after, but I always have so much fun afterwards that I will keep it on my schedule. Next year, I’m likely to do the 1st Half Marathon. The race is in theory harder, but I’ve decided to make this a fun event rather than my goal race every year, as I’m continuously disappointed in my performance.

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