Sunday, July 26, 2009

SF Marathon -- 3:06:25

I successfully completed all 26.2 miles of the San Francisco Marathon this morning in 3 hours 6 minutes 25 seconds. This was my first time running the entire SF Marathon. Previously I had run just the first half.

The weather was perfect for running -- cool and overcast. The course was interesting and the support was excellent. I loved running back and forth over the Golden Gate Bridge and through all of the city streets and up and down Golden Gate Park. Three of us carpooled, arriving at the Embarcadero Ctr parking garage at about 4:50am. It took a surprisingly long time to walk to the start, use a porta-potty (long lines) and get into our corrals. For next time, I need an additional 20 minutes. I ended up being just barely on time for the 5:31am start of my wave, wave 2. But I started at the back of wave 2 and there were lots and lots of people who didn't belong in this area and so it was a very slow start. I had to come to a complete stop shortly after I crossed the start line and there were many very slow runners that I had to navigate around.

The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge involved a steep hill, shortly after Crissy Field. I wore a heart rate monitor that communicated with my Garmin 305 watch to help me know how hard my body was really working. I knew that my maximum heart rate was 183. My goal early on was to not run too fast so my target heart rate was around 155 for the flat sections and I let it climb to 165 to 168 on the steep uphills early in the race. It was fun seeing the front runners coming back across the bridge as I was about halfway over. I had forgotten how much of an arc the bridge is and how long the uphill parts are. We were pretty much encased in fog. I couldn't see the water. But it was still fun. 3 of the 5 lanes are blocked off for the marathon.

After turning around, on my way back, I checked the distance on my watch for the first time. I was expecting it to be around 7 miles, feeling warmed up but still having a long way to go. I was pleasantly surprised that I had covered 9.3 miles already.

I was passing people less frequently now as we approached the Golden Gate Park where the first half of the marathon ended. The crowds thinned considerably after we marathon runners turned right to run west towards the end of the park and the half-marathoners turned left.

I kept glancing at my heart rate to try to keep a good steady output. I was feeling pretty good but then my right knee suddenly started feeling stiff and sore, like it was swelling up. I don't think I slowed down. Around mile 16, the feeling disappeared.

For the second half, I kept on trying to speed up. I was monitoring my average pace for the whole race and I wanted it to get down to 7:03 minutes per mile. It was slowly but steadily going down as I was gradually speeding up. I set as a goal to keep my heart rate at around 160 for the flat sections and around 167 on the uphills. I was basically feeling pretty good. At the aid stations, I usually grabbed one small cup of water and one small cup of sports drink.

Around mile 19, my calves started feeling heavy and I got small signs of cramps. Around mile 21, my calves were feeling heavy and somewhat tight. What was fun, though, was seemingly owning the streets of San Francisco. We runners were so spread out that for a time I saw just two runners in front of me, over the distance of what seemed like a quarter mile. When I approached intersections, the police stopped the cars and made them wait for me. It felt like I was a VIP, running down the center of these wide streets, crossing major streets with cars waiting on both sides, just for me!

The end was getting difficult but I was keeping a steady pace and letting my heart rate rise and rise. I was catching up to a woman who was told by a volunteer that she was the 10th place female! I passed her and later passed another woman. It felt strange being so near the frontrunners of such a big race.

Around mile 22-23, I was starting to struggle with my heart rate and heavy calves and general sense of fatigue. A guy passed me and I thought to myself, "I'm going to try to hang on to this guy. He's not going much faster than me." I felt a bit of headwind at this point, so I might as well use him to block the wind. I stuck right on his back as we got nearer to the finish, with both of us passing another 10 or 12 runners. With about a half mile to go, even though I couldn't see the finish line, I broke away and began sprinting towards the finish in a last-ditch redline effort. My heart rate shot up to the low 170s. (Again, my max heart rate is 183.) I passed another cluster of runners. I saw the 3:10 pace group which was about 2 minutes ahead of schedule. I put in a big final sprint, passed them, and ran across the finish line. Whew! I thanked the guy that I glued myself to for those last few miles and we congratulated each other. He finished right behind me; he must've been sprinting, too.

The results were posted in real-time. Nice! I was happily surprised that I did so well compared to the other runners. UPDATE: The unofficial results as of this moment have me at 84th place overall (out of 5,000+ finishers) and 9th place in my age group of 35-39 males (out of 568 finishers). Results are here: . My bib # is 2075.

Other random notes:
  • My cold / flu was still going on, but it didn't seem to affect me much. I still feel dizzy when I stand up too quickly and I spit out a lot of heavy yellow phlegm during the race.
  • I overslept a bit, sleeping through my 2:30am alarm in order to eat 3 hours before the race. Instead, I started eating at around 3:10am. It didn't seem to matter.
  • Weight-wise, I was probably around 165 pounds, but I didn't weigh myself this morning.
Above: my sister Molly and me. Below: my sister Jessica and me. A big thanks to my two sisters who came out to visit. Thanks, Jess, for buying me lunch.

And a huge thanks to Jennifer for making this race possible.