Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nike Women's Half Marathon

Nike Women’s Half Marathon 10/14/2012
There were a few reasons why I was super excited to do this race…
1.       It’s HARD to get in to. They draw people by a lottery.  I didn’t get in through the lottery, but found a loophole since I am a student. 
2.       It is in San Francisco…the city of my birth…kind of my hometown.  Although I grew up in Southern California I spent my early years and EVERY significant holiday in the Bay Area.  I found the idea of “going back to my roots” intriguing.
3.       THE BLING!!! This race is geared towards women and they know how to get our attention….a Tiffany finishers necklace…complete with little blue box and satin ribbon…oh and let’s have a fireman in a tuxedo hand it to me…  Really?  You don’t say NO to that!
So I got in.  I prepared by running hills around my town.  I even ran a 10 mile race last week as a training run.  I practiced doing intervals so I wouldn’t feel bad if I had to walk some of the hills…etc. etc. etc.
And after 6 months of waiting and preparation…the day finally arrived.
I went down early (Thursday night) and spent all day Friday with my 88 year old Nonnie (grandmother).  I took her to have lunch with her 97 year old sister.  It was such a nice time and I loved spending it with her!
Then onto “The City” as it’s called.  (I know other places have “cities”, but for me and anyone else from Nor Cal “The City” will always be San Francisco.)

 I checked into the hotel and took the one mile walk to the Expotique to meet my running buddy (Ditto) and pick up my bib.

It was cuckoo bananas.  The line to get in  wrapped around Union Square TWICE…almost an hour wait to get your bib!   This is a HUGE race. 25,000 people (mostly women) running through the streets of San Francisco.  I understand doing the expo in Union Square – it’s near the start line AND Niketown (where I mananged to drop the $150 you need to in order to get a ‘free’ gift!) but I feel like it would be better suited to a larger venue.  It was so crowded I didn’t get to see Shalane Flanagan or Alison Felix or Kara Goucher speak.  My friend Craig was on stage with some of them and I missed it.  I couldn’t even see if there were any worthwhile vendors.  We got our bibs and got out.

Just a portion of the craziness!

 I actually had to text Ditto to “Find the Bagpipes” so we could meet in line!
Even with the crazy crowd there were a couple of cool things. The outside of Niketown had a wall and every single runner’s name was listed. 

Ditto was low enough for her to reach!

Mine, not so much!

But it's there!!!

 AND…they had a banner  you could “Tag”…we got there when there wasn’t a lot of room left butsince we call one another “Ditto”, it was easy to find space for that!
We carb loaded at Cheesecake Factory and headed back to the hotel.  Both Ditto and I were a bit nervous and opted for a 3rd glass of wine (to go with our standard 2 glasses with our pasta!) at the hotel bar.
The next morning we got up when our alarm went off at 5:30 and did what I like to call our “Morning Ballet”  Ditto (aka Heather) and I have done a lot of out of town races where we shared a hotel room before and we both wake up in the morning and go about our business without speaking for probably 30 minutes.
At the end of the ballet, we headed the mile walk to the start line…It was incredible. Busses lined up for bag check.  Thousands of people standing, stretching, laughing and hugging in the street.

Two gentlemen dressed as Tiffany Boxes (with marathon bibs on no less)…a group of girls dressed in all black running gear with large sunglasses, French twists, cigarette holders and tiaras ala Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
It was so fun and exciting.  The National Anthem played and we waited patiently and walked slowly to the start line with our corral.
As we approached I put in my ear bud and looked over at Ditto and said, “I think I may cry” I’m not sure why this race was so emotional for me, but…
We hit the ground running.
The first 4-5 miles was easy.  A couple of short downhills, mostly flat with some steep but very short uphills.  People cheered all along the coast as we raced from Union Square through the Embarcadero and past all the piers.  It was overcast and foggy so visibility of the Bridge and Alcatraz was nonexistent, but San Francisco is so beautiful it didn’t matter.
The first big hill was at mile 6.  I took this opportunity by running the first half (albeit slowly) and walking the second half.  I decided to make up my time on the downhills.  I went FULL OUT.  My average race pace is somewhere in the 12 minute zone, but I was running in the low 9 minutes down the hills.
We ran through the Presidio, past the bridge (I can see part of it in some of the pictures, but not when I ran) through the mansions of Pacific Heights past the famous Cliff House restaurant into Golden Gate Park and finished on the Great Highway. 
The second and last hill was at mile 8 and there was a volunteer yelling, “Are you happy? You should be! Why? THAT’S THE LAST HILL!!!”
There are so many things I loved about this race. Nike is first class with amenities. There were plenty of water stations, porta-potties, shot blocks and volunteers. They found LITERALLY the greatest people in the city to volunteer. Everyone had personality PLUS.  There were great places for people to cheer us on and it really helped fire me up.
The inspirational signs and stories throughout the course had me choking up more than once and I found myself having to calm down so I could breathe properly.
This race benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society so Team in Training is in full effect.  However, this is the first time I had seen their effect.  Team in Training (TnT) is set up through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  You commit to raising a specific amount of money and once you hit or exceeded your amount your entry fee, transportation to and from and room at the race are all taken care of.  PLUS you have the opportunity to meet up with Team In Training coaches for runs in the months leading up to the race.  This is awesome, but an added benefit for runners (especially first timers) is that the coaches don’t run the race. They run up and down the course cheering for anyone wearing a TnT shirt and looking out for their specific runners. When they see one, they run alongside the runner, asking them how they’re feeling, giving them tips and encouragement. 
I saw this happen multiple times. It was so heartwarming and encouraging even if I wasn’t a part of the team.
But back to MY race…
I could see the finish line ahead and I put my arms up….this was one race where my finish line picture was going to signify VICTORY!
I got through and got fed through the stall to pick up my finisher’s necklace.  I picked a tall dark and handsome firefighter with a beautiful smile and he told me I did a great job!
 Then I went through the line to get my tee shirt. This is the only race I’ve ever done where you don’t get a shirt until you finish the race.
Then the whole line stopped.  The only other thing I would change about this race is that there is no “runner only” area at the end.  The families could come crawling under and into the area where they were handing out bagels, bananas, etc.  And it was so crowded we were all coming to a dead stop. I started to get claustrophobic.
In the end I zig zagged my way through the crowd to where Ditto and I had chosen to meet and we took pictures with our little blue boxes and then opened them.  I’m so glad we waited to do it together.

It was such a wonderful and inspiring weekend and it totally lived up to the hype!
I hope to do this race again in the future and to get more Tiffany for my new collection!

On Sunday 10/14/2012 I…
Ran First for me…and the little blue box
Ran Second for my family…it was so wonderful to see my Nonnie and my Great Aunt
I #run3rd for Girl empowerment, Matthew Shepard, Diana’s Staph infection,  Jessica Ridgeway, and so much more (my index card disintegrated in the mist, fog and sweat…) but most of all for our Blog Guru , Linda,  who had the courage to do her first 5K on 10/13
Pre-Race Index and Arm:

POST Race Index and Arm:
Nothing says "class" like a porta-potty in the background
“Things I learned from NWM: You should practice running downhill in addition to uphill so that your abs don’t hurt worse than your legs the day after the race!” ~ Ditto, 2:40:32
“Best race reward ever…Tiffany.  Second best?  Nonnie’s deviled eggs!!!” ~Heather, 2:47:30
HKS 10/16/2012

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