I'd slept poorly despite careful planning. I share a birthday with zahraa and knew her party would be the night before, and did not want to miss it (we've been friends for over 16 years). My sweetie Ben got me home by 11 and I already had everything prepared for the next day - race bib pinned on my shirt, timing tag attached to my shoe, breakfast chilling in the frig - but I couldn't fall asleep right away, and couldn't stay asleep once I did. I remembered reading somewhere that as long as you slept well two nights before the race, and ate properly, you would do OK even with little or no sleep the night before, so I hoped for the best.
I had my tea and oatmeal (yummy overnight version) to get my digestive system going (very helpful to avoid needing to use a gross porta-potty later). Left for the bus a bit before 6:30 after checking NextMUNI several times for arrival estimates. True to form, the bus arrived 15 minutes late, just as the 6-8 of us runners at the stop were starting to plan shared taxi rides. I knew I'd still arrive in plenty of time, so opted to walk the remaining 3/4 mile or so to the park as a warm-up rather than waiting to transfer to another bus. I smirked as those who did wait offboarded just half a block ahead of me; I had nearly beaten the bus there.
Unfortunately the sweats check was a good walk from the entrance. Had the bus arrived in time I might have gotten in line for the porta-potties after all, but there now wasn't enough time for that. I checked my long pants but kept my jacket, which proved to be a good move as I would end up wearing it for most of the race. The temperature was about 50 degrees, partly cloudy, little wind.
The pace markers went from 5 min/mile to 9 min/mile and then "Walkers/Baby Joggers". Once again, at my pace (11-12 min/mile for this distance) I am considered a walker. Well, I would be doing intervals of 5 min running to 1 min walking for this race, so that wasn't entirely false. I lined up just in front of the Walkers sign, along with 10,000 fellow runners who were there for either the half-marathon or the 5K, which had a common start.
The loudspeakers were well-placed, so I could hear all of the starting announcements clearly from my position in the pack, which I appreciated. After the start, the Sunday Night Football theme was played, which was cute as of course the Superbowl was coming up later. (Lots of 49ers fanwear present.) It took me several minutes to get to the starting line, six as it turned out, though I didn't confirm that until I got my results at the end.
I took my jacket off at the start but quickly put it back on as I was too cold. As my new GPS watch allowed me to see my pace, I flipped back and forth between the screen showing my pace and the one showing how many minutes were remaining in my running interval before my next walk break. Finished the first mile in 11 min, then deliberately slowed down to get closer to goal pace, 11:30, so I wouldn't tire out too fast. It was tricky to figure out how fast to run though, as if I ran 11:30 pace during the runs then when I walked my overall pace would be too slow. So I tried to shoot for closer to 11 min pace during the running segments.
Unfortunately, with the screen flipping and the sleep deprivation I started hitting the wrong button by mistake, which advanced laps rather than flipped screens. I did this so many times that by mile 7 I forbade myself from touching my watch again until the end of the race. Normally my watch is quite easy to use, and my mistakes did not affect the accuracy of the recording, but it was annoying to see 19 intervals instead of 13 when reviewing my running log later.
The run itself was mostly flat and scenic, taking place in Golden Gate Park and along the Great Highway. Near mile four we passed by Shakespeare Garden, where I married boyziggy. We were both sad not to be together on my birthday, but he was in Sweden playing what might be the final Swedish Armageddon lasertag tournament, which was a big deal to him. He got his teammates to sing Happy Birthday to me in Swedish (at least, I hope that's what they're singing!) and posted it to YouTube and Facebook:
At mile 7 we reached the beach, and I could see the beautiful ocean waves. That sight sustained me until we turned around near the SF Zoo at mile 10. By then I was feeling pretty tired. My legs and, importantly, knees felt fine, it was my heart and lungs that couldn't keep up. I walked more slowly during the walking breaks, but tried to keep my running pace near 11 min/mile, though I only got confirmation of my pace once each mile now as I'd stopped consulting my watch for anything other than the run/walk intervals. I knew if I could hold out for just three more miles, I'd meet or beat my goal of a 2:30 race. (I'd confirmed that my fastest time was set at my first half-marathon back in 2000 in Carlsbad: 2:30:27.)
Turning back into the park near mile 12, I was really tired and not able to cut out the remaining walking breaks as I'd planned. No way I was going to walk near or through the finish line though; I would sprint through it like my life depended on it. And that I did, finishing in 2:26:47 for a new PR! Overall min/mile pace: 11:13. My placement in the field was about 80%, 72% for females, 70% for females aged 40-44. Age-graded score: 48%. I'm definitely improving!
My sweetie Ben and my new friend Chad met me right after the finish. I got my medal and Chad snapped a photo:
The three of us brunched at nearby Judahlicious, which is tasty, healthy, and vegan, but has incredibly slow service. Fortunately I wasn't terribly hungry; I'd snacked on some dark chocolate almonds from the goodie bag and also had some Gatorade along the course, which is unusual for me as I normally drink only water while racing. I'd only consumed one of the five energy gels I'd brought, and that mainly for the caffeine to fight off fatigue. I guess the overnight oats filled me up enough that that was all I needed to get through the 13.1 miles.
After brunch, Ben and I stopped by the Free Farm Stand to drop off some lemons picked at zahraa's. Then home for chocolate chip cookies, massage, nap, shower, and later birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant, Source, for the second year in a row. Low-key relaxed evening, but still managed to fit in the Three Things I Must Do Every Day This Year: Music practice, Spanish language practice, and yoga.
So a Happy Birthday to me indeed: New PR, with 43-year-old me beating 29-year-old me at the same distance. Now a break from racing for a few weeks while I continue to build mileage for my first full marathon this June.