Sunday, May 23, 2010


Last Sunday, D and I ran our second Bay to Breakers. (Actually, I ran my second, he ran his third.)

Last year we stayed Saturday night with a friend who lives less than a mile from the starting line. This year, our best overnight option was to stay about two miles from the start. I asked D if he was okay walking/jogging two miles before the race; he thought that it would be a great warm-up, so the plan was set. We were out the door by 7am, with the only hitch being the 50-degree weather. I decided at the last minute to start the run wearing a fleece, because I was pretty sure I would freeze in my sleeveless dry-fit shirt otherwise.

We started the race with two friends, but D was in Corral A and the rest of us were in Corral B. Then, the three of us lost track of each other as we were weaving our way past the crowds of slow joggers and walkers during the first mile. I'm really not sure why there were so many people who were obviously NOT 10-minute milers in our corral. Next time, I'm going to sign up for Corral A; I'm definitely not capable of running 8-minute miles but apparently no one else observes the rules, so now I don't feel obliged to, either.

Anyway, by the end of the first mile, the crowds had thinned out a bit, and I was on a pretty good sub-10 pace. This was the first time I'd tried running an event while wearing my heart rate monitor, and I must say, I'm a big fan. First of all, it was useful to know at each mile marker how fast I was running. Secondly, it was really easy for me to determine if my pace was too fast or too slow; all I had to do was maintain a constant heart rate. I spent most of the race between 165 and 170 bpm, except at the Hayes Street Hill and in the last mile and a half, where I was consciously ignoring the monitor.

Just before I started up the hill, I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist; it was still cold but I figured I'd be warmer soon enough. I ran the rest of the race like that, but in the end I was glad I'd brought the fleece; it got really cold after the end as we were walking back.

Last year I got frustrated at the top of the hill because there's a part where it flattens out for a few meters and then starts going up for another block. Unfortunately, you don't know this until you get to the flat part, and then you realize you're not done yet. This year I knew what was coming, and paced myself properly so I didn't have to stop for water at the top. Nevertheless, I went into the third mile at around 18:40 but didn't hit the fourth mile marker until nearly 30:00.

It was pretty uneventful running the fourth and fifth miles through the park. I managed to make up a little ground time-wise, but it still took me until almost 49:00 to finish the fifth mile. Luckily the last few miles are mostly downhill, and I was able to gain some ground there. I'm really not sure about the right technique for running downhill, but I was basically running faster with longer strides in order to maintain my heart rate.

In the end, I managed to finish in 1:11:12, which was well under my goal of improving on my 1:15:38 last year. That's a 9:33/mile pace, which I think is the fastest I've run a "longer" (over 5k) race since I was twelve. D also achieved his goal, which was to run the race in under an hour. He finished at 59:43 (vs 1:02:53 last year), which is an 8:00/mile pace. We were both quite happy with our times.

This year, I'd also decided to wear my phone while running, so I could use My Tracks to track my run. I put it in a little zippered pocket on the back of my running shorts, which was annoying for the first few minutes, but after awhile I got used to it. I'm glad I did; the program collected a bunch of interesting stats, and generated graphs for both elevation and speed. Unfortunately the speed graph seems to only be available on the phone and not on the exported map.

I started the track during our warmup, so the stats cover more than the race itself, but apparently we went a total distance of 11.4 miles, and my average speed was 6.3 mph. I also extracted some data from the heart rate monitor; my average heart rate was 154 beats per minute (including the warm-up), and my max was 194.

After finishing and meeting up with D and the others, we went to pick up our T-shirts and then we started walking backwards along the course. We'd figured out last year that it was a good idea not to pick up the T-shirts until the day of the race, because then we could change out of our sweaty gross shirts and into the new shirts before walking back. Along the way we saw lots of interesting costumes, including a N'avi couple, as well as a couple of centipedes. Honestly, after awhile I was too tired and hungry to care much about watching the runners, so after about three miles of walking, we headed to Park Chow for brunch.

I think we beat most of the race crowd there; we only had to wait maybe ten minutes for our table for four. I think took a little longer to get our food, but maybe we were just so hungry that it felt like a long time. I ordered the Marion's Pancakes, D had the Chicken Sausage Scramble, and both of us had polished our plates in short order. From there we took the Muni (bus, then metro) back to the ballpark, and then walked another mile to get back to where we started.

Overall, we walked, jogged, and ran about 14 miles around San Francisco that day. Unfortunately, the Friday before the race, I'd switched to a standing desk at work. I'd been warned that it takes awhile to adjust, but after Friday I was feeling good about my ability to stand all day. Monday was a different story, but I made it through the day, and even went to my regular 6pm kickboxing class. That probably delayed my recovery; it wasn't until Tuesday evening that my legs (and shoulders, strangely enough) stopped being sore.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to next year; it'll be the 100th Bay to Breakers!

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