Race Recap: Kaiser Half Marathon

Let’s start with the important stuff. I missed my goal by a minute. I missed a PR by 20 seconds. But it’s okay.

Race Day started oh so early. I was pumped with adrenaline from the start. The Husband was a little less enthusiastic. The Dude initially was most resistant to waking up but when I reminded him that it was race day, he was instantly awake. We piled into the car and drove into San Francisco. I’d allowed waaay too much time so we got there early and found great parking next to the ocean at the end of Golden Gate Park. I left the boys in the warm car and hit up the still clean portaloos and then we got ourselves ready and headed for the shuttle busses to the start line. On the way, we bumped into Jen and Jess and so everything was good! We got to ride school busses (always a treat for Brits) and got to the staging area in good time.

First up was registering the Dude. We only decided he’d run two days ago and we were officially too late, but I emailed the organisers and they very kindly let him register on the day, not something they do often. They made a real exception for him and we were so grateful. He was very excited to pin on his bib and even more excited to put on his shoe tag, his first one. I love seeing him excited about running. We milled around for a bit, used the loos and bumped into Brianna (who would go on to CRUSH the 5k) and then we went to line up at the start. We found Kristen who was running the 5k pushing her gorgeous baby and stood chatting. As we listened to someone murder the national anthem, I saw a girl heading for us. It was Cate, whose blog I used to LOVE and who I’ve followed on social media for ages. It was so nice to finally get to meet her. And then  somehow, it was time to line up.

Brianna, Jen, Jess and us
kaiser shoes
All the shoes, all the timing chips
kaiser me
Classily using Christmas socks as gloves. I ditched them at Mile 2 Photo credit – Jen


Here, I discovered a grave error. Today’s race included a 5k AND  a 1/2 marathon. Everyone started together and the road was absolutely jam packed. I snuck into the crowd but I was further back than I should have been. The klaxon went off and I took several minutes to get over the start line and then spent about half a mile dodging people and trying to get into my groove. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing, stopping me go out too early. My first mile was 8.48, only 8 seconds slower than my goal for that mile so it wasn’t too bad.

The race wound its way round the Panhandle. I tried to run faster on the downhills and maintain a decent pace on the flats and the slight uphills. I felt decent. I passed Jess, waved at someone in pink who yelled my name from the pavement (a friend of BT‘s who I met last week) and felt strong. We wound back into the park. I was feeling good. My first check came at Mile 3 when I was bang on my goal pace. From there we hit the wonderful, 2 mile downhill in the park and I just went for it. My strategy on this race was to use the downhills for all they were worth and then hang on for the ocean part, so I stretched out my stride and hurtled through the park. I felt really good. I tried to be sensible and check in with my body but I  really didn’t think I was working too hard.

Eventually we left the park and turned left onto the ocean road. I always knew this section would be a mental battle. Three miles south, turnaround and then three miles north. Beautiful, but monotonous. I saw Layla, who had come out specifically to cheer and she had made the most amazing sign in the world. I have never had my own cheering sign before and it honestly made my day. This girl rocks.

kaiser poster cats
How cool?


I was starting to work hard now. It was pretty warm so I stripped off my vest/tank top and ran in my bra. Shameless. I plugged in my music for the first time in the race and ran on. The southbound section of the race is deceiving. It looked to be slightly downhill and I found it much harder than I thought I should be finding it. I kept chanting ‘This Girl Can’ in my head and ‘Keep Fighting’. I got to the 9 mile marker. I knew I should hit this at 1.16 so checked my watch with trepidation. 1.16 on the dot. This race was mine to lose.

Can you see where this is going?

I lost the race. It became a death march. By the time I reached the turnaround at about 9.5, I was struggling. By Mile 10, I was digging in. I felt slower and slower, and weaker and weaker. At about Mile 11, Jess came up to me, she’d caught me.  She looked SO strong and I could see she wanted to tow me to a PR but I was deep in the pain cave (oh so dramatic) so waved her away. (I apologized later). I watched her awesome bottom get further and further away from me and I just plodded on. I wanted to walk SO badly but kept telling myself I could walk in two miles and then one mile. It was pretty grim. I saw the boys just before Mile 13. The Husband later told me I didn’t look very happy.

Spot the day-glo white belly!


We turned off the Great Highway for the final half mile to the finish line. It’s uphill and it basically destroyed me. Head down. No strength to pump my arms. I just kept going, wanting to stop. I saw the finish line and I knew I’d missed my goal. I crossed the line and basically sat down at the side. I was done.

1.52.56. A minute off my goal and 20 seconds off my PR. I’d run 13.2 miles instead of 13.1 (poor tangents) and I’d run an average pace of 8.32 instead of the 8.31 I needed to do. So close.

I sat there for a good ten minutes. The marshall kept eyeing me and came over twice to ask if I was okay. I was fine but I was literally empty. I was also pretty gutted. I just sat there dazed for a while as people crossed the line. The marshall brought me water and eventually I got up and wandered to find my people. I considered having a cry but didn’t have the energy.

Eventually I found Kristen and then Jess and Jen. No-one PRd, but we all came close. I saw Cate again with her husband who just crushed the 1/2 and finally got to meet Alyssa, another ex-blogger who I’ve been online friends with for ages but not met. We found the Husband and the Dude.  Layla found us and then BT, who ran a solid race, and we slowly, sorely headed back to the cars to go for brunch. And on the way, we got to meet Kimra, another Twitterer I should really have met before.


The Dude ran a great race in 36.29, coming first in the 2 – 5 age-group. I was so incredibly proud of him.

kaiser dude
My little man was VERY excited before the race started
dude kaiser
Finding his name on the results boards


Forgive me if I’ve gone on too much about all the bloggers and twitterers that I hung out with or met today. I don’t mean to be obnoxious but that was really something that made today special. I ran Kaiser three years ago and didn’t know anyone racing it. Today, I had lovely running friends and got to finally meet loads of new people I’ve ‘known’ online for ages. It was the nicest feeling, to be part of a community. Social media has its problems but it’s a wonderful way to meet fantastic people and it made my day today.

And then 7 of the fantastic people came for brunch with me and I got to eat a lot of food, drink some delicious bourbon coffee and some nice wine and snuggle with the world’s second loveliest baby ever for a while! So whilst I’m disappointed with my time, I still feel really lucky.


I’d like to do a separate post reflecting on my training and my race, but I can honestly say that I ran my socks off today. I couldn’t have run any faster and so I don’t really have any regrets. It was a good day.

A few notes on the race.

  • It’s a great race. REALLY well organized with fantastic volunteers. Plenty of loos.
  • The course is really PR friendly. Honestly.
  • This year, the fee went up $10 to fund a medal. I will always pay more for a medal. Great move, Kaiser. We also got really nice cotton sweatshirts.
  • Their one error really was starting the 5k and the 1/2 marathon together. This resulted in a  very crowded start line and difficult first mile. Hopefully next year they’ll start the 5k a few minutes later.
  • Also, the Dude didn’t win anything for winning his age-group. Prizes started at 6 upwards. We are not complaining -as I said we’re really grateful he got a late entry. But it would be a nice touch for next year.
  • If they could flatten the hill for the last half mile, that would be perfect!

And finally…

Thank you ALL for your lovely messages of support before the race. I was so touched. You’re all pretty awesome.

Okay. Enough. The End.

24 Comments Add yours

  1. I race a ton of Bay Area races and never heard of this one!

    1. Cathryn says:

      It’s BIG and it’s been around for ages I believe. It’s very definitely worthy to go on your list!

  2. Nic J says:

    Well done anyway! A tonne of positives to take from the race, even if the ultimate target stayed elusive. Considering your views of the 80/20 training plan 6-8 weeks ago, I’m massively impressed you got as close as you did, especially given the rammed start! Sounds like you gave it your all, and then some – you can’t say fairer than that 🙂
    And well done the Dude for winning his age group – I look forward to another in depth interview from the champ in the near future!! x

    1. Cathryn says:

      His agent is asking too much money 🙂 Yeah, I’m okay with the time I got. I think it reflects the training I did – I can think of many things I could have done better. Next time.

  3. Very nicely done. 20 seconds off a PB is so close but nothing to be disappointed about. Keep up the good work.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you! You’re right, it wasn’t too bad an effort was it 😉

  4. Tim says:

    Too bad I missed you at the start line…but it was, after all, super-jam-packed at the 8/9 MM area. A fun race and well done to you and the dude! Definitely a well-organised event (but I did think that bag-check was insanely far away, particularly if you are heading from the east side of the start line).

    1. Cathryn says:

      That start line was crazy. I wish I’d positioned myself better. The Husband said he saw you and got to chat. What time did you get in the end? And yes, I think they assumed the bag check people would be on the shuttle busses.

      1. Tim says:

        There’s a long story behind my race time…but I don’t want to hijack your blog too much with that…so to keep it (somewhat) short I have been working on the slow (speed) and low (HR) training for about 3 months. I have been in the 10:20 – 11:00 pace range for those 3 months which left me totally stumped on a race plan yesterday. I decided to try for an 8:30 pace for as long as I could yesterday and came in at 1:49:26 (or an 8:18 pace). So, I am totally sold on the ‘slow the F down’ training plan 🙂

      2. Cathryn says:

        We need to talk!!!! But seriously…congratulations, what a fantastic result.

  5. erin says:

    Congrats on what sounds like a good race! I ran it last year in shitty weather, which made the whole thing miserable. Glad you didn’t have that. I think races are more special when they’re less about the race itself and more about the experience–meeting friends, your family getting involved, etc– so while the PR would have been the icing on the cake, it sounds like you’re still happy with how the day fared. 🙂 plus, you’ll be in a great place to begin your speedy 10k training! Nice job, Cat. ♡

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you. You’re totally right. And we were so lucky with the weather – I’ll take slightly warm over rainy and cold any time!

  6. Angela says:

    Nothing wrong with running 20 seconds off your PR! That out-and-back part at the end is a beast. In fact what you described going through is I think *exactly* what my feelings were at that point the first time I ran that race.It also sounds like the temperature probably took its toll on everyone. So cool that you got to meet / hangout with so many cool people — really wish I could have been there as well! And congrats to the little one!

    1. Cathryn says:

      We missed you. The social side was def the best part of the day. (I need to talk to you about teaching maths when you’ve got 5 mins) x

  7. Naomi says:

    As much as I love this race, they do need to fix the start. And the out and back along the Great Highway is a spirit killer. But you ran your heart out and that is inspiring! Congratulations to you and the little man!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Do they always start the 5k/1/2 together? That’s crazy. Why don’t they start the 5k 5 mins afterwards? Or half an hour afterwards? Craziness! Thanks for the sweet words – I definitely feel good that I didn’t give up even when my legs did. I’ve mentally checked out of a race before at M10 and I’ve always really regretted that. Looks like I learned something.

  8. As said on DailyMile, it seems to me you did your best. I don’t exactly know what went wrong for you to get this “low time” at mile 9.5. It may be the “little wall” that exists on half marathons too. My first reaction would have been to think you were not enough used to run at this pace… but, that’s the whole point of the kind of training you followed. Anyway, knowing that, you still finished strong and so close to your PR. It means you can totally get it. It’s really encouraging. I feel excited for you! Congratulations 🙂

    Also, your little dude!!! That’s so great 🙂 It’s so nice to see how he is excited about it. That’s really something because I am pretty sure children his age can find it funny to run one race, once, but he actually ran it one AND decided to run another one AND he likes it. 🙂

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, the fact that he enjoyed it is far more important!!

      I think fueling was crucial, I need to work on this in the future. I usually take two gels but couldn’t stomach it on Sunday. Oh well – as you said, it was close to my PR and I’m encouraged that I CAN beat it.

  9. Layla says:

    For what it’s worth, everyone I know measures this course at 13.22ish miles. I’m not one to say, “My Garmin is right and the race is wrong,” because I know how satellites and hills and tangents work, as well as the fact that a race has to be “AT LEAST” the distance it claims in order to be accurate. But it really does seem to be consistently a tenth of a mile longer than expected. So, don’t be hard on yourself about your time. You’re a rockstar in my book.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I def feel that the extra distance was from me dodging/not running the tangents and not the course being wrong. My PR was on a straight out-and-back course where I didn’t have that issue. Thanks for the encouragement – I’m actually pretty fine about the race now I’ve reflected on it. But I always like encouragement.

  10. Jen says:

    I feel like we had the same exact race except that I was about 8 minutes behind you. 😉 Seriously though – we went through the same highs and lows at the same parts of the course, and came up just short of our time goals. Luckily, we were surrounded by great friends and good food after the race, which more than made up for my disappointment! I’m sure I already said this last week, but you did the best you could, and that’s all we can ask of ourselves. Congrats!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, my initial disappointment faded away with the wonderful company and the knowledge that I ran the best I could on the day. Nothing to regret.

  11. You seemed to leave it out there on the course and did the best you could. You have that PR in you. It just wasn’t for this race, but I know it will happen soon. 🙂 Great job on finishing though. Running when you’re mentally and physically fried is difficult at its best.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks. I don’t have any regrets, which is nice. Next time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s