You know how sometimes your read other bloggers’ race recaps and they’re all ‘Oh I PR’d and I did no training and I totally wasn’t expecting it’ and you’re all ‘Bugger, why doesn’t that happen to me?’
Reader, it happened to me.
Let’s recap. A few months ago, I was really chuffed to become a race ambassador for the Kaiser Permanente SF Half Marathon and 5k. Having done the half marathon twice, I decided to run the 5k because of the sweet downhill and I was determined to absolutely crush it. It felt like the opportunity to set what was likely to be a lifetime best PR because a) downhill b) getting old.
And then Winter happened. I got sick, I got better, I got sick, I got better, I got my period, I got sick…I was unable to string together more than one solid week of training, I felt rough and I had absolutely no desire to run. So I stopped ‘training’. I abandoned all thoughts of a PR and focused on getting healthy, rediscovering the joy of running and getting some happy, easy miles in my legs. So race weekend came with no pressure. On Saturday night I had dinner at a friend’s. I drank a lot of wine, I ate a lot of food. And I woke up on Sunday morning ready to run as hard as I could on the day and just be grateful to be healthy, decently fit and able to race with my boys on the day before my 42nd birthday.
Race morning was fairly straight forward. We found spectacular parking right next to the portaloos by the windmill at the finish line. We used the aforementioned portaloos and got the schoolbus shuttle from the ocean to the start-line. We found Jen to hand over her bib which I’d collected the day before and then headed over to the 5k start.
The 5k started 10 minutes before the half-marathon. I left my boys to run together and I shuffled forward a bit. I wasn’t bothered about self-seeding as I had no expectations. We listened to the National Anthem and I got a bit emotional about the beautiful singing and then we were off.
I should have self-seeded better.
It quickly became apparent that very few people around me wanted to race. We crossed the start line and I immediately had to stop and we minced along for a bit…it was ridiculously slow, I just had to laugh. Definitely wasn’t PR-ing today. Even less pressure. But I did still want to run hard so I started weaving my way around people and after about quarter of a mile I was able to run pretty much freely.
The course was hiller than I expected. It started with a very slight hill, then we turned through the museums and up MLK. As we turned up past Stow Lake, the hill was definitely noticeable. I was relishing the chance to run hard but I definitely worked up the hill using my new hills mantra of ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ to channel my dark fury into race fuel! It worked.
From Stow Lake there was a lovely downhill back to JFK, a very slight uphill on Transverse and then a long steady downhill on Overlook and Middle Road West. ‘Let it go’ came on my headphones which (oh the shame) never fails to make me run harder and this time made me think of two of my preschoolers who belt this out regularly, totally off-key. So much gratitude. I never once glanced at my watch. I was surprised at how tough running hard was – by Mile 2.5 I was totally ready to be done but I kept pushing on, trying to pick people off one by one. Soon enough, we turned onto MLK, I saw the M3 sign and then the finish line in the distance and gave it all I had. As I approached the finish line, I could see the clock was counting up from 25:30 and I was really thrilled – I was expecting 26:something so 25:something was brilliant, especially as I thought I could take several seconds off the gun time. I crossed the line, stopped my watch and took some time to catch my breath and recover as I was pretty much cooked.
I took my medal (FLIPPING ENORMOUS), took some water and positioned myself by the finish chute to be able to see my boys coming in. It was several minutes before I glanced down to see my time and my heart leapt to see 24.53! Just 3 seconds over my PR. Amazed.
My boys came in a few minutes later having had a solid run. Lots of hugs and some red-cheeked photos.
We wandered down through the expo, ate all the free samples, got all the freebies and stopped at the results tent to check our times and somehow my actual time was 24.45, a 5-second PR, and I was 6th in my age-group. I was totally thrilled! I got a bit emotional. I really hadn’t expected this. I didn’t deserve it but somehow I’d wangled a birthday 5k PR.
We had a brunch reservation at the Beach Chalet at 10.30 so we skyped our family in the UK and stood cheering the half-marathon runners seeing my friend Lety come through and then Jen! We got to see them come back up the other side, seeing Sesa too and then headed to the Beach Chalet where Jen met us and we ate a lot of french toast, drank a lot of coffee and one of us snuck in a cheeky kir royale.
Notes on the race
In the interests of full disclosure, I was a social media ambassador for this race. Thank you to everyone who used my code – I earned a free entry plus several other prizes including free running shoes and a fitbit so I’m really grateful. My thoughts on the race are below – I’ve paid for my own entry twice and would have done this race again even if I wasn’t an ambassador so hopefully my opinions are trustworthy.
- Once again, this was an excellently organised race. There were plentiful schoolbus shuttles from Ocean Beach to the race start, we didn’t have to wait at all. There were plenty of portaloos at the start and plentiful safety pins also for those of us who discovered they didn’t have any at home at 6.15 on race day morning.
- The volunteers deserve a special mention. There were seemingly thousands of lovely teenage volunteers the whole day. They stood in lines as we walked to the shuttle buses saying a cheery ‘good morning’. There were volunteers at the start with signs saying ‘Ask me anything’ and they were able to answer our questions. They were plentiful at the end, giving out medals, water, food and space blankets – one entertainer had drawn a Nike swoosh on one and was shouting out ‘Get your Nike Space Blanket here, only $30’ which was very very funny. They were just a lovely bunch of teenagers, I hope the Dude turns out so nicely.
- I heard that some people didn’t get their race bibs through the post and this caused some race-day stress but ours arrived well in time so I can only speak of that.
- The 5k course is a PR-magnet (even if you’re overweight and unfit, apparently). Be sure to start very near the front if you want to race and be prepared for the uphill sections but it’s lovely!
- The 5k medal is ENORMOUS but it doubles as a coaster which is genius. When we move back to the UK, we’ll be rehoming most of our medals but this one will be coming with me for that very reason!
- Finishers also got a cotton, long-sleeved top. I was dubious about the colour but once I put it on, I really liked it. The small is quite fitted on me (I’m a US4). One of my Ambassador perks was a long-sleeved tech top which I flipping adore and I’m saving it to wear until we move back to the UK. I also got a free race jacket which I also LOVE! So if this is a goal race for you, I’d definitely recommend upgrading to the tech-shirt at least!
- I wish there was a 10k which basically covers the first 6 miles of the Half course…I’d fly back from the UK to run that!
In recent weeks, I have been starting to reconcile myself to the strong possibility that my PR days are behind me. Today, I realised that’s not true.
The fire is burning again, people!
(Thanks again to everyone who used my discount code.)