That’s One Small PR for Me, One Giant Race for Mankind

This weekend was the fifth running of the San Francisco Giants Race. And I’ll tell you what: this one seems to be getting more giant each year!

There were nearly 16,000 finishers in the three distances combined (5K, 10K and half marathon) – check the results if you don’t believe me. My half marathon age group alone (F35-39) had 426 finishers. Back in 2010? Only 102.

So now that we’ve gotten the math out of the way and you’re convinced in the giganticness of the Giant Race, here’s how it went down for me this year. (If you want to check out last year’s recap, you can do that too. In fact, if you want to see photos of the course, definitely do that since this time I barely took any. You’ll see why below.)

9 Things about the 2014 Giant Race Half Marathon

1. The porta-potty lines were GIANT, as usual.

But I had great company, it was fun!

2. Headed – running! – to the start 10 minutes late.

Coach D told me to warm up, so there you go. By the time I made it to the corner of 3rd Street and Townsend, my wave – #2 – was long gone. So rather than slowly advancing towards the Start line with the current wave – #4 – I decided to try and squeeze through the crowd as quickly as possible. More “Excuse me, coming through” than I could count, I crossed the start, about 11 minutes after the gun.

3. Started right behind the 2:45 pace group.

So much zigzagging. And running on the sidewalk. Heck, even the sidewalk was crowded!

4. Passed people. Passed more people.

At the 10K turnaround point, the crowd thinned out somewhat, though by then, the half marathon leaders had started coming back so dodging runners became slightly dangerous. But I felt fresh and surprisingly strong. And completely oblivious to my still nagging road rash and knee/ hip kinks (result of a bike crash a week ago). Adrenalin! Helps!

Pace for Miles 1-3: 8:02, 8:06, 8:13.

5. Three short climbs.

There are three short climbs, all in Mile 4 of the half. I always underestimate them. But still feeling pretty good, legs light and breathing back to normal quickly after each climb. Pace for Miles 4-6: 8:33 (climbing!), 8:12, 8:19.

6. Some guys just don’t like to be passed by a girl.

I was still passing people and occasionally getting passed by someone who had clearly been late and missed their wave start as well. This one guy in a blue shirt, though – I noticed this because everyone else was wearing orange – decided he shall not be passed by a girl in a blue skirt and sped up ahead of me. I kept my pace and shortly after ran by him as he had slowed down. He sped up. And again. He gave up right before the turnaround (near Golden Gate Bridge, very pretty). Pace for Miles 7-9: 8:18, 8:11, 8:24.

7. One mile on a dirt road and one final climb

Mile 9 is always one of my slowest in this race. Must be the change in terrain, as we run on the dirt/ sandy road by the ocean for almost the entire mile. Then we head over to the final climb, followed by a steep downhill where everyone sprints, trying to make up for time lost on the hill. Mile 10: 8:38.

8. Final stretch on the Embarcadero.

Scenic! I was feeling some fatigue by then, but I made myself pick up the pace again. To my surprise, it wasn’t that hard. Maybe because by then, the crowd had thinned out considerably and I could run like a normal person. Miles 11-13: 8:16, 8:13, 8:12.

9. Bringing it home!

Right before entering AT&T Park, I passed the 2:00-hour pace group. The pace leaders shouted encouraging words as I looked at my Garmin, realized I could PR by several seconds at least, and booked it. Pace for that last stretch: 6:53 (for 0.3 miles, according to my watch – you know how GPS watches always measure races longer than the official distance — and surely the zigzagging must’ve something to do with that, as well).

Net time: 1:49:19, a 16-second PR!

The End!
Ah, kidding of course. This is where the best part begins! Grab your medal, walk around, stretch, just hang out at the field. When else do you get a chance to do something like this? Only happens once a year, at the Giant Race!We lucked out with the weather this year – perfectly overcast while we ran and slightly chilly (windy) at the finish, but nothing a change of clothes wouldn’t fix!

After a quick Starbucks run (best!), I came back to the Park shortly after 10 a.m. to pick up KidRuns’ bib and get him ready for the Kids Race. That wouldn’t start until all 5K runners were done and off the grass – and with almost 6,500 5K finishers, that took quite a while. So we sat in the bleachers, enjoying the sun – then the shade, as the sun got a wee bit too strong for my taste and we moved.

The Kids Run

Was fun as always. Well organized, kids go out on the field in relatively small waves and run one, two or three laps around while parents wait in the bleachers. Here’s KidRuns’ wave coming back from their lap of glory:Unlike last year, when he was tired and absolutely refused to run, this year he reported his race was “the best”! We stayed to watch the very final wave of kids and family relay participants, finally heading home well after 2 p.m.

Yet another fun – GIANT Fun! – day at the races!

2014 Giant Race results:
Net time: 1:49:19 (8:20 min pace)
Gun time: 2:00:23
Age group: 34 (out of 426)
Female: 283 (out of 2103)
Overall: 931 (out of 3,746)

GIVEAWAY: Free entry to the See Jane Run Tri & Du

Hello, Ladies!

(Sorry, boys – this one’s for the girlfriends only. You can read if you like – but we’ll be talking about lady things and feminine products. Danger!)

Ha. Kidding!

I’m only sharing some great news, namely that the lovely ladies at See Jane Run have shared with me one free registration to the See Jane Run Triathlon (or Duathlon) in Pleasanton, Calif. on September 21.

It’s a fabulous event, perfect for first timers or experienced triathletes, sprinters or long distance aficionados!

The 400-yard swim is quick and definitely non-threatening, perfect if you’re not used to open-water swimming. The bike course is flat and easy and the run is interesting, with parts fire road and parts asphalt; a few tiny climbs and turns. It’ll be over before you know it – and once you cross the finish line, there’ll be this:I did the event last year and LOVED it. Read my recap here.The only difference this year will be the bike course. It was shorter in 2013 due to construction – 8.4 miles instead of this year’s 11.1-mile course.

And if you aren’t feeling like tri-ing it, you may use your free entry for the duathlon option: a 1-mile run, 11.1-mile bike and 3-mile run to wrap it up.

So what do you have to do to enter? Just follow the cues in the widget below.

Can’t wait to see if you win? You can register today, and save 10% with the following code: SJRAMB236.

(Pssst, it’s also valid on purchases in the See Jane Run store (any location) or online!)

Oh, and yes: of course I’m kidding about the “no boys allowed” thing! Men are more than welcome to participate. Just keep in mind: you may be chicked!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tri Santa Cruz: Swim, Bike, Run, Win

I raced a sprint tri last weekend. It was fun and quick! Just like this recap, I hope. So here we go:

Tri Santa Cruz is a local, somewhat low-key event in – yes – Santa Cruz, Calif. I will tell you about the “somewhat” later. First things first: location. Beautiful, beautiful! I raced the Santa Cruz Triathlon there last year and fell in love with it, especially the run course, out and back along West Cliff drive and with stunning ocean views throughout: I can’t do the race again this year because of a scheduling conflict, but I wanted to race in Santa Cruz at least once. So with a little over a week to go, I signed up for Tri Santa Cruz.

There were quite a few options to choose from with this race: sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, sprint duathlon, and a sprint and international distance dip and dash aquathlon.

I chose the sprint tri because I thought it was on Saturday — why, when the website clearly stated Sunday, August 10, I don’t know? Anyway, good thing I realized my error in time and, come bright, dark and early Sunday morning I was once again navigating the twisty-turny Hwy 17 to Santa Cruz.

Race Setup

Transition was set up in the exact same place as the Santa Cruz Triathlon, except now we each had pre-determined rack spaces marked with our bib numbers. That took some race-morning confusion out of the picture, which was nice.

In other awesome news, there was an actual bathroom right by transition (on the side of the red building in the photo below), plus plenty of porta-potties. You know I never fail to report on the potty situation at races, right? #detailsmatterSo, drink away your pre-race coffees, my friends, there are plenty of places to “go” – sans wait – before the race!

Speaking of racing, it was hardly 7:30 when we all got ushered out of Transition, to head towards the swim start. My official wave start was at 8:39, so I thought that was a wee bit rushed, but what can you do. Quickly squeezing into my wetsuit, I grabbed my swim cap and goggles, kicked my flip-flops in the tri bag and pitter-pattered – barefoot – the nearly half-mile over to the beach.

The Swim

First, all wave starts were delayed by 10 minutes. So my “warm-up” dip in the ocean – water: not so chilly at this time of year, but I was glad to have a wetsuit! – turned into a “let’s hang out in the water for a while” thing. I almost did a false start, too: saw a large group of hot pink caps run into the water and sprinted over, only to find out this is the Olympic distance. Turned out, the organizers had the same color caps for sprint and oly distance women (hot pink), as well as some of the men (yellow). That was confusing!

Anyway, my real wave start came soon enough and we all sprinted into the water. I jumped in and started pushing like it was my job. Coach D said to go fast, it’s a short distance so just go for it. I did go for it, but considering my mediocre swim skills… well, at least I got to stay with my swim wave!

A quick 750 meters and 11:43 mins on my watch later, I exited the water. (Everyone says the swim course was a bit short, though. My Garmin showed 640 yards, too. That’s way short.) But here’s the weird part: instead of having a timing mat at the beach so we can get our actual swim times, the Swim Out mats were at Transition. That’s 0.4 miles of barefoot running added to the swim before you’re officially in T1. So:

Official swim time: 15:09
Rank: 21 (out of 85 women… actually not that bad, given my swim skills!)


Nothing interesting to report, except that I saved 15 seconds or so by not putting socks on.

Time: 1:41

The Bike

Pedal to the metal time! Hardest gear, highest effort. (It was only 12.4 miles, after all.)

I passed a bunch of people on the way out – OK, a lot of people – but also got passed by crazy-fast dudes who were racing the Olympic distance. Don’t know how they do it.

The bike course for Tri Santa Cruz is two laps for the sprint distance and four for the Olympic. (Another reason why I chose the sprint… Two times around gets boring, with four I would’ve lost count!) There was a u-turn before we headed back to ride along West Cliff drive, with winding right and left turns.

But boy, was it flat. The flattest bike course I’ve ridden in a race, for sure:
Time: 34:54 (21.4 mph avg)
Rank: now in 7th!


Helmet off, visor on; slip bare feet into Zoot shoes (comfy!) and off we go.

The Run

Just as pretty as I remember, except the faster pace made it harder to enjoy the views. The weather was excellent, though, overcast and with a perfect amount of mild morning chill. I ran as fast as I thought I could and caught a couple of women. None were in my age group. In fact, I didn’t see anyone in my age group and that made me suspicious: maybe I was the only 35-39-year-old competing? I did get passed by a few professional-looking gazelles – they turned out to be part of the elite group racing the Olympic distance. (Like I said: somewhat low-key event!)

The run was just as flat as the bike. In hindsight, I should’ve pushed the pace more and suffered. It was only for a little bit!I crossed the finish line – right by transition – with an official run time of 24:15, avg 7:48 pace.

Definitely could’ve gone faster. Oh well.

The official results took quite a while to come out – more than an hour after I finished, in fact! That was annoying. There were very few finishers when I arrived, so I figured I maybe did well – but had no way of knowing unless I waited… and waited.

Finally, the results were posted and I found out I had won my age group and placed 6th female overall!

Official time: 1:17:19
Place: 6th Female
AG place: 1

What was truly notable, though, were the ages of the five ladies before me:

Overall female winner – 15 years old
Second place: 40
Third: 13 (!!!)
Fourth: 15
Fifth: 18
Sixth: yours truly.

So really, it was between me and a 40-year-old, and she beat me by nearly eight minutes. Glad she wasn’t in my age group, or I wouldn’t have gotten this lucrative Age Group winner award:

But as the Race Announcer flat out refused to even try pronouncing my last name, I’m sure I would have made that ridiculous face (and pose) upon accepting it, regardless: