The 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon Was a Blur

Kind of like this:
RnRSFBlurryHill

I have a few good explanations:
[or bad excuses, same thing]

1. I ran a half marathon the day before and gave it my very best; my legs were toast.

2. Wake up was at 4 a.m.

3. It was my birthday and I was basking in the glory of graceful aging.

4. Maybe I had a couple of beers the night before, too.

None of this matters much because I signed up for this race with the one and only purpose of having fun. I love running, I love running races even more — especially when HusbandRuns comes along. What better way to start off a birthday?

Except I feel bad because:

  • I didn’t take very many photos, and
  • After so many years in the Bay Area I still don’t know parts of San Francisco enough to be able to tell you about the course in much detail.

So instead of pretending to be the RnRSF expert, let me give you the quick rundown of what I remember best about this race. I hope it’s at least a bit useful.

5 Things You Should Know Before you run RnRSF

1. The race starts at 6:30 a.m.

So unless you are traveling from very far out of town and have no other choice, you’d have to decide between springing $$$$$ for a hotel in the city or waking up at 4 a.m. The course is point-to-point and there are shuttles picking up runners from Civic Center (the Finish area) to take them to the start. The last shuttle was listed as leaving at 5:30 a.m.

2. The start-area porta-potty lines are huge

Either go in one of the many available near the shuttle pick-up area, or plan to go on the beach near the start. Or both.

(For the modest, don’t worry: pre-6:30 a.m. is still pretty dark, no one will see much — or care.)

3. Parts of the course will be quite crowded

There were 15 corrals this year, each starting a few minutes apart. Even then, the first mile felt packed and so did running over the Golden Gate Bridge.

RnRSF-GGBridge

There were nearly 7,000 runners in the 2015 event — up from roughly 5,000 (if I remember correctly) in 2013, the first year Rock ‘n’ Roll took over the even from the US Half. The course was different back then, but I was in the same corral (#2) and we had definitely spread out more by the time we had to run over the bridge.

4. You’ll run ALL of the hills!

You probably know this already. I knew this. And I was still annoyed at the darn hills, they were steep. (On tired legs, running down was notably more painful than going up.)

There are five big climbs (200 ft or more each): the first one is in the beginning, the last one towards the end. The middle one is up and over the Golden Gate bridge, that one is at least fun! Thankfully, you don’t have to go down on the Marin side of the Bridge and climb back up, just go around Vista Point. Perfect for picture-taking.

5. It’s not a PR course

Speaking of picture-taking and hills… You might as well mark this race as one to run at a comfortable pace and allow yourself to stop and digitize as often as you’d like. The course is hilly, crowded and (parts of it are) too pretty to waste on an all-out-must-PR effort.

I chose to take “mental Instagrams” and enjoy the day instead of whipping up my phone for photos all the time. Though I did ask HusbandRuns to stop at Vista Point and jumped up and down until we got this photo of my happy self:

Good times at #RnRSF today! Killer hills on tired legs and fabulous views!

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

We kept a fairly even 9:30-9:45-ish pace the whole way and made it to the finish after 2:07:54. Not my slowest half and not my best — but a great start to a new day and year of running for this ol’ lady. Cheers!

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon results:
Time: 02:07:54
Pace: 9:46
Clock time (Corral 2): 2:12:12 –> lucky, huh? But note nearly a five-minute difference from gun time; I’d expect a similar delay for each following corral.
Overall: 2139 (out of 6910)
Gender: 821 (out of 3995)
Age group: 117 (out of 647)

Run, PR, Liv at the Livermore Half Marathon

Run. Wine. Liv. is the motto of the Livermore Half Marathon. With a course rolling through beautiful wine country and with a big wine tasting festival at the finish, I’d say that’s a good way to describe the experience!

I ran Liv this weekend with two goals:

1. Kick off my epic birthday weekend of run-fun (to be followed up on Sunday with the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco half);

and

2. Run as fast as I can and find out whether (and by how much) my speed has improved since my last half (the SF Giant Race in September ’14).

I’ll give you the spoiler now because there’s no way I can hold it until the end of this recap — and I already told all my friends, family, coworkers and random strangers, and posted about it on Facebook, Instagram, and possibly even LinkedIn:

I ran 1:42:12, a seven-minute PR over my last half and a big surprise to myself (I’d been gunning for 1:47-ish, secretly hoping for 1:45-ish, dreaming of one day maybe even running 1:42-ish). Heck, I even think Coach D was stumped, as evidenced by his email starting with: “Did you just run 1:42:12? F^&* yeah!!!”

F%^& yeah!!!!

Here’s how it went down:

Pre-race

Sushi for dinner, obviously. But more important was picking out a race outfit that is both light, comfortable, non-chafing and pretty. It was my birthday weekend of run-fun, after all!

After much deliberation over which skirt to go with from my continually-growing Skirt Sports collection, I settled on the Lioness in Flirt, my black Kelly Support tank (bonus: it has a built-in bra, so less stuff to wear), and black compression socks. Do I look like a Runner Girl About to Have a Run-Fun Birthday Weekend? Yes, I do.
RunLivSkirtOutfit[Many thanks to my friend T. for all photos from this race – they are better than the official ones, and I’m not just saying that.]

Race logistics

The best thing about RunLiv is that it’s a fairly small race – 2,800-ish finishers this year – so the logistics of getting there and parking are easy. Better yet, it’s a looped course. We arrived about an hour before the race start Saturday and parked a two-minute walk from the start/ finish line with no traffic issues whatsoever. A cute little coffee shop – Panama Coffee House – was open and the runners were living it up with some high-quality java and a posh clean bathroom. And for those not wanting to wait in line for the facilities, there were plenty of porta-potties right outside.

The only downside: race-day packet pickup was only available for an extra $30 or so, and obviously, not everyone has time to casually drive to Livermore on a Friday evening. Lucky for me, a friend offered to pick up my bib – thank you, J.! I’ll get the next one! :-)

Race!

After an easy 10-minute warmup (per coach’s orders), I lined up at the start, right next to the 1:45 pace group. I asked the guys what their strategy was: run steady? negative split? They said they were shooting for steady, to which I noted, Oh Cool, I will try to keep up, but you guys will probably be too fast for me. Don’t wait up!

So we started. The first couple hundred yards were a bit congested, so our pace was quite a bit slower than the 8:00 min/mile needed for a 1:45. We made up time after the crowd spread out and during the second mile, which was relatively flat. I ran right behind the pace group, thinking, This feels nice! I wish the whole race was like that!

About three miles in, we started hitting a batch of rolling hills and I decided it was time to carry on the plan: push it going up, push it even more going down. “This is too easy,” I turned to my friend D, who was also running. “Let’s go.”

So we went. Our pace crept down to the 7’s, where it stayed… well, basically the entire time, except for a couple of miles that were particularly hilly:

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.09.59 PM

Per Coach’s orders, I still held back somewhat, until we hit miles 6 and 7. Then I upped the effort, even though the pace slowed down a bit, because now we were climbing. At Mile 8, we saw Tiffany, who took some awesome photos of us running. It was only later, looking at them, that I realized how beautiful this course is! Just look at it:
RunLivMile8

We looked pretty dashing ourselves:
RunLivMile8Back

Right after that right turn you can somewhat see in the photo is the start of the biggest climb of the entire race. This thing felt like it was a mile long. Maybe it was? Strava says we only climbed 83 feet between Miles 8 and 9, which I absolutely refuse to believe is true.

Or, maybe I was getting tired. I did not like that hill.

The other thing I did not like? The countless wooden bridges. Small, but shaky as runner feet pounded on them. I don’t know how many of them we ran over, but there must’ve been at least a dozen. Up-over-down. Repeat. Here’s one of them, from a race photographer (shoutout here to RunLiv for providing all digital downloads free of charge. Yeah!):

RunLivBridge

The last three miles were so hard.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 10.43.42 PM

I feel like Strava needs to add a second dimension for distance, just like they have one for pace (the first column is actual pace and the second is and GAP, or grade adjusted pace, which factors in hills and gives you the equivalent pace for running on flat). The EAD, or effort adjusted distance, would factor in your heart rate and shrink or expand each individual mile based on how hard you’re working for it. My last three miles felt at least two miles long each.

So when I finally turned the corner to the finish line — and realized I was going to run 1:42-something, after all! — I mustered what little brain power I had left and sprinted to the finish.

Pain was evident:

RunLivFinish

But a cold beer awaited right by the Finish line – and that was the best!

The swag was pretty good, too:
RunLivMedalandWineGlass

Livermore Half Marathon Results:

Net time: 1:42:12
Pace: 7:47
(Though avg pace for the first 5K was 8:19, according to the official results, and 7:37 for the other splits)
Overall place: 189 (out of 2,807)
Female: 47 (out of 1,851)
Age Group: 18 (out of 637)

Race weekend and a training update!

It’s been a while since I posted a training update. Because, ironically, I’ve been too busy and tired from training. Also, excuses excuses.

This is a taper week, though, and after two days of easy, I find myself with time and even energy in the evening to write. What can I say, if you have the taper crazies, writing random stuff on the Internet is definitely the way to go.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.13.17 PM

So here’s the deal: Two races are coming up this weekend, the Livermore half marathon on Saturday and Rock’n’Roll San Francisco on Sunday.

The plan is to lay it down at RunLiv and try to PR, though the course is all rolling hills and one longer climb in the middle. And on Sunday, enjoy a nice shuffle on the hills of San Francisco. I’ll be the one doing the walk-limp intervals!

Coach D’s orders for RunLiv: use the rolling hills to gain time, instead of using the downhills to recover, push the pace; then push it on the big climb miles 7-9, and push it even more on the way down.

So, of course, I now have Salt-n-Peppa stuck in my head, where they will likely remain until I’m done with the San Francisco Rock-n-Rolla!

I digress, but now you can listen to this while reading the rest of my taper-induced gibberish masterpiece – you’re welcome.

Training update (Q1 2015!)

Training has been great so far. No injuries! After a do-things-for-fun December (which I spent swimming, biking and running, mind you, because that is my idea of fun), I jumped into long runs, hilly rides, and two-a-days with 6 a.m. swims. Yay for those!

One random weekend in mid-January, I ran two back-to-back 13.5-milers — just to prove to myself (and the Coach) that it is not, indeed, a terrible idea that will bring on guaranteed injury.

The days after that, I was tired.

February looked like this*:Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.37.01 PM

*Swimming is blue. Cycling is pink. Running is green.

And March is looking pretty much the same**:Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.37.54 PM

**The one rest day is actually a trip we took to Palm Springs/ Indian Wells: an 8-hour drive and let me tell you, the day after that sort of thing, your legs feel like jelly. And those desert runs make you quite parched. But are so pretty, regardless.

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Other running highlights:

1. The first time (Feb 25) I had to run five 1-mile repeats, at 8:15 min pace, in the middle of a long run. I made the mistake of trying on a new type of shoe at that one. The mile repeats were torture, and the last few miles home, my feet died a slow and painful death. Ended up with 12.4 miles in 1:51:55. The shoes went back to the store.

2. The second time (March 3) I had to run five 1-mile repeats in the middle of a long run. Those had to be 3x 8:15, then 2x 8:00 or faster. Wore a pair of old trusty shoes. Ran 8:13-8:10-8:10-7:49-7:49 (overachiever much?), and a total of 13.2 miles in 1:56:31. That used to be my half marathon PR just a couple of years ago, so progress for sure.

3. The 3x 1-mile repeats I had to run with my tri club that Saturday (March 7) after an hour-long swim, at 8:00 – 7:32 – 7:06. Complained the whole entire time.

4. Last Saturday’s (March 21) insane intervals: 4x 3 minutes FAST (@6:30 pace) with 1:30 standing recovery in between, then 2x 2 minutes at the same pace with 1-minute standing recovery. My left hamstring often starts to bother me on long runs and/ or harder efforts, and I seriously feared that time that it would snap.

Still alive, though! For the rest of the week, the focus is on easier running and rest. On Saturday, we push it!

This is my first race for the year – can you tell I’m eager to go?
Who else is racing this weekend?
How is training going?

Reminder: If you’ve been thinking about running the See Jane Run half marathon in Alameda or Seattle this year, or the See Jane Run triathlon — I have a giveaway for a free race entry to either of these races currently in full swing right here. Check it out!