Race: S.F. Marathon 2009

Here’s what I was up to this morning. Photos by Cathi, except for the Bridge one from the S. F. Chronicle.

5:00 am. Time for a run.

5:00 am. Time for a run.

While making my way through the throng to the start area, I bumped into Ken of the LMJS. He was holding a pace sign.
“Hi. Are you leading a pace group?”
“Yes, 3:00. Are you going to come run with us?”
“Holy Moley! I’d like to, but perhaps not today. I’m shooting for 3:20”
He noticed the numbers sharpied on my arm. “You know, they give out pace bands.” He showed me his.
“I can’t read those without glasses”
“Ah. At the moment I’m looking for someone to complain to. My bib number is 101, and the bag drop zones start at 1000.”
Hopefully he resolved that one. A few minutes later I was in position at the front of wave 2. Something lit up the darkness to my right. The guy next to me was typing away on a Blackberry. Not some brief tweet, either, but several lines of text. Amazing. I could almost touch the 3:20 pace leader, but he was beyond the barrier in wave 1, and might as well have been on the moon. Gotta sign up earlier next time, before wave 1 fills.


We got away neatly with no bumping, a minute behind the first wave. Knowing that I would be running without a pace group, I was wearing the Garmin, and had a reasonable idea of pace. It was in manual split mode, which tuned out to be a mistake since I missed quite a few of the mile markers. They were a stylish blue-on-grey, and hard to see in places. I hadn’t done any detailed calculations, but estimated that I needed to run 7:30 in the flats to have something in hand for the hills. The first two flat miles averaged 7:28. Pretty much where I wanted to be, and it was much lighter now. A voice next to me: “Oh, a hill!”
“The good news is that this is the steepest hill of the race”
“Oh, yeah. I was looking over there at Alcatraz, and it caught me by surprise.”
“We try to give the scenic tour.”
I glanced over at the island. It looked spooky, poking up into the layer of fog that was close above our heads. The bridge should have been visible from the Marina Green, but of course it wasn’t. Hmm. going to be chilly up there, I expect. Mile 3 – 7:48 . Miles 4, 5 on the flat again – 7:31

The hill up to the bridge was steeper than I remembered from last year. Perhaps because I was pacing more aggressively this time. The ground was wet from the fog, and the eucalyptus trees dripped on us. The flag by the toll booths was hanging straight down. Excellent! A little further on, a young woman stopped and turned around so that her companion could take her picture with the almost invisible bridge in the background. All that was showing was the nearby suspension cables rising up into nothingness. I had been apprehensive about crowding on the bridge. It wasn’t a problem since the runners were more spread out at this pace. We could go as fast or slow as we wanted. The foghorns added atmosphere. Mile 6, 7 – 7:47.

This pic is from the S.F. Chronicle. Click for more.

Coming back over the bridge, the crosswind kicked in quite abruptly.
That’s kinda nice. I had been sweating, and I’m not now. Speed increased as we reached the downgrade at the end. I was looking at bibs coming the other way. Mostly wave 4… Oh, there’s the 3:50 pace leader! That’s where I was last year. Back then, I watched the runners coming off the bridge and thought they looked like gods. It only took a year to make the switcheroo. Into the Presidio, more drippy trees, and a big downhill. Miles 8, 9, 10 – 7:15. Mile 11: 6:55

Steepish rolling hills through residential streets, with some enthusiastic young spectators. I possibly was going a little fast here, but things felt OK. I remembered that here was where I sped up last year, although I was a minute per mile slower then than now. Phew. Don’t run directly behind Diarrhea Girl. I hope for her sake she’s running the half. Pass her. Mile 12 – 7:52, Mile 13 – 7:33.

I reached the half in 1:39:32, A little ahead of plan, Perhaps there was a little too much stress at this point, but I wasn’t worried. Then a faster downhill mile. After we turned eastwards and began the gradual uphill, my pace slowed quite a bit. That’s OK, the second half is net downhill. Do NOT attack this hill, it’s two miles long! Mile 14 – 7:03, Mile 15 – 7:56, Mile 16 – 8:11

Things were going awry. I was falling behind schedule, to a degree that made a recovery unlikely given how I felt. The hill had indeed done some damage. But others were hurting worse. I was gradually gaining places in the field, which was very spread out now that the halfers were gone. From the crest of Haight Street, I zipped downhill for a few blocks, climbed again, then down some more. I was passing runners, but was too tired to make best use of these boosts. Looks like 3:20 is not going to happen today. Time for a new mindset. Lets try fishing! See that runner 50 yards ahead? hook him. Good, now reel in slowly, click click click… A little burst as I passed him, so he stayed passed. Catch and release. Think you can hook that next one? Sure, my imaginary casting skills are excellent! These little games were helping to stave off what I call Default Mode, where my gait deteriorates to an inefficient mess. A minor triumph: A guy who looked to be in my age group had passed me earlier and gone ahead until I lost sight of him. I came up with him again, and he ran close behind for a while before fading. Miles 17, 18 – 7:21, Mile 19 – 7:45, Miles 20, 21 – 7:34, Mile 22: 8:11

And so it continued on the flat to the finish. Oddly, this section did not seem so long and tedious as last year, even though things were hurting by now. Just look at the runners… Oh, here we are at the ballpark already! Mile 23, 24 – 7:56, Mile 25 – 7:54, Mile 26 – 7:54

Am I there yet?

Am I there yet?

I must have kicked at the finish. I remember being completely out of breath, gasping with my hands on my knees. I was indeed adrift from my 3:20 goal, at 3:22:28. In retrospect, the goal was a bit of a stretch for this course. It’s not 10 minutes faster than Big Sur. Could I have run it better? yes, but not a whole lot. On the bright side, I was 10/265 (4.2%) in my age group, and 264/5036 overall (5.24%)

My Splits. Only 8 of them because the pattern repeats. Add 1:01 for miles 9-16, 2:02 for 17:24

My Splits. Only 8 of them because the pattern repeats. Add 1:01 for the next 8, and so on.


11 Responses to “Race: S.F. Marathon 2009”

  1. 1 Flo July 27, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Wow, is this a great report or what? It’s poetic! (even with Diarrhea Girl, lol). I also want to say that for once, you have a race photo that does not, in any way shape or form, look like you’re jogging (“am I there yet”). 😀 You look like you’re RACING, baby!

    You know, it wasn’t till the next day after you’d written about confusion with the wave starts that I realized the race how early the race started! 5:30 is crazy talk. And you did such a great job, I’m real proud of you and CIM will be an easy sub 3:20 compared to this one. What about 3:15? That’s such a nice number…

  2. 2 jime2 July 27, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Thanks, Flo. Yes, 3:15 at CIM has a certain ring about it. What’s that – 7:26 pace? I have some training to do! I added a picture to the post, BTW.

  3. 3 threlkeld July 27, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Nice job! I know SF can be a tough course and it was especially windy. I think 3:20 would have easily have been in your grasp were it not fo the wind. Love the photos, especially the last one.

  4. 4 Loraine McVey July 27, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Congratulations Jim! I think if you do end up coaching for the Oakland marathon, you’ll have so much great experience to share. Nice how you really flipped the switch when you felt things going a little awry and managed to adopt a new tactic to stay cool and not lose it. That and those 70 mpw trainings of course helped! But anyway, it’s all impressive and it was fun to track.

    And yes, a photo that shows you really digging in and looking a lot less casual than your other photos!

    • 5 jime2 July 27, 2009 at 6:06 pm

      Yes, I’m getting a bit of experience at this marathonng thing. That was my forst positive split and missed goal, so now I know how to do that. 🙂
      I was indeed digging there at the end. I’ve been asking myself: What If I’d run the first half in 1:40.30? Could I have dug enough for a negative split to 3:20? It would have been a better strategy for the course, but could I have done it?
      CIM is a much simpler proposition: Start near the front, Run at target pace, Stop at the end.
      I don’t think the wind kicked in early enough to hurt me. It was probably a problem for folks in waves 4 and up. It’s interesting how different paces result in very different race experiences. In many ways, those of us who run sub 3:30 have it easy. No crowds, and the volunteers at the aid stations are still sharp (and dry!)

  5. 6 Flo July 29, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Jim, the couple of others that I knew racing S.F.(going for 3:20s) were off their goals by about 20 minutes, so you did wonderfully.

    • 7 jime2 July 29, 2009 at 11:25 am

      Phew, 20 minutes! Perhaps I’ve not been giving this course the respect it deserves. That thought occurred to me at about mile 18 😀
      Are these runners on the RW forums? perhaps I need to hang out there more.

  6. 8 Flo July 29, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Duh, YEAH!!! MRT (Marathon Race Training) Forum is the shitz. And the 3:20 thread has really nice guys there, most of whom are beyond that now but stay in the thread anyway because they like the group. Go check it out.

  7. 9 Jim E July 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Flo – Your eloquent words have persuaded me. I posted in the 3:20 thread.

  8. 10 Flo July 30, 2009 at 4:17 am

    Welcome to the Dark Side. 😀

  9. 11 Greg July 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Great race report…absolutely loved it.. brought back great memories of last Sunday. Sorry I didn’t get to meet you…but we will keep in touch through the 3:20 thread.

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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)


July 2009
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