Pace: San Francisco Marathon 2010

This is a story about how to make a ton of mistakes and still get it mostly right. I got the job of co-pacing the 3:50 group for this race. Since I ran it in 3:22 last year this promised to be an easy cruise from the running point of view. We had dinner in North Beach the night before with some of my online friends – James (Forno Bravo), Amy (Agile) and Angie (Pace Runner). James was going to attempt a PR on the SF course, and none of us doubled he would manage it. Angie has long experience with Plantar Fasciitis and gave me the benefit of her experience. Apparently backing off the miles does not really work, so I might as well stick at it. This firmed up my resolve to train full-out for CIM, even though the 18-week program would start just a week after this 26.2 mile run.
My co-pacer Dan is an ultra runner who has done some 100-milers. He an his buddy Paul (also running with us) had followed Dean Karnaze’s example and run The Relay, a 200 mile race from Napa to Santa Cruz as a single leg. Extreme stuff.
Dan put his Garmin on the roof of the car to acquire satellites, and there it stayed until he retrieved it after the race. Oops. Never mind, I had my Garmin with and a regular stopwatch as backup, and my terrain-compensated pace band. We were all set. I stood in the wave 4 enclosure with my 3:50 sign in the air and soon attracted a cluster of runners. Amy had run the Leadville Marathon just three weeks prior and so was going to run with us to enjoy the view and add another marathon to her list. She is on track to run 10 in 2010, including ultras.
From our mid-corral position we were passing other runners fairly steadily as we ran up the Embarcadero in the gathering light. Holding a pace sign has its advantages since I was able to call “Excuse me!” and “Coming through” without attracting any surly looks. I realized that our stock of useful timepieces was now down to one, having neglected to put my Timex into chrono mode before hitting “start”. Argh!

The Garmin, while dutifully keeping time, was being a little strange on pace as we ran along the Embarcadero. I had planned to refer to it during the first mile then rely on the pace band thereafter, but the nearby tall buildings were bothering it. I was quite sure we were NOT running at 10:30 pace. Fortunately I have a reasonable feel for the required 8:4x pace as it falls in the middle of my easy range, so I winged it. At mile 1 we were a few seconds behind schedule, but that was fine. We settled in. I had not warned Amy that the first hill on the course is the steepest, and it seemed to startle her. She took pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, with its towers hidden by the overcast. At the mile 3 marker (back on schedule) I noticed that the Garmin distance was somewhat out of sync after it’s early problems, so stabbed the lap button to start a new mile. Except that I didn’t. I had mistakenly hit “Stop” and failed to realize it until we were running across the bridge. I never do that on training runs! I confessed to Dan and Amy that we were now running blind, pace wise, and Amy loaned me her Garmin. Dan took my other watch to make room for it. Buckling on a watch while running is a little tricky, but I managed it without mishap. “Don’t push any buttons!” exhorted Amy, and I did not, simply checking the elapsed time against my pace band for the rest of the course. And so I have no recorded splits, other than my recollection of how far ahead or behind we were at some mile markers.
What with the timing adventures and going faster than I had expected through the Presidio we arrived at the halfway mark about a minute early. Amy could not believe her eyes when she saw the bison enclosure in Golden Gate Park and took some pictures to show her hubbie. Bison are something of a running joke with them apparently. We took things easy on the long uphill in the park to burn off time. This portion is where I went too fast last year and ran short of steam for the second half. By the time we emerged onto Haight Street we were exactly on schedule once again. Dan and his friend Paul were chatting about their ultra-running experiences which was quite diverting. The group was still strong, but seemed to have lost a few members. We commenced the downhills. Dan had a remarkable mental map of the course, and knew where all the course switches and uphills were. The one remaining significant uphill stripped away most of our group, but we picked up a couple of runners from the group ahead. When we got to the ballpark, I casually remarked “Oh by the way, its best to run on the right here, because there’s a wave in the path on the left” Everyone immediately went single file on the smooth bit next to the railing, with no room for me. I ran on the wavy part while Dan laughed.

As mile 26 approached I gave the 3:50 sign to Amy and she carried it to the line, which made for a nice finish photo. We had all sped up a but as we smelled the finish, so arrived about 30 seconds early. Although the running was not stressful for me, I still had that “just run a marathon” feeling on stopping. I recovered quite quickly though.

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1 Response to “Pace: San Francisco Marathon 2010”


  1. 1 Flo September 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    OMG, talk about composure! I’d be pooping myself with all the watch mishaps. Seriously, I can’t believe you were able to keep it together and not be stressed about it. Great job, Jim!!


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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
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)

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