The portents for this race were not too good. There has been a nasty cold going around and I have it in a mild form. I don’t have the racking cough, but generally have not been feeling 100%. I had a fairly encouraging track workout on Tuesday, so that was in the plus column, but the weather forecast looked pretty warm – in February!
The wind buffeted the car a little as I drove across the Bay Bridge at 6 a.m. Oh dear, it’s going to be challenging down by the beach. And I have a headache. Oh well, no PR for me today I think. I’ll just have to squeeze some fun out of it somehow.
This race is a point-to-point with buses to take us from the Ocean Beach parking lots to the start area at the other end of Golden Gate Park. A party of LMJS ladies was just two cars over, so we rode together As we jogged from the bus to the bib pickup, somebody quipped “Now I can tell my friends that I went running with Jim the other day!” We all laughed. That cheered me up quite a bit. It’s hard to beat yourself up over your times when people say things like that.
I kept bumping into people I knew in the start area, including Dave, an online buddy and fellow Brit I have not seen in months. The sun came up, the sky was clear, and even the wind seemed to have moderated. There appeared to be pace leaders this year, but nothing faster than 1:40. Perhaps they were unofficial. The half and 5k start together with a course split after about half a mile. I lined up a little behind the 7:00 minutes/mile pace marker, promising myself to just go with the flow for the first mile, then see how things develop. The cable car bell rang for the start and off we went. The pack was not fully up to speed by the line so it looked like the first mile would be sightly slow. Of course there was a walker ahead of me to get around. She seemed blissfully unaware of the runners bumping into one another as they darted around her. At least there was not a line of them.
We went along North side of the Panhandle with good space to run after the initial crowding. most people seemed to have lined up correctly. There were one or two young guys coming past from behind. I wondered how many of them I would be seeing later. Quite a few, it turned put We turned and reached the first mile marker. 7:17. Slow but not surprising. I dropped the pace a tiny bit. Let’s see what we can do while sheltered from most of the wind. Here comes the second mile near Kezar stadium. 7:02. That’s more what I had in mind. One of these days it might be nice to run one of these things at sub-7 pace but that would not be today.
Another slow one – 7:23. Well that was up hill. Was that Joann in front of me? Hard to tell from the back. Nah, probably not. I passed, and was concentrating on who to pass next when a voice behind said: “Hi Jim!”. Joann is one of the fastest members of our current marathon training group. She trained for the Oakland Marathon last year but had an achilles problem. Now she’s taking a second crack at it.
We ran the tangents on the curvy road passing back and forth through the other runners, most of whom seemed happy just to follow the road, adding extra yards to their run. Joann seemed reasonably comfortable, despite having had to speed up a little to stay with me. After comparing goals – neither of us really had a fixed time goal – we hardly spoke. I listened to her breathing to get an idea of her stress level. OK, this would work. If I was going to pace conservatively, It might as well be Joann’s pace.
Although we were gradually passing most of the others around us, the splits show us holding our own on the variable terrain. 7:15, 7:00, 7:20, 7:09. That last was mile 7 where we turned onto the Great Highway that runs parallel to the beach. I was pleasantly surprised that the wind was bowing much less that it had been earlier. “How are you doing?”. “Uh, OK. It seems to have got hotter all of a sudden”. “We’re running downwind. It will get cooler after the turnaround.” The prospect of running into a headwind seemed pleasant. We were cooking here. I wiped sweat from my eyes. The turnaround was still more than two miles away. The heat gradually slowed us: 7:19, 7:30, 7:36.
Heading north again, it was much more comfortable, even though we now had to push against the wind coming diagonally off the ocean. 7:25, 7:37, (more wind here) 7:27. Joann was sensibly running behind me now, t i could see her shadow. After one of the aid stations, it was not there. I looked around. She was 10 yards back. I eased a tiny it and she caught up surprisingly quickly. I started to push a little, knowing we had only a mile to go. We were passing quite a few people now. Christine of the LMJS racing team was up ahead, and getting slowly nearer. as I drew level she retorted. “I knew you would catch me Jim”. I suppose she had spotted me at the turnaround. My yellow Brooks ID singlet is pretty conspicuous. Oh, no shadow again, quick glance around. Still close, good. We turned back into the park for the final uphill to the finish. A couple of young guys came by as their buddy behind cried “Arrgh, my nemesis!” I chased them up the hill going as fast as I could. Joann could manage this last part on her own. In the finish chute I turned around. She was just a few seconds back, having not had the reserves to charge the hill like I had. We high-fived.
1:36:07. 8th in my age group. Nowhere near a PR but not too shabby in that field, and not all out.. Christine won her age group, which probably compensated for my passing her!
As an indicator of fitness this did not work out. I felt somewhat under the weather because of a lingering cold, and did not race it all out. The course would have not yielded up a PR anyway. Now to set my sights on Napa on four weeks. (less than that now)