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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Giant Race Half Marathon

On 8/27/2011, I ran the Giant Race Half Marathon start to finish. That's the summary, here are the details. I intended to leave home by 4:30 to get the parking lot before it filled up. Decided to take my time, take a shower, etc., figuring that I would have plenty of time since the race didn't actually start until 8 AM. However, the parking opened up at 6 AM and I have a 2 hour drive, minimum, to get there. So my wife and I left home at 5:10, then realizing that we didn't have enough gas to get there and back, I got gas and we left town at 5:20. We crossed the Bay Bridge (into fairly heavy fog) and got within 3 blocks of AT&T Park when the unthinkable happened. Traffic. Lots of traffic. It was 7:15. It took me 5 lights to get through the first signal. About the same at the next one. I still needed to put my bib and my IPod on. So as we set waiting for the third light to turn left toward the parking lot, I grabbed my Giants bag (a giveaway from a game last year), and fetched my bib and my IPod out and my wife and I looked for a place beyond that intersection to switch so she could park the car while I went to the start line, used the porta-potty, and warmed up, etc. I got out of the car two blocks from the special event $10 parking lot and my wife took over. It was so chilly with the overcast that my teeth started chattering uncontrollably. I was walking, trying to put my bib on, teeth chattering, and hands shaking, trying not to puncture myself. I made a comment about how cold it was and a female runner who was walking next to me said, "Don't worry, we'll warm up soon enough". I said, "I guess you're right", and fumbled around long enough to get my bib pinned on. I shoved my IPod into my pocket so I could listen for cars and starting line instructions as I got near the start area (which was on the other side of the parking lot that we were trying to get into). I got to the first set of porta-potties and they had quite a line so I kept walking up to the starting corral where there were a lot of facilities and very short lines. Good. Because by then the two bottles of water that I drank over the last 2 and a half hours had to go somewhere. Now it was close to 7:45. Timing was good, I just didn't like splitting up from my wife. We didn't get a chance to make meetup plans after the race! I got right into a potty, had a nice open area near there to stretch and warm up a little. No longer shaking at this point. Nothing but adrenaline pumping. I started going over the race in my mind again. I had planned it out the night before. It was an out and back. Approx. 6.7-6.8 miles out and then back to AT&T Park, where you enter through the outfield fence and finish near home plate! I decided right there, 10 minutes before race time that I had prepared well, and that I wasn't going to stop for anything. I had never run more than about 8 miles without stopping before. I ran a half in Santa Clarita last year and stopped at 8 miles to catch my breath, then stopped at every mile marker after, just to finish. My longest training runs mostly included walk breaks. But I knew I was ready for this. So as we approached 8:00, they announced that we were waiting for a special musical group that was going to sing the National Anthem. A gospel choir. They didn't start until around 8:05, but worth it. They were outstanding. Then they did a wave start, and I tried to creep forward, feeling like I was too far back. The people around me looked like walkers. So I found a comfortable position and our wave started off around 8:12. Turned out the stress getting there was unneccessary. I was there waiting for the start as I should have been. Also turned out that I should have pushed farther forward as I was still behind a lot of slower people. The first block there was nowhere to go! I looked down at my Garmin which was saying that we were barely moving, around a 13 minute pace. I moved to the sidewalk and buzzed by that wave of slower runners and was clipping along at about a 7:47 pace. I settled in between the waves and sort of hit the cruise control around 8:50 to 9:00 minute pace. This seemed really comfortable and I knew I would PR at this pace. It was still very overcast and cool. Perfect for a nice PR run. My previous half in Santa Clarita was 2:17:53. That should be a piece of cake to beat (kill) here. So my only thought was to stay hydrated, hitting every aid station (without stopping) and not to even think about it until the turnaround in mile 7. I hit the 5K timing mat at 28:13. Still good. Then I hit Fort Mason and an intermediate hill. I ran whole thing slowing to about an 11:15 pace, then kicked it in again on the gradual downhill on the other side to try to get some time back. We had already split off from the 10K runners who started with us. They didn't get to enjoy our hill with us. I hit the 10K mat at 58:05 and felt pretty good about that, although I knew at that point any opportunity of breaking 2 hours was probably gone. (I didn't expect to). The turnaround was at 6.8m and I hit that mat at 1:04:01. Still felt great. Kept dousing my head with water at every aid station (every 2-3 miles). Loved the cool water, but sprayed some girl behind me who was quite surprised by that. She yelled in shock. Sorry. Also nearly took out a couple of other girls at the water stations who stopped right in front of the station instead of getting their water and getting out of the way. I wasn't stopping. Sorry. So I determined to wait for the last person at each station to get my water so no one had a chance to stop in front of me. That worked well the rest of the way. Note: when dousing head, your ears may fill with water causing issues for headphones. I couldn't hardly hear my IPod most of the way. It was just loud enough to know it was there, but not loud enought to really enjoy. So I was still cruising. I had come up behind 3 girls, probably in their early 20's, all dressed with cute pinkish shorts and white tees. Very cute. They were obviously running together and pacing at my pace. Around 9:15 at that point. One of them had a Garmin and was setting the pace. I first noticed them about 30 yards in front of me around the 3 mile mark. They were still there at the turnaround. I just paced with them up until around mile 10. I hit the mat there at 1:35:18. There was another aid station about that time and they all stopped and I didn't. I kept going, determined more than ever at this point to finish without stopping and beating my PR by as much as possible. I figured that I was looking at 2:04-2:05 range, knowing that I had to climb that hill one more time. I never saw the three girls again until the post race expo. I asked them how they finished and told them that I had paced of them for miles and they said they did well and finished around 2:12. I told them about passing them around mile 10 and finished around 2:06. Didn't have an official time yet. That made me feel great. They were very nice. So anyway, I ran the hill the other way and tried to make up more time coming down, as I had slowed to 11:15 again climbing the hill. At the bottom I knew that I had about 2 and 1/2 miles to go and had outrun anything that I had ever done before, so I decided to cruise home and try to sprint to the finish. I gradually slowed to about a 10 minute pace for mile 12 and 13 as we joined the slower 5K runners for the finish. They had started around 9:30. It got a little crowded approaching the outfield fence, but I knew the end was near and I suddenly felt like I could be a Kenyan. So I tried to pass a group of slower ladies before the gate and barely did and as I flew by them a guy was standing well out into the gateway trying to high 5 everyone as they came through. I yelled "Get out of the way" as I flew through and stayed left of the slower people making their way down the warning track toward home plate. I was giving it everything at this point. I was drenched from sweat and the water I kept dumping over me. My right ear was nearly plugged. So my wife had taken a spot along the railing to cheer me on when I came through but was unable to get a photo due to the crowd leaning over the railing. She said she yelled at me, but between the crowd noise and the IPod sort of working and my ear being plugged up, I didn't hear or see her. I made it through the large crowd getting water and climbed the bleachers (yes, after 13.3 miles, we had to climb up to the concourse level to get to the post race expo. At the top all I could see were people. It took 30-40 minutes of being bumped my strollers, other runners, etc., shoulder to shoulder to get to the other end. I needed to stretch my legs and couldn't hardly move because the crowd was too thick. I eventually got my food, coconut milk, TIM LINCECOM bobblehead (ah, yes), and my shirt and got through and my wife had made it up there to meet me. Finally I could stretch out and walk a little as my legs were starting to tighten up. (I got water and my finisher's medal at the finish line). They had some nice stuff. I got a half glass of nasty wine (tasted really cheap). Won a Giants' pin at the wheel game, so did my wife. I think they gave those away in your goodie bag last year, oh well. It only cost a buck to spin. Got some popchips, CLIF bars, etc. Very good food and nice goodies. Just a struggle with the crowd to get through. Last year that was all outside and very easy to get around. So I had plans to meet up with other Daily Mile runners after, but I needed my cell to find out where they were. The cell was in the car a couple of blocks away and by the time I got it, I just wanted to get out of there. I had several messages, so I let them know that I was going to go ahead and take off, and my wife and I headed to the mall to walk around and get some lunch. I know, long recap. Overall, the best race I've ever done. Not fond of crowds, but I survived all that. Would definitely do it again. The cloud cover made for exceptional running conditions. Official time: 2:05:44. Previous best was 2:17:53, so I beat it by over 12 minutes. Bib #2654. http://results.bazumedia.com/event/results/event/RCAQ2011 for the official results, video, and photos from race. At the mall, I was so out of it, that I lost my wallet for a while. I recovered it before anyone had a chance to take anything, thank goodness. I totally freaked. Again, this was the first time that I had even come close to running that far without stopping and my brain was somewhere else. Overall, extremely pleased with the run, the weather, the bling, my wife for being there, and to God who makes all things possible. Go Giants!


  1. Well done James! Great recap. You really captured the event experience. I am shocked! You ran along the sidewalk at the beginning of a race to blow past the starting cloud! I think this must be in your DNA or something. What happens when there is no sidewalk at the beginning? Great run showing a very determined heart of a runner!

  2. Sorry James, Heather and Elaine is acutally Bill Boehner in Pleasanton. I forgot their Avon Cancer Walk Blog was on blogspot.