Half marathon number three is in the books! It was not the easiest road to get to this one. A month ago, I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to run it (and was ready to give up). I didn’t, and I’m glad.
Because on Sunday, November 4, 2012, I got to run across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The day before, I packed up the car entirely too early and flew to San Francisco to meet Erin. After getting to the hotel, we met Rob and went out for lunch on Fisherman’s Wharf – a crab cake sandwich, of course! We walked around a bit, then met up with Yanni and her husband John (who drove FOURTEEN hours to join us). The real treat that night was dinner at Fleur de Lys, an experience I won’t forget. Especially dessert.
Sunday morning, we woke up at 5:30 am – perfect. I ate a Clif bar, drank a bottle of water, and sipped on a little coffee. It was warmer than I thought it would be, but stuck with my plan to wear long sleeves and capris – I heard running across The Bridge was always cold and windy. We walked down to the race start, checked our bags, turned on our RunMeters, hugged John, hugged each other, and got ready to run.
The first quarter mile-ish: uphill. It’s San Fran, right? But where I’m from, there are no hills for miles and miles. By the time I got to the top, I knew this would be hard. The first three miles were relatively easy. I ran 9:29, 9:40, and 9:37 splits. We ran past Marina Green Park and Crissy Fields, with San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz to our right. The sun was out; it was a perfect day.
Then the hills started. At mile 2.5, my elevation was 7 feet. At 3.25, it was 100 feet. At 3.75, it was 140 feet. At 4.75, it was 173 feet. At least the hills were fun to run up and down – we were in a park area, with trees arching over the road and the smell of fresh rain in the air.
Suddenly, I was at the base of the bridge, and had to run out and back. The bridge was almost perfect. I had expected cold wind to fight against, but maybe I got a good day to run it. The sparkling blue water was below me, Alcatraz was off to the right among the ships, and I was running towards the gorgeous Golden Gate Recreation Area. The downside was that the bridge was not closed to traffic (because no race rates that high), and it was really unnerving to have THAT MANY cars, trucks, and semis rattling past for over a mile. At the peak, mile 6.5, the elevation was 245 feet. I have now climbed 238 feet in an hour. My hips were starting to burn, just a little.
We had to turn around, which involved running under the bridge – and back up! The trail down was gravel and steep. There was one point I thought, “I’m going to die. I’m going to slide right off this, and into the Bay.” I did not. I did look up long enough to get a glimpse of the downtown skyline across the Bay – it was pretty cool. Then I had to run back up. And ow. The steep hill back up to the bridge had half the people walking – me included. I was trying to get my legs to eek it out, plus take off the long sleeve shirt. I was sweating pretty good at this point.
There was another slow, gradual climb to the peak of the bridge, then back down. I looked off at the ocean, and at San Francisco. The views were nothing short of stunning during this race.
We wound our way up and down, through more hills, for two more miles. I was still feeling strong. I’d maintained a 10:00-11:00 pace the entire bridge stretch, which was really good. I ran down the gentle second-to-last hill, hit the 10 mile mark, and wanted to push really hard to finish.
The last three miles were along the waterfront. It was beautiful to run along the shore, listening to the waves crash, and watch people walk and kids play. It was also the first flat stretch, and OH MY GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO MY LEGS? I tried not to think about the fact that since my marathon at the beginning of May I’d only run 10 miles twice, but I couldn’t help it. MY EVERYTHING HURT. The balls of my feet hurt (I need new shoes). My ankles were sore. Calves were burning. Knees were aching. My quads were on fire. My hips wanted to stop supporting me. Without hills to challenge me, I started running out of steam. The last three miles were 10:42, 11:08, and 11:50.
I knew the end was easy. It was up another hill, down, and then coast in. That last hill kicked my ass. Completely. It was about 80 feet up over less than half a mile, but it felt like 800 feet. Then: the downhill. It killed my quads. But I threw my hands up and yelled “WHEEEEEEEEE!” as I coasted down. One guy walking the other way laughed and yelled, “Is it a roller coaster?” I yelled back, “Feels like it!” And then I saw the finish line.
And I realized I was going to set a new PR, and a month ago I didn’t think I’d be running, and secret: I CRIED. Yep. The last tenth of a mile I was trying not to have a complete meltdown. Crossing that finish line – in 2:16:57 – was so sweet.
I got my medal. (Serious. Hardware.) I found water. I found Erin. We grabbed our bags from bag check. We sat down to change shirts and put on compression sleeves and…I lost it. I started bawling. That was so emotional. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else there by my side, either.
Then we found my favorite – the beer tent – and grabbed a cold one while waiting for Yanni and Rob.
We cheered Yanni and Rob across the finish, and had a big sweaty group hug. The afternoon was napping, stretching, my first In-n-Out Burger, and a beer.
THAT was an adventure.